While driving along a New Hampshire highway the other day, through past-peak but still lovely autumn landscape — russets and oranges remain — I heard the words “The Sound of Music” in my head, followed by “The Wizard of Oz.” The images that flashed instantly reminded me of the centrality of an iconic landscape (or a couple of significant landscapes) in these films, cinematic dreamscapes that instantly evoke the movies’ emotions and spirit.
And that made me think about other classic films in which the landscape is central to the film and often dreamlike, though perhaps in quite different ways: romantic, expansive, grand, sumptuous, stark, minimalist, foreshadowing, or just plain strange. Here are a few more that come to mind.
“Gone with the Wind” (1939): I’ve chosen Tara, but the burning of Atlanta and the wide-angle panning shot of all the wounded in the Battle of Atlanta are two others that are hard to forget.
“The Seventh Seal” (1957): It’d be hard to find a starker landscape.
“Last Year At Marienbad” (1961): The very stylised garden underscores the formality of the interior spaces and of the mannequin-esque characters. The garden shots are disorienting, as is the film itself.
“The Third Man” (1949): Post-war Vienna noir. Seedy, shadowy, atmospheric.
“Manhattan” (1979): The Queensboro Bridge and glorious New York.
“L’Avventura” (1960): That island. And Sicily. So haunted, so compelling.
“A River Runs Through It” (1992). I think the title captures it.
“Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland” (2010): A fantastical dream/nightmare.
“Fantasia” (1940): Specifically, Night on Bald Mountain.
Featured image: “Lord of the Rings” film site in New Zealand, 2005 – photo taken by my father