Are you going in or are you staying out? In the world of John Ford’s The Searchers you must choose. You can’t have both. The Searchers takes place on the threshold of that choice, in the abyss of the borderlands, external and internal. For some of the characters, going in or staying out isn’t a choice at all, it’s just the way things work. Everything you want, everything you search for, is “out there”, or, on the flipside, everything you want is “in there”. There is a giant gap between “in” and “out”. Unbridgeable gap. Characters are seen standing a bit away from the house, with people clustered in the doorway, and it seems like anything, anything can happen in that small gap. There is no white-picket-fence safety of a little front yard. Slaughter can happen in that 20-foot gap, swift and terrible. So you must choose. As the terrifying Judge shows in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, there are things that happen in life, choices you make, that forever banish you from the world of the indoor, from civilization itself. There is a point of no turning back. Looking through a doorway, at something going on through yet another doorway, is an image that repeats throughout The Searchers. Whatever happens through a door, whatever is glimpsed, is the “substance of things hoped for,” it’s the truth of the matter, a truth usually unspoken and private. So private that the famous final shot, unfolding in silence, is a man turning away from the door and walking away, with the slightest of stumbles at first, a knee buckling under him slightly, because he knows … he knows that he can no longer go “in there.” It’s not that he’s not welcome. It’s that he has traveled too far, seen too much, been too much. The threshold is now forbidden to him. In there is warmth, safety, domestic comforts, family. It is no longer possible for him to participate and he knows it. In the final moment, the door closes, for the last time.