Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews. For more of my movie reviews, click here to follow me on Letterboxd.


Week 191: The Heart of an Indian (1912)


Thomas H. Ince fascinates me more than any other silent Western filmmaker and recent reading about him only strengthened my interest in his work.

The Heart of an Indian is a powerful film, perhaps not as technically proficient as the D.W. Griffith silents made during the same time but superior in terms of its narrative and thematic maturity. Having recently watched The Battle of Elderbush Gulch, comparing these two “massacre” films (the alternate title of this one is The Indian Massacre) reveals that the value of Ince’s work. To be frank, there are no close-ups of puppies in The Heart of an Indian and its distraught mother is portrayed in a strikingly different way that Griffith’s. Here, we have two mothers, one white and one native. Both are shown with dignity, even if the Native’s performance and direction of her performance is exaggerated at times. Ince presents the situation less dramatically and hysterically than Griffith, playing it simple and therefore actually achieving more of a dramatic impact. More than one hundred years after it was made, the situation of these two women still moves me and has even inspired an idea of writing a new western about such a situation.

The differences don’t end there. Whereas the victory of the white settlers in Griffith’s film is a sigh of relief, the one in Ince’s film conjures mixed feelings. Ultimately, this is what would have happened but the filmmaker isn’t happy about it and neither are we (or at least we shouldn’t be). The final images of the Native mother are haunting, some of the best of the silent era.

Watched on YouTube