Victor Sjöström. The Wind. 1928

Victor Sjöström The Wind 1928

  • Not on view

The Wind is the last surviving silent picture by Seastrom, the great Swedish director who worked in Hollywood in the 1920s. It is also the last silent film of Lillian Gish, the mute art's greatest actress. In The Wind, natural forces destroy a delicate young woman, played by Gish, who is isolated in a desert cabin struck by sandstorms. Through both cinematography and Gish's performance, wind represents all the cosmic forces that have ever borne down on a vulnerable humanity. When faced with a brutal male attacker, Gish's seemingly fragile and innocent character summons a ferocious strength and resilience.

What makes The Wind such an eloquent coda to its dying medium is Seastrom's and Gish's distillation of their art forms to the simplest, most elemental form: there are no frills. Seastrom was always at his best as a visual poet of natural forces impinging on human drama; in his films, natural forces convey drama and control human destiny. Gish, superficially fragile and innocent, could plumb the depths of her steely soul and find the will to prevail. The genius of both Seastrom and Gish comes to a climactic confluence in The Wind. Gish is Everywoman, subject to the most basic male brutality and yet freshly open to the possibility of romance. As a result, the film offers a quintessential cinematic moment of the rarest and most transcendentally pure art. Seastrom made nine films in the United States after accepting a 1923 offer from Hollywood, and although the silent film was on its way out, he left, in The Wind, one last enduring monument of the genre.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 174.
Medium
35mm film (black and white, silent with synchronized music and effects)
Duration
72 min.
Credit
Acquired from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Restored with funding from The Lillian Gish Trust for Film Preservation
Object number
3104
Department
Film

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.