Music Box’s “Hell on the Homestead” series continues with ‘Zandy’s Bride’

As with “Unforgiven” last week, 1974’s “Zandy’s Bride” is a part of “Hell on the Homestead,” a film series being held at Music Box Theater at 3733 N. Southport Ave. The series focuses on unconventional Westerns and is sponsored by the DePaul School for Cinematic Arts.

This movie is a drama in a Western setting and is absent of any gunfights or horse chases that are synonymous with the genre. As a lover of cowboy action, I was not sure what to expect with this movie, but I was pleasantly surprised with “Zandy’s Bride.”

“Zandy’s Bride” follows Zandy Allan, a lonely frontiersman played by the incomparable Gene Hackman. Zandy purchases a European mail-order bride from a newspaper in hopes of companionship and children. Hannah Lund, the bride portrayed by Liv Ullmann, arrives at Zandy’s homestead and is immediately disappointed. She placed her ad in order to find adventure and love in the West, neither of which are provided by Zandy.  He treats Hannah like his property, and Hannah is disgusted with Zandy’s filthy house and habits. The movie becomes a cold war between the two characters navigating their new relationship and learning to live with one another.

“Zandy’s Bride” is one of the most interesting Westerns I have ever seen due to the domestic story and lack of genre tropes. This movie is a romantic drama set in the American West, with no gunslingers or cattle rustlers in sight. Coming from a lover of the Western genre, this was a welcome departure. Without gunfights and action scenes, the audience is able to sit back and take in the rich atmosphere of “Zandy’s Bride.”

The performances in this movie are incredible. Hackman is a pleasure to watch as Zandy. He is by no means a stereotypical Western hero. Zandy is gross, misogynistic and crude. Hackman portrays him in such a way that we stay invested in him despite his many flaws. We see in the movie that his poor treatment of women is due in part to how his father treats his mother. He is a pretty awful man for the majority of the runtime, but his new bride tries everything she can in order to get him on the path to redemption.

Ullmann’s Hannah is a perfect foil to her new husband. She is clean, has manners and wants him to be a man she can love. The two are in perpetual conflict with each other for much of the runtime, leading to both heartbreaking and hilarious scenes. A character-focused movie like this depends on strong performances from the leads, and these two do not miss the mark.

“Zandy’s Bride” features gorgeous cinematography and a wonderful score. The scenery of this movie is breathtakingly beautiful, and the audience is treated to numerous shots showing off the beauty of the American West.

The score of this movie is another highlight. The music is absent from most of the scenes, only showing up during montages of the lovely landscape. This moderation made me appreciate the score even more and further emphasized the beauty of nature. Additionally, having no score or ambient music during the other scenes of the movie give further weight to the dialogue and actions.

“Zandy’s Bride” is a quiet and reserved relationship drama, set in the backdrop of the American wilderness. With stellar performances, striking cinematography and lively music, this is a movie worth a watch. While not the most thrilling film, the low-key story of this movie makes for a good, albeit unconventional Western.

The screenings are free for DePaul students.

I am giving Zandy’s Bride three and a half out of five stars.