Seraphim Falls is a 2006 American Revisionist Western film directed by television producer and director David Von Ancken in his first feature film. The storyline was conceived from a screenplay written by Von Ancken and Abby Everett Jaques. The fictional story focuses on a bounty hunt for a Union soldier by a Confederate colonel following the American Civil War in the late 1860s. Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Michael Wincott, Tom Noonan, and Ed Lauter star in principal roles. Seraphim Falls explores civil topics, such as violence, human survival and war.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Von Ancken|
|Produced by||Bruce Davey|
|Written by||David Von Ancken|
Abby Everett Jaques
Kevin J. O'Connor
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Edited by||Conrad Buff|
|Distributed by||Samuel Goldwyn Films|
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The film was produced by the motion picture studio of Icon Productions. It was commercially distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films and Destination Films theatrically, and by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for home media. The film score was composed by musician Harry Gregson-Williams, although a soundtrack version for the motion picture was not released to the public.
Seraphim Falls premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival and was released to theaters in limited release in the United States on January 26, 2007 grossing $418,296 in domestic ticket sales. It earned an additional $801,762 in box office business overseas for a combined worldwide total of $1,220,058 in revenue. The film was generally met with positive critical reviews before its initial screening in cinemas. The widescreen DVD edition of the film featuring scene selections and a bonus featurette, was released in the United States on May 15, 2007.
In 1868, within the Ruby Mountains, Gideon roasts hare over an open fire. Suddenly, gunshots ring out with one striking his left arm. He grabs what he can and races down the mountain. His attackers emerge from their cover to inspect his campsite. Colonel Morsman Carver, a former Confederate officer, is accompanied by Pope, Hayes, Parsons and the Kid; who are all engaged in a bounty operation to apprehend him.
After removing the bullet from his arm with his hunting knife at a secluded locale, Gideon leaves an open fire burning, which attracts the posse. He ends up killing Pope with his knife and then ventures out again into the wilderness. He attempts to steal a horse, but is caught by a young woman named Charlotte who helps him after she realizes he is injured. She redresses his wound and her family lets him sleep overnight in their farmhouse. He later offers to buy their horse and leaves before daybreak. As the group of men approach Gideon's trail, he lays an ambush using a bear trap which impales the Kid, who is then shot by Carver as an act of mercy. Later, Parsons decides to leave the other men following the discovery of a dead bank robber, whom Gideon had killed earlier in an act of self-defense and whose bounty money exceeds Gideon's. As Parsons is preparing to load the dead body to take to Carson City for the reward money, Carver shoots the horse - which he declares is his, leaving Parsons to walk the 30 miles back to town carrying the body.
Encountering a railroad under construction, Gideon hitches his horse and steals some food. The foreman recognizes the stolen horse and detains Gideon. Carver and his remaining man, Hayes, come upon the railroad site and search for Gideon. Meanwhile, Gideon escapes from custody and makes off with another horse. As Carver and Hayes draw closer, Gideon's horse can no longer take the strain of the heat and collapses. Gideon euthanizes the horse with his knife. When Carver and Hayes finally reach the horse's carcass, Hayes dismounts and marvels at what type of an animal would disembowel the creature. Suddenly, Gideon leaps out from the horse's belly, where he had been hiding, and grabs Hayes threatening to kill him if Carver doesn't give up his gun. Carver instead shoots Hayes with his last bullet. Confronting each other, Carver and Gideon recall the events that put them at odds. After the end of the American Civil War, Gideon was ordered to track down former Confederate officers. When he arrived at Carver's home in Seraphim Falls to interrogate him, Carver was out in a nearby field. To coerce Carver's wife into revealing his whereabouts, and believing that their house was empty, Gideon ordered their barn to be set on fire. The blaze quickly spread to the house, as Carver returned from the cropland. While the soldiers restrained him, his wife and son ran inside the house to save their infant child who was still in a bedroom. Both men look on with horror at the unfolding tragedy; trapped by the flames, Carver's wife and children perish. Gideon, racked with guilt over the tragedy, is seen dropping his gunbelt and walking away from his men.
The two men fight, Gideon eventually getting the better of Carver. He points Carver in the direction of a town and tells him that he will get nothing but torment if he continues his pursuit. Gideon takes the horses ridden by Carver and Hayes and sets off deeper into the countryside. When Carver later catches up with Gideon, both men are on the brink of exhaustion. They confront each other again with their pistols. Gideon shoots Carver in the side but, instead of finishing him off, he offers himself to Carver. Carver decides not to shoot him and throws his pistol aside. Gideon helps Carver to his feet and the two men walk into the distance away from one another. In a final scene, Gideon takes his knife, which he has used throughout the film, and throws it into the ground.
- Liam Neeson as Colonel Morsman Carver: Like Brosnan, Neeson described being "kind of steeped in that western mythology growing up in Ireland." He likened his character, Carver, to Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick, "he's [Carver] totally governed by this idea of revenge where he’s practically lost his humanity."
- Pierce Brosnan as Gideon: The role was originally to be played by Richard Gere but after he dropped out, Pierce Brosnan replaced him. Brosnan spoke of his love of Western films during production and promotion of Seraphim Falls, which had stemmed from watching them as a child.
- Michael Wincott as Hayes
- Xander Berkeley as McKenzy, a railway foreman.
- Ed Lauter as Parsons
- Tom Noonan as Minister Abraham
- Kevin J. O'Connor as Henry
- John Robinson as Kid
- Anjelica Huston as Madame Louise, a vanishing con artist, who figures in the end of the film. Huston first joined the cast in November 2005.
- Angie Harmon as Rose
- Robert Baker as Pope
- Wes Studi as Charon
- Jimmi Simpson as Big Brother
- James Jordan as Little Brother
- Nate Mooney as Cousin Bill
- Shannon Zeller as Charlotte
- Adon Cravens as Nathaniel
- Boots Southerland as Tall Henchman
David Von Ancken first researched the script for six months before joining Abby Everett Jaques to create the screenplay. The film was originally announced at the Cannes Film Festival with Liam Neeson and Richard Gere in the lead roles. Gere dropped out in August 2005 and was soon replaced by Pierce Brosnan. Shooting on Seraphim Falls started on October 17, 2005 and actress Anjelica Huston later joined the cast the following November. The film was filmed on location for 48 days, primarily in New Mexico; some of the opening scenes were filmed along the McKenzie River in Oregon.
Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll was responsible for cinematography work on the film. Toll later noted it was a "great opportunity to work with a director who was interested in visual storytelling."
The soundtrack, composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, was produced at Bastyr University's chapel in Kenmore, Washington. Gregson-Williams wrote the music in three or four weeks, describing it as "very atmospheric". However, a CD soundtrack version of the film's score was never released to the public. The sound effects in the film were supervised by Kami Asgar. The mixing of the sound elements were orchestrated by William Sarokin and mastered by Steve Maslow.
Among mainstream critics in the U.S., the film received mixed to positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 54% of 81 sampled critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 5.7 out of 10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, the film received a score of 62 based on 21 reviews. Following its cinematic release in 2007, Seraphim Falls received a nomination from the Gotham Awards for the "Breakthrough Director Award". In 2008, the film won the "Best Specialty Stunt" award from the Taurus World Stunt Awards for Mark Vanselow and Craig Hosking.
|Neeson, who has more presence doing nothing than most actors do playing Hamlet, gives Carver hints of a psycho drive beneath his righteous scowl.|
|—Owen Gleiberman, writing in Entertainment Weekly|
In a mixed review, Christy Lemire writing in the Deseret News mused about the lead characters, stating, "Their climactic confrontation is visually arresting in its starkness. But as an anti-war statement, a call to lay down arms that's clearly intended to be relevant today, it's a bit too clunky in its literalism." She ultimately found the film to be "technically solid" but a "dramatically unremarkable Western". Todd McCarthy of the Variety staff believed the film was "nothing rousing or new" and that Brosnan along with Neeson wouldn't be enough "to muster more than modest theatrical B.O. for this very physical but familiar oater." He did however reserve praise for the cinematography noting, "Its physical beauty notwithstanding – Toll's work, which emphasizes the blues and greens of the forests, is always a pleasure to behold". The film however, was not without its supporters. Claudia Puig writing for USA Today offered an almost entirely positive review recalling how she thought the film was a "psychological drama with an intriguing ambiguity that challenges the viewer's loyalties and preconceived notions." She remarked that the storyline was an "elaborate and relentless chase that takes those involved into primal psychological terrain."
Stephen Holden writing in The New York Times applauded some of the realism displayed in the film, commenting, "Nothing in the rest of the film comes close to matching the impact of Gideon’s carving the bullet from his arm with his hunting knife, then cauterizing the wound while emitting agonizing howls. This scene is enough to give you vicarious hypothermia." He also expressed his satisfaction with the visual attributes of the picture by saying "Its strongest element is the austere majesty of the cinematography by John Toll ("Braveheart," "Legends of the Fall," "The Thin Red Line"), in which the severe beauty of the Western landscape looms over the characters as a silent rebuke." Critic Josh Rosenblatt, writing for The Austin Chronicle viewed Seraphim Falls as "Meditative, beautifully shot, and blessed with a healthy dose of cynicism" and a "morality play without the morality and a Western Purgatorio that, in the end, demands its protagonists resign themselves to their loneliness and brutality and avail themselves of the redemptive power of sheer exhaustion." Kevin Crust of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a somewhat mixed rating calling it "A beautifully shot chase film by writer-director David Von Ancken and co-writer Abby Everett Jaques, it moves along with minimalist efficiency" but overall admitting it ran out of "gas during an overlong allegorical final section." Author Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out commented that the film "has all the good looks of its wintry Oregon locales, not to mention the equally craggy faces of Liam Neeson and a grizzled-up Pierce Brosnan, embroiled in a Fugitive-like pursuit with the latter on the run."
|When actors of Neeson and Brosnan's quality stoop to material so obviously beneath them, a lashing at least might be in order.|
|—Ruthe Stein, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle|
Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor highlighted the film's merits by declaring that it was "essentially one long, bleak stalk-and-kill action thriller. From the rugged snowscapes to the cracked desert vistas, director David Von Ancken and cinematographer John Toll serve up a whole lot of eye candy from the great outdoors." He added, "The film functions as a kind of survivalists' guide, and there's a morbid pleasure in seeing how Gideon extricates himself from one impossible situation after another." Alternately though, columnist Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal sadly mentioned, "things take a turn from simplicity to sententiousness, then to surreal silliness, and finally to a mano-à-mano contest, on a parched desert floor, over which man gets the best close-ups."
The film premiered in cinemas on January 26, 2007 in limited release throughout the U.S.. During its opening weekend, the film opened in a distant 42nd place grossing $155,560 in business showing at 52 locations. The comedy film, Epic Movie came in first place during that weekend grossing $18,612,544. The film's revenue dropped by 49% in its second week of release, earning $79,181. For that particular weekend, the film fell to 48th place screening in 48 theaters. The film The Messengers, unseated Epic Movie to open in first place grossing $14,713,321 in box office revenue. During its final weekend in release, Seraphim Falls opened in 73rd place with $10,526 in revenue. The film went on to top out domestically at $418,296 in total ticket sales through a 6-week theatrical run. Internationally, the film took in an additional $801,762 in box office business for a combined worldwide total of $1,220,058. For 2007 as a whole, the film would cumulatively rank at a box office performance position of 276.
Following its cinematic release in theaters, the Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the United States on May 15, 2007. Special features for the DVD include; Audio commentary with Pierce Brosnan, writer-director David Von Ancken and production designer Michael Hanan; and a "Behind the Scenes of Seraphim Falls" featurette. Currently, there are several European Blu-ray releases of the film, although it is also available in other media formats such as Video on demand.
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