Roughing it with Jeremiah Johnson

Valley of Fire by Olga Assayah


Roughing it with Jeremiah Johnson by Jorgen Swenson

In 1972, Richard Nixon held claim to the presidential white house; Apollo 17, a three-man American space shuttle landed on the moon, and a film called “Jeremiah Johnson” was released. Director Sydney Pollack and 2-time Oscar winning actor Robert Redford teamed up to make their secondfilm together.

Filming in the beautiful snowy mountains of central Utah, ex-soldier Jeremiah
Johnson deserts the overpopulated plains, to pursue his dream of living off the land. Upon adopting the mountain-man lifestyle, hunting, fishing and trapping to survive, Johnson quickly finds that the Davy Crockett way isn’t so easy. After ditching his .30 caliber for a .50 caliber hawken rifle, Redford begins his venture into the savage unknown. Redford’s adventurous undertaking drags him across the Rocky Mountains, accompanied by grizzly hunters and Indian chiefs. Adopting a mute son, he becomes an irreplaceable companion as they continue their excursion among the Flathead Indian tribe. After forging bonds and trust through gifts and marriage to the local chief’s daughter, he and his family settle into a newly built cabin, only to be betrayed by the Crow Indians. After his family becomes victims to the Indians, Jeremiah seeks revenge. He later becomes known as the legendary indian killer.

Although the film may not compare to the seamless, drone-shot landscapes of today’s technology, this timeless classic captures the unchanging beauty of Utah’s rugged backwoods. Depicting the closeness, yet unfamiliarity with the surrounding wildlife that a mountain man would have enjoyed. One scene in particular is Bear Claw(Will Geer) coaching Jeremiah while he’s shooting an elk. It is obvious the video of the elk was taken at a different time and pasted in, but you put that aside and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Despite the difficult location and terrain, the film is pieced into a magnificent tale. Redford’s acting, the filmography, and the emotional music assembly unite to enthrall viewers in a thrilling and believable experience. It pulls on your heart and keeps all witnesses on their toes as they journey along-side this old-time hero; this movie stands among the best of them, and will be enjoyed by all.

With a blast from the past, this film draws you into a forgotten world; a time of
trials and hardships that are often forgotten. Survival in the elements was not a task that could be taken lightly. In a beginning scene, Jeremiah is fishing in a stream with bare hands in frigid temperatures. Being wet from head to toe and catching no fish, he gives up. Now, Jeremiah has to deal with the threat of pneumonia, because there is three feet of snow, and temperatures are below freezing. Hunting and trapping was not a hobby, but rather a life-saving practice among all people. Many people in today’s society have forgotten the lost art of surviving in the wild wilderness. However, people like myself still want the challenge to see if we have what it takes to survive in the overlooked mountain-man era.

Gracing the silver screens for over forty years, “Jeremiah Johnson” maintains its hold on the hearts for both young and old. They all have their reasons, the Rocky Mountain travels, the gut-gripping combat, or the sentimental agreements between the white man and Indians. The talented Pollack and Redford depict the storyline as if it were a live broadcast from 19th century. The tales of this mountain man keep audiences coming back for more.