Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Last of the Mohicans (1992), directed by Michael Mann.

This is a vivid -- and I think entirely successful -- combination of period detail and historical reenactment with deeply romantic action adventure. We pass into a world of the past, but also a world that is both imaginary and immensely involving.

When we get to the Huron village and see the Sachem with those rock cliffs in the distance behind him: the feeling of having passed into a distant wilderness realm is very strong. His throne-room is all of outdoors.

Back on the frontier we have a society of colonials and Mohawk villages and homesteads living side by side in amity. Fact or fantasy: I don't know.

All the actors are tremendous, but I want to single out a few:

Beautiful photography by Dante Spinotti -- Manhunter (1986), Heat (1995), L.A. Confidential (1997). Gorgeous landscapes.

Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman get credit for the majestic score, with the main theme adapted from Dougie MacLean's "The Gael". We also have:

Filmed in North Carolina.

Historical notes:

The film credited not only James Fenimore Cooper's novel, but Philip Dunne's screenplay for the 1936 version.

I read the book and it is tough sledding. Mark Twain used to flay strips off of Cooper for bad writing and ludicrous plots. See Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses.

Available on Blu-ray with commentary by the director. It's mainly about the production and historical context. He seems to have a deep knowledge of the times. As a child he saw the 1936 version projected in a church basement and it left an impression.

The film has been through a couple of home video revisions. One had an extended lecture by Means in the last scene which just killed the emotion and dramatic flow. The version I have is the "Director's Definitive Cut" which is closer to the original theatrical version. Which is fine: sorrow, a few words to the Great Spirit, bring up the theme and mountain landscapes, and out. Very moving.

The subtitles have some amusing errors: