I sat down and watched The Last of the Mohicans (1992) for the first time last week. I’d been wanting to see it for two reasons. First, I read the book (James Fenimore Cooper, published 1826) back in high school and seemed to recall liking it. Second, it was filmed in the mountains of North Carolina (near Ashville) and, unlike many such films, actually used Native Americans in the appropriate roles.
In terms of storyline, the setting is 18th century North America during the French and Indian War. A white man adopted by the last members of a dying tribe called the Mohicans unwittingly becomes the protector of the two daughters of a British colonel, who have been targeted by Magua, a sadistic and vengeful Huron warrior who has dedicated his life to destroying the girls’ father for a past injustice. You can see the opportunities for drama in that. It’s quite the spectacle. Film critic Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun Times, September 25, 1992) said: “(Michael) Mann’ s film is quite an improvement on Cooper’s all but unreadable book.”
There was one scene in particular that really struck me. It’s a dialogue between Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Cora (Madeline Stowe). Cora is wrestling with a staleness to her English upbringing and the vitality she sees in the colonies.
Hawkeye: My father’s people say that at the birth of the sun and of his brother the moon, their mother died. So the sun gave to the earth her body, from which was to spring all life. And he drew forth from her breast the stars, and the stars he threw into the night sky to remind him of her soul. So there’s the Cameron’s monument. My folks’ too, I guess.
Cora Monro: You are right, Mr. Poe. We do not understand what is happening here. And it’s not as I imagined it would be, thinking of it in Boston and in London… Hawkeye: Sorry to disappoint you.
Cora Monro: No, on the contrary. It is more deeply stirring to my blood than any imagining could possibly have been.
Wow. It reminded me of the sweet dissatisfaction, the holy discontentment, the deep yearning that is awakened within us when we begin to see our old life for what it is set against the new life offered in the gospel. “It is more deeply stirring to my blood than any imagining could possibly have been.”