The Searchers

John Ford, USA, 1956


In this sequence, over the passage of few minutes, we move from a sun drenched to an ice covered wintery landscape, returning again to summer. Ford uses this ultra-fast journey through the seasons to show John Wayne’s determination to find his niece, who has been kidnapped by a group of Native Americans – he’s prepared to spend years and face all kinds of weathers to find her and meet his aim.

The change in climate serves to mark both the weather and the great distances that the two horsemen cover, moving from one landscape to the next. The snow-covered dialogue sequence, under the shelter of the trees, was almost certainly filmed in a studio environment, with its false snow, ever so large, picturesque, and evenly spaced snowflakes. Ford uses the dark coats and hats of his characters to show us the snow, which is arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner.