Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Performance That Changed My Life

This is for Emma's blog-a-thon, if you didn't know, and you should get on over there and read all the other posts, after you've read this one.

I thought long and hard about who to write about here, the major problem being that I couldn't think of anyone- sure, there are a ton of performances that I love, but could I really honestly say that any of them changed me? (I take things very seriously as you see.) I didn't think I could. Until my brain finally looped round to a performance that it always went to, a seminal moment in my film-watching canon. It's a distinctly unconventional and even obscure choice, but be sure it's one that surprised even me in the way it affected me and stuck in my head. And here it is...

Jodhi May as Alice Munro
The Last of the Mohicans (Michael Mann, 1992)

Let's get one thing clear first. I don't like The Last of the Mohicans. I think it's boring and long and visually dull (although that may be the video copy we own, for some unknown reason). And, for most of the film, I barely even noticed that Alice Munro even existed, sidelined as she is as the sister of lead character Hawkeye's (Daniel Day-Lewis) love interest Cora (Madeleine Stowe). Various native American parties are assisting on either side of the colonial French-British battle in colonial America (why, I'm not sure), and Hawkeye is an independant man reared as a Mohawk who ends up, with two friends, guiding these sisters through various difficult and dangerous situations (including one sequence involving a canoe chase which is about the only excitement I got out of the vast part of the film). Naturally, Hawkeye falls for Cora, but what interests us here is what's going on in the background.

This is never exactly made clear, and it took reading after seeing the film to clear up what had actually been going on. As the film nears the end, the group progresses up a precarious waterfall, one of Hawkeye's friends, Uncas (Eric Schweig) is killed by the men tracking them, and he falls off the edge of the waterfall. Suddenly, surprisingly, Alice gives a look to her sister and jumps off after him.

Basic description does not do this moment justice. Perhaps what I'm going to say is hyperbolic, but it is also the truth. Have you ever experienced a moment you can't explain, where something affects you in a way you never expected, in a way it will probably never affect someone else, in a way it may not ever affect you yourself again? This is what happened to me here. The look that Jodhi May gave to the camera in that tiny second of film startled me, made my heart stop, made me weep- and I didn't understand why. There had been no build up, no groundwork- it was simply a sudden, unexpected moment. It was overwhelming in its despair, its sorrow, its harrowing hopelessness. I've never had a moment like it since. I've never watched the film again for fear that I would lose the remnants of the feeling. I doubt that you, if you watched it, would feel the same, for I can only feel that it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It is MY moment. Is there anyone else in the world who felt so strongly, from feeling so disinterested, in that piece of film? I doubt it, and, more importantly, I hope not.

Jodhi May's performance changed my life because it made me realize that performances don't always need deep groundwork to function, that someone can swoop in for barely a second and be as affecting as three hours of a performance. Jodhi May's performance is emotion in a captured frame, and, in a rare moment of foresight for me, I captured it in a photo. (From my tv, isn't it good!) (Oh, and search google for "Jodhi May Mohicans" and this image, my image, is the first to come up, on my Rotten Tomatoes page. Wicked.)

The link, here, behind the image, by the way, is to a youtube clip that includes the moment, which I haven't watched but managed to check for it's veracity. Watch it. I don't expect you to feel the same, and perhaps you won't have a clue what I'm talking about. But this moment is one that I can honestly say changed me: changed the way I look at film, change the way I understand it, change the way I see emotions. It is one of the few moments of my life that I can't understand, can't explain, can't put down to any earthly description.


Emma said...

Cool, when you don't understand why something's affected you, that's when you know it really has affected you. I think. Anyway, something deep like that.

I certainly did think she was one of the saving factors of the movie. It was very boring indeed.

Thanks for participating!


y'all need to watch this on the big screen. i'ts the furthest thing from visually dull. fine movie.

and yes May is incredibly affecting in it. i love the performance too and it's certainly one of the most shocking scenes of the decade.

if you're interested in seeing more she's excellent in her film debut in a world apart (1988) for which she won a prize at CANNES at the tender age of 12

ant said...

I love this post and this analysis of how great performances don't need groundwork. I also actually really like this movie, so I don't know if my feelings about this count. And I don't know if I should articulate why I too love this moment since I think it's really nice you don't have a reason.

Nonetheless, here I go. For me this moment is great because until then, Madeleine Stowe and Daniel Day-Lewis seem to have the significant thing going on. She's the unmarried woman having sex with a random savage she just met, protecting her sister along the way, having the great American love story. And then suddenly you get this scene and you realize that Madeleine Stowe wasn't really protecting anyone anymore and that in fact Alice is similarly having sex with a random savage she just met. The difference is that for Alice, there's no fanfare, there's no narrative, there's no great American love story, there's no nothing. It's just there. It makes Madeleine Stowe and Daniel Day-Lewis' whole affair look that much more shallow in comparison, that it needs the whole narrative to propel it. It's a reminder that often the significant story is the one you don't notice, the one that goes on behind the scenes. And I love the score in this scene :) Anyway, thanks for a great post!

Kamikaze Camel said...

I wasn't impressed by the film, but I did love the look of the film and I always like Daniel Day Lewis. I don't remember much from it, but I remember the scene you're discussing (and I didn't need to watch the clip). It was a great moment and one that almost made me want to go back and watch it again just to see if I was blind throughout the rest of the movie.

But it was boring so I decided not to.

Michael Parsons said...

After seeing this movie many moons ago, I was so emotionally overwhelmed by her that I could not move from me chair. The looks she and Uncas give each other throughout the film are touching. Their love is never mentioned, only conveyed through stolen glances.
That scene on the cliff edge where she weighs two fates is electirfying (I even own the piece of music). I coulud not agree with you more on chosing this. Had I taken part it would have been Whoopie Goldberg in "The Colour Purple", and only cause I saw it first.


ohbabybabygus said...

Ok, I just watched this movie for the first time today, and I have to say I totally agree with you. I had to write a paper on the movie and I have to say, I was kinda zoning out there towards the end. But then, after Uncas died and Alice was making her way to the edge of the cliff, I had the exact reaction you are talking about. My heart kinda skipped and I started crying. It was so incredibly beautiful I can't even describe it!

Anonymous said...

A lot of parts were cut form the Last of the Mohicans. My cousin was in the film, so I had to opportunity to review the script. First of off the movie is based around historical facts, the battles, etc. Cora did not have sex with Hawkeye, their love was suppose to have been a powerful bond inflamed by primitive survival. As for Alice and Uncas, he fell for her the first day he saw her but knew she would be forbidden to him. (not at all like the book in which the story is based on.) Anyways, she was only 15 and meek and fragile. During the waterfall scene she outgrows her childhood when she almost steps out in the night, she was dazed and ready to give up. Uncas pulls her in his embrace and the camera cuts the next part out, Alice clings to him wanting desperately to live and he makes love to her. Their love was a secret but very pure. When Duncan is burning at the stake, Uncas touches his father because he knows he is going to die but his love is so strong for Alice he faces death, to let her know what she meant to him. Uncas did not mean for Hawkeye and his father to follow him. When Magua slits Uncas's belly, the look he gave Alice was goodbye. After Uncas is thrown over, might I add a very honorable fight and death, Magua is considering tossing Alice off until she gives him that look and he peers deep into her soul and sees what Uncas saw in her, that is why he extends his hand to her, but when she sees her lover's blood on his hands, she knows she can not live without him. Cora thought Alice needed her but Alice was no longer a child, she steps off the cliff rather them live without love. The point of both of these loves were they were not based of sex but a true love that was wilder than the wind.
Alice and Uncas's love scene was cut be direction Mann thought it took away from Cora and Hawkeye's love.
I felt a powerful sensation when Alice bestowed her enchanting glare at Magua. The Last of the Mohicans is a very stimulating movie for those of us who admire history.

Anonymous said...

Yes i watched this film when i was 10 years old and even back then that very moment affected me and i could not stop thinking about it for days! this is a great movie. Beautiful film not boing at all!

Anonymous said...

It's a very haunting moment. I wouldn't say it's a favourite performance, but possibly the best SHOT I've seen on the screen, equally due to May and Mann. If you like Jodhi May I recommend an obscure mini-series called Signs and Wonders, where she plays a cult member kidnapped and "exit-counselled" by James Earl Jones. She's amazing in those scenes - terrified, furious, mocking and serene - it's one of the most intelligent performances I've ever seen.

Marjan said...

Last night I saw the movie for the first time and there was no 'zoning' out for me, I was completely captivated the whole time.
From the moment I saw her in his arms the outcome was clear and their short scenes together were the ones I liked most.
From the two sisters I felt most related to her and in the end.. they way she looked, almost crying, no hope, I actually started crying for here.

I now it’s just a story, but sometimes they affect me the most.

Anonymous said...

Its a visually stunning & very far from boring film and I have to agree with the commentor who said its whats going on between Uncas & Alice around the other characters thats the real story. For me the long last look Uncas gives Alice is just as emotive as Alice's just before she steps off the cliff - Uncas knows his luck has run out,loves her desperately & can not save her! His awful death always moves me to tears it was beautifully played by a beautifulEric Schweig who stole the film although having so little dialogue

Anonymous said...

Oh my god! I have seen only bits of the movie and have been dieing to see the movie. In the small parts I noticed the chemistry and connection between Alice and Uncas and I have to wonder why did we even bother with Hawkeye and Cora at all? The two that grabbed me were Uncas and Alice. I saw the final scenes for Alice and Uncas and that was what made the movie as great as it was. I wanted them to be together in the end and, in an ironic way, they were. I wanna buy the uncut version so I can see more of the film.
Though it was good I think they wrote it wrong. And the story should have focused more on Alice and Uncas. I'm a sucker for love, especially forbidden love.

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting to read that others felt the same way as I did - from the moment Alice and Uncas met, my attention for some reason was focused on them. The look in her eyes at the end pierced me and I cried helplessly for Uncas because he died knowing he had been unable to save his love. He was able to quietly get across so much.

Kenzie said...

While I agree with you about the beauty of Alice's last scene, I can't say the same for your dislike of the movie. I grew up watching The Last of the Mohicans and I don't think their is a single other movie that I remember watching as much.
The filming location is beautiful and inspiring, the movie was not boring but provocative, with deep themes, and Uncas and Alice's love was small but hinted at throughout the movie.
Once again, I agree with you in terms of May's performance and the over all touching effect the scene has, but I think a little more respect for the movie is due.

Claire Stewart said...

I'm not going to argue with you about whether or not The Last of the Mohicans is the greatest movie on earth or not but I would like to thank you for your post. My English class watched the movie and at the moment which you are describing a boy in my class said, "Wow."

That was it.

So I completely and utterly agree with you. In fact I am now writing a character study on Alice Munro because that moment intrigued me so much.

Thank you.

nipponophile said...

Like others posting here, from the very first time I saw LOTM and Eric Schweig and Jodhi May appeared, it was was the love story between THEIR characters that captivated me. All the grand gestures and protestations of love between the so-called main protagonists, Hawkeye and Cora, didn't move me and even became annoying, because it took time away from the love story I really wanted to see, the one between Uncas and Alice. They conveyed more love and longing in their stolen glances than pages full of dialogue. That their love scene was cut from the movie is an absolute crime - does it appear anywhere, like in an extended "collectors" version? And the scene on the cliff top, where Uncas is killed trying to save Alice, and then Alice chooses to be with him in death rather than live without his love, is the most gut-wrenchingly, tragically, beautiful scene I've ever watched. Every time I see it, it makes me sob from the depths of my soul. Not only for the lovers parted, but for the father who has to watch his son, his pride and joy, die before him.

Brett said...

Wow, I just watched the movie for the first time and had the exact same reaction, I actually didnt know what her name was so I stopped and googled her. I also googled this exact scene to see if anyone else felt the same way I did. Incredibly spot on post, that look she gives, is just amazing. Something like shes so young and innocent, yet knows she has to do something so mature. And the other thing is that she also becomes very beautiful for that scene. that look she gives.... amazing. Wish they had developed her character more because it is barely clear that they have feelings for each other.

Anonymous said...

I've watched this movie countless times. When I was younger I never really paid much attention to what was really happening.Now, Im like, "WOW!" The performances were great!The love between Uncas and Alice makes me want to watch the whole movie again and again.I wish the movie covered more on these two characters.Then again, why should you change a classic?

Anonymous said...

Interesting. For some reason today (15 years after I first saw this film) I just needed to know who played the role. A quick Google search landed me here.

Having read the book long before seeing the movie, I initially hated the movie when I first saw it. However, it grows on you after more than one watch.

The story is important to understand the performance. In the novel, Hawkeye and Cora have a future. He is the white adopted son of the Mohicans and she (once her father is killed) is alone in a strange land.

Uncas and Cora are like children, their love for eachother is pure and not yet mucked up with lust. She looks at him and knows he will protect her from all the evil in the world. The movie does a great job of throwing in shy little glances between the two throughout the film.

This is why he attacks Mogwa alone even though Mogwa is older and a far superior warrior; he knows this is his calling in life, to protect this woman.

When he dies, Mogwa doesn't just leave the body, he (with great disdain) shoves the body off of the cliff (to me symbolizing the cruel reality of life crushing the inocent bravery and love of childhood).

With Uncas dead, Alice must make the choice: live as Mogwa's wife in the cold reality (probably not a bad life as you can tell by Mogwa's semi-compassionate gestures to Alice to get her move off the ledge) or reject that reality.

That is what I think most people are picking up on for one reason or another through this amazing perfomance. The weight of that moment, in slow motion on the edge of a cliff, is a decision we have all had to make at one point or another.

Russell said...

When I saw for the first time the moment to which you refer, I fell in love a little with Alice. I love the whole film, but that moment has always stuck in my mind as truly beautiful and one of the most wonderful moments in film I have ever seen. Certainly, when I think of LotM and films of its type in general, I return to this moment.

I hope Jodhi knows the effect she has had on people with this moment.

carillonringing said...

I saw this movie when I was very young. I was probably four years old, or so. The only part of the movie I remember is the part you referred to. It was the most beautiful, saddest thing I had ever seen. My little four-year- old heart ached, and I wept. That moment has stayed with me for nearly twenty years.

Anonymous said...

This scene (Jodhi May's Alice dying on her terms) had the same effect on me. Looking back on my whole film-watching "career", I can't remember anything else that measured up to this 30 seconds in terms of impact. I just finished watching the film 10 minutes ago, and here I am. I knew there would be someone "out there" who was as moved as I was.
I agree that the best way to hang onto an experience like this is to never watch it again.

Anonymous said...

The love scene wasn't filmed. It was in the original version of the script but was not shot because Jodhi May's mother was on set during the shoot, and objected to it. This is according to (a GREAT resource for LOTM fans!).

Personally I prefer there not to be one. IMO it takes away from the impact of their choices. I always thought it showed how true their love really was, that they were willing to die for each other on the basis of love alone, without even having done anything physical.(Showing that love is a meeting of spirits more than a mere meeting of bodies.)

I also feel a love scene would lessen the tragedy of their deaths. For me, much of the tragedy came from the fact that there was so much they didn't get to do together.

Christine said...

The moment, the love, the secrets.
The beautiful story, scenery, and music.
Heart pounding and amazing.

Maybe it's because I watched it 100 times countless years ago. Maybe I'm just a romantic, or just getting on in years, but I didn't miss a beat, not even the first time.

Pure love in the greatest.

Alvin said...

Although there aren't any Oscar-worthy performances, I enjoyed the whole movie, especially the on location scenes. I've seen LOTM at least five times and the cliff scene still touches me. The first time I watched the movie, I admit that I'd missed the "love story" sub-plot until near the end. That's why I HAD to see the movie again. And again. Jodhi May is an accplished actress who can take what little she's given and do a lot with it.

Anonymous said...

I have just recently viewed the movie again. I was struck by the wordless love affair between Uncas and Alice. Which made the cliff scene so much more intensely dramatic. To me the look on Alice's face was unafraid. It was, I have seen eternity, and I will now be eternal.

Johdi May acted the scene of a lifetime at 16

Anonymous said...

I saw this film in my teens and it struck me in the same way as you have all explained. I love the film, but the final look given by both Uncas and Alice has always stayed with me too. Goose-bump moment. I'm thrilled to find that I'm not alone.

Billy said...

I must have watched this film at least a dozen times over the year. I must admit to not agreeing with the opening post though. The whole of the film is beautifully crafted, with some stunning scenery, and an absolutely haunting soundtrack.

I watched it and initially loved it because of the romance of the last of a race fighting for its own values in a world where a choice had to be made. Siding with one devil or the other seemed to be carried out grudgingly as a decision of the lesser of the two evils (rightly or wrongly). I loved it the first time as a "boys own" action movie.

The more I watched it though, the more I saw just how much of an effect that Mays almost silent contribution had on the film - and on me.

I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful, sad, poignant, piece in a film (although Rutger Hauer's dove scene in Blade Runner also encapsulates it for me). The sadness, yet beauty of the scene catapults May from a perceived peripheral figure in the movie, to the most dramatic piece in it. For me at least, it is a fantastic film in and of itself, but this one scene elevates it above and beyond its whole.

I dont think I've ever felt so much love/pity/admiration for a character in any film, as I did for "Alice" in them few seconds.

That moment made me see how beautiful she actually was when it was so easy to gloss over her throughout the previous parts of the movie.

Anonymous said...

I must have watched this film at least a dozen times over the year. I must admit to not agreeing with the opening post though. The whole of the film is beautifully crafted, with some stunning scenery, and an absolutely haunting soundtrack.

I watched it and initially loved it because of the romance of the last of a race fighting for its own values in a world where a choice had to be made. Siding with one devil or the other seemed to be carried out grudgingly as a decision of the lesser of the two evils (rightly or wrongly). I loved it the first time as a "boys own" action movie.

The more I watched it though, the more I saw just how much of an effect that Mays almost silent contribution had on the film - and on me.

I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful, sad, poignant, piece in a film (although Rutger Hauer's dove scene in Blade Runner also encapsulates it for me). The sadness, yet beauty of the scene catapults May from a perceived peripheral figure in the movie, to the most dramatic piece in it. For me at least, it is a fantastic film in and of itself, but this one scene elevates it above and beyond its whole.

I dont think I've ever felt so much love/pity/admiration for a character in any film, as I did for "Alice" in them few seconds.

That moment made me see how beautiful she actually was when it was so easy to gloss over her throughout the previous parts of the movie.

Anonymous said...

I must have watched this film at least a dozen times over the year. I must admit to not agreeing with the opening post though. The whole of the film is beautifully crafted, with some stunning scenery, and an absolutely haunting soundtrack.

I watched it and initially loved it because of the romance of the last of a race fighting for its own values in a world where a choice had to be made. Siding with one devil or the other seemed to be carried out grudgingly as a decision of the lesser of the two evils (rightly or wrongly). I loved it the first time as a "boys own" action movie.

The more I watched it though, the more I saw just how much of an effect that Mays almost silent contribution had on the film - and on me.

I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful, sad, poignant, piece in a film (although Rutger Hauer's dove scene in Blade Runner also encapsulates it for me). The sadness, yet beauty of the scene catapults May from a perceived peripheral figure in the movie, to the most dramatic piece in it. For me at least, it is a fantastic film in and of itself, but this one scene elevates it above and beyond its whole.

I dont think I've ever felt so much love/pity/admiration for a character in any film, as I did for "Alice" in them few seconds.

That moment made me see how beautiful she actually was when it was so easy to gloss over her throughout the previous parts of the movie.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for triple posting...dont know what happened there :-(

Sweet Raptured Light said...

That moment in the movie has moved every aspect of me. I felt like it had actually happened to me. Like my world had been turned upside down every time I thought about it. I cried numerous times out of despair. I was depressed for two days because of it. I love that scene so much. I've watched it again and again and sadly, it has lost a little of its effect. I stopped watching it and I hope that one day I can watch it with the right man for me.

Let's get something else straight!!
IT WASN'T A SEX SCENE THAT THEY OMITTED FROM THE MOVIE. It was a deep, "puppy love" scene, according to Eric Schweig.

Innocent Pokontas Dream said...

OK, I didn't watch this movie because I was really interested to do it. My father and I have a passion for Native Americans, we read all the books that contain stories about their kind. He told me that this movie was great. And it was! I really don't know why you don't like it. Anyway it's your opinion of course. It's the first comment I ever post so don't get me wrong, but the movie was really good. About Alice she did indeed a good work. This movie is the second on my favorites list after Dances With Wolves, which by the way it's the most beautiful film I ever saw. You should see it... of course if you haven't see it.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say ... Last of the Mohicans is one of my favorite movies of all time. I can understand why some people are disappointed and even frustrated with how the love of Nathaniel and Cora take away from the love of Alice and Uncas. But really, it doesn't. The filmmakers tell more of Uncas and Alice's love in the small moments they have and what is not shown than they tell of Cora and Nathaniel's. And Eric and Jodhi tell of the love more in the small looks and actions. Alice probably falls for him from the first moment he touches her, simply to stop her from stopping him from getting the horses away from the scene of the first massacre. No man had probably ever dared touch her before, and I'm sure his knowledge impressed her from the first. That look on his face as the camera settles on him as Alice is about to climb up the ledge next to the waterfall. The way she crawls towards him and he puts down his gun to draw her close and make sure she stays quiet, which I think might have been more of a reason to get close to her. After all, for the most part, Alice is composed, calm, quiet. We don't see him as they are crossing to the fort in the canoe. Could Uncas be on the other side, close to Alice as Nathaniel is on the opposite, close to Cora? Uncas is next to Alice, assisting her to the entrance of the fort. From the moment the three men are free during the next attack after they leave the fort, all three men know who they are running to. I think my one disappointment here is that it is Chingachgook who helps Alice up and stays beside her. Uncas leads in the front. On the other hand, it could be seen as a fatherly action from a man who has accepted that this is the woman his son loves. Behind the waterfall, once again Alice moves towards Uncas, and he pulls her down. The next shot is a mirror of the final scene of these two. It is framed in such a way that it foreshadows their eternity. She is held by him, against his chest. In the Huron village as he sees Alice being taken, he touches his father and the two share a look of understanding. Uncas leaves, not able to wait for the others to accompany him, knowing that he is facing several hostile natives. Even when he knows he will not be victorious, he continues to fight. The look Alice and Uncas share is heartbreaking. He knows he's lost. She knows it, too, and her mind probably even them begins to formulate what to do. I'm not sure I agree with the original poster that she looks at her sister before she jumps. Her sister comes into view after Alice jumps. I'm not sure she would have done what she did (she does not necessarily know her father is dead, and why would she leave her sister?) if she had a surety that she would be rescued. But at that moment, she faced an unthinkable future and harbored the intense pain of having just witnessed the man she loved being killed and shoved off of the cliff. A long shot shows the body of Uncas, barely visible but for the blue of his clothing at the bottom of the drop, likely on his back. The look she gives Magua ("I choose to follow him in death rather than choose a life with you." says so much. And when she falls, it is more that she is jumping into Uncas' arms rather than falling to a death, for at the next long shot, you see white on top of the blue, her dress. She is likely face down, against his chest. And so they enter death together, she in his arms.

The only other thing I want to say is this: There is no indication of either couple having sexual relations, so I do not believe it should be said to be so.

Anonymous said...

I think Alice and Uncas really love each other. I really hope that! I totally agree with anonymous that posted on December 9th 2011 at 6:36 PM.

Anonymous said...

I think that Uncas and Alice do love each other. I hope that's true. I love them as a couple. I totally agree with anonymous whom posted on December 9th 2011 at 6:36 PM.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? I'm not sure how I stumbled on this blog, but are you saying that that scene changed your life and perspective on acting? Your writing sounds as if you are a young teenage girl with a lot of living yet to do.

There certainly was no great acting in that scene by Jodhi, it was the powerful drecting, musical score, editing and camera shot selection. This is what you should appreciate from the scene

Your not understanding why the Indians were helping the French and English will be answered when you take 7th grade history. The film was an excellent one, well paced and visually stunning. It was not a Terminator 3 type action flick

Unknown said...

The mere fact that, 20 years after the movie was made in 1992, we are still engaged in a lively debate about a 5 second scene should tell us all that we really need to know -- it's a true masterpiece.

Sam Khan said...

I watched LOTM for the first time today. I expected a historical movie that was appealing. What I got was probably the most amazing, sensational scene in film history.

That scene was the most heart-wrenching thing I have ever seen. I felt like I died a little on the inside. I just can't describe the feeling in words, except that my heart kind of fell w/ a sudden thud, and I just felt sorrow and pain. The way Alice looks at the camera, it just makes you cringe a little. The way she cared for Uncas, it was just breathtaking. I sound very pathetic for a teenage boy, but I have to admit, that was the most mind-blowing things I have seen to date. When she decided to jump off the cliff, it was so sudden, not in a spectacular manner, but calm, relaxed. The thing that amplified that scene so much that was a bit mysterious, they didn't dwell into the raw power of that action. It was left untouched, so beautiful and pure.

The way they didn't focus on Uncas and Alice was just a bit astonishing, but I think that just contributed to the rawness of the scene, of their love. It was so beautiful and pure, I can't describe it in words. I think they were the true heroes of this film, the reason that this film was far more than just a narrative w/ a romantic was art!!!

As a movie buff, I have only once had a feeling remotely close to the one I felt in that hollowing and heart-wrenching scene...that was in "Wuthering Heights" w/ Sir Laurence Olivier, where Heathcliff walks off into the mountain. That scene was beautiful, but cannot come close to the scene w/ Jodhi May. I don't think it can be erased from my mind. It's etched in there for eternity.

In short, I just want to say this was the most cathartic scene ever. My heart still weeps, is still in ever sorrow after that. I couldn't sum up how that scene affected me in words, how her cold stare and her leap just were like a punch in my xyphoid process. That scene is pure perfection.

Anonymous said...

Jodhi May and Eric Schweig were excellent as the star-crossed lovers Alice and Uncas. I ship them so much and forever. They are perfect for each other and when they died, they reunited in heaven.

Anonymous said...

Best movie ever. Best scene in the movie. Saw the movie in the theater when I was 12 and never forgot: this scene, the young, reserved, sincere love, the bravery of the young girl who refused to surrender. Awesome. Gorgeous.

Sciamachy said...

I can't watch this scene without shedding a tear - Uncas taking out I dunno how many bad guys to get to his girl, Magua surgically taking him apart till his ragdoll body flops off the cliff side, then Alice's teary look as she rejects Magua's beckoning & throws herself off, Chingatchgook then cannoning up the path with Hawkeye, & his masterful takedown of Magua, the spinning strike with a gunstock warclub into Magua's spine, & him leaving Magua there, paralysed, to be eaten alive possibly by the woodland predators & carrion feeders. But above all, Jodhi May's look before her cliff jump, which says so much - and the whole scene with no words said at all.

Anonymous said...

I have never seen the movie, and probably never will, this scene is so incredibly violent. I came across the very beautiful and haunting melody Promentory that accompanies this scene, and I have played it several time. I couldn't figure out why Alice would jump off the cliff, but I just realized it was because the man that was killed was her beloved. Then I find your blog that says exactly that. What a marvelous bit of acting.

Sakuragi Rokurouta said...

I feel like the movie would be much better off without Alice, who's ugly and a terrible, terrible actor. She's completely redundant as she has no meaningful dialogue and plays no role in the story development. I honestly didn't feel a thing when she cast herself off a cliff. Which is a shame because in the book, she displays a lot of character. Ah well, Hollywood.

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Good Lord woman, the 'friends' were his brother Uncas and father Chingachgook (it's on the screen in front of me), the background was stunning, the movie fraught with the tensions of hate, love, war, friendship...

You 'had a moment' when Alice went dead calm because even your distracted brain couldn't help but recognize what was going on - the young woman stepped off the cliff in a moment of realization that some things are bigger than life, and some things are worth dying for - free will, right action, possibly even love...

You CAN watch the movie again without fear of not having that 'moment' because, even though it's NOT a random look and is tied to the movie (please see the very few interactions between the Uncas and Alice that you missed,) it really does stand alone in its intensity and purity. For such a brief performance it struck your heart and mine.

I can't stand violence, and yet this film tells history and does so with passion. I find it achingly and hauntingly beautiful.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea who Dave is, or how some of the other people who posted "The last of the Mohicans", is boring can possibly say this! I consider myself a huge movie fan, and I can say without a doubt that this movie is the most, beautifully made film, possibly ever? If you were bored by this film, I hate to say this, but you are probably an idiot. The depth, the time frame in history, the photography, the casting, costumes, the smokey mountain setting, the story, all of it came together in a piece of filmmaking like no other. It was almost breathtaking in its making. The writer/director/producer, Michael Mann is a genious filmmaker and has made many great films-this was his best.

Dave, you should absolutely watch the film again, if for no other reason than to see the stunningly beautiful Jodhi May, especially in the scene you describe (moments before her suicide). That moment, that brought tears and emotion into you like never before has been felt by many viewers, not just by you-who sadly doesn't have the ability(intelligence) to appreciate the rest of the film. That shot/scene was about many things. If you had watched the movie through the eyes of someone who knows what a good movie is actually composed of you would have seen what Alice(Jodhi) had been through up to that point.

She had lost everything, literally everything. As far as Alice knew she was now on her own to be raped, tortured and murdered by her captors. She had been running for her life since being initially ambushed, she had to have figured her father was dead, even if her sister hadn't told her yet. She didn't know if she would ever see her sister again for that matter. Madeleine was obviously too far down the ridge of the mountain to be seen by Alice before she jumped! She felt some attachment or even love to Uncas who she just watched die. That close up scene of Jodhi was just as much about pain, despair and hopelessness as it was about fatigue. Every human being has their breaking point! It just so happens that it was also the most beautiful still image of Jodhi May that exists.

Steve Chu said...

Thank you for writing about this! I remember watching this film in the theatre many years ago and this exact moment affected me deeply. Each time I watch this scene it still pierces my heart. I am amazed how Alice, who has only been a background character until now, emerges from the shadow to bravely stand on the precipice. In that moment where she contemplates her choices time seems to stand still. With one look, she conveys unfathomable sorrow in her eyes, accompanied by a defiant newfound strength. Upon first seeing this film - in that moment, I remember thinking that she was the most beautiful woman imaginable.

The scene still affects me today. I understand those who express concern over how repeat viewings of this scene may diminish the effect upon the viewer but I have not found that to be the case. Each viewing still leaves my heart aching. Somehow, Jodhi May conveys an infinite amount of feeling, meaning and power through this short scene. The fact that the scene has touched so many, and we are even now 20+ years later discussing it speaks volumes to her impressive talent.

As a fan I too wonder if she has ever realized how deeply this short scene has impacted many people. I would love to hear what she thought about the movie, about this scene, and what Alice was thinking in these final moments.

Anonymous said...

I Watched the movie ages ago, and at the time the chase scene and accompanying music thrilled me. Then suddenly Uncas' and Alice's death changed the whole experience! Those few moments captured the depth of their young love, something hinted at but not explored previously in the film.

In the moments before Alice chooses death you see so many emotions in that look; heartbreak, defiance, resolve... Then as she turns her head she first looks out as if taking in the world one last time then down towards her freedom and fate.

I, probably like many others who hadn't read the book, were hoping, even expecting that Uncas would rescue Alice. And we would have been pleased by that predictable outcome. Instead we were treated to an epic moment in film that ultimately is more evocative, and emotionally enduring than the passe "Hero saves the girl" resolution we thought we wanted.

Thank you Jodhi May for creating a truly touching experience.

Anonymous said...

years ago I had this soundtrack after falling in love with it after seeing the film. I recently purchased the soundtrack again on iTunes..Alice's scene always stayed with me...It is one of my most favorite scenes of any movie..I remember tears just rolling down my face as I watched it. I don't doubt that I'd have the same reaction after watching it again and again.

Frankitoca said...

I was struck hard by that moment, that Jodhi May moment, like all of you, so much that I never forgot the name, Jodhi May, so that every time I encountered the name on a movie cast list, I remembered who it was, the girl who gazed for that excruciating second at her sister (the camera), at us, with that purely innocent beauty, hit so hard by that screen moment that I found my way to this blog ten years after it was created and 25 years after I saw the movie.

Anonymous said...

The exact moment you're writing about also had a profound effect on me. While I do agree the two were in love, I think that throughout the film EVERYONE was helping/saving Alice in some way and that this moment was when she decided to take matters into her own hands at last. Sure it was a suicide, and her love for the Mohican was no doubt a factor, but I think her character was weak and malleable the whole movie until this scene...that's when she finally took her own life into her own hands. Unfortunately she only felt that freedom for a moment.

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie ages ago but didn’t remember much about it except how much I adored the music, but tonight I sat down and watched the whole thing again...and my God, this scene....I don’t think I’ve ever been so affected by a scene in a movie, and I don’t quite know why. I wasn’t even really fully paying attention until that moment, so I didn’t fully realize the backstory with Uncas at the time - it seems I didn’t even have to, yet I was affected so deeply by those mesmerizing few seconds, and I don’t quite know why. I haven’t been able to sleep just thinking about it. Finally I googled it, thinking someone must have felt the same way, and came across your post. You perfectly captured this mystery emotion I felt while watching it. Thank you for this post, long ago as it was - it sure resonated with me.

Tajalude said...

I saw this movie at the theaters, when I was 14. It's since become my favorite movie of all time, and I even managed to convince my parents to take me to Asheville, where the movie was filmed, for our family vacation the following spring. (I managed to get a poster, t-shirt, and some photos of some of the leftover props, but that was about it.) This scene is what did it for me. Even at 14, I was moved. I found Alice to be weak and pale and useless almost up until that point, and in that moment, she is a grown, beautiful woman. Not boring at all, not ever.