Analysis of Unforgiven Brenda J. Thompson ENG 225: Introduction to Film Nathaniel Millard October 5, 2009 Summary While the movie Unforgiven (1992) directed and starring Clint Eastwood, as William Munny, is in the genre of a western in the late 1800’s. It has a basic theme that we are still making movies about today, justice and what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in our search for it. It is a story of a journey that one man has to make in order for him to care for his children but it ends up being so much more of a journey than he anticipates. This movie is the ultimate of good versus evil on a couple of different levels.
It is good guy versus bad guy and it is the evil within fighting the good within and the constant battles that both of these different levels bring to the main character and the other characters of this film. Does justice prevail in this film? Level of Ambition This movie’s level of ambition was that of a typical Clint Eastwood film, straightforward, deep and controversial. Clint Eastwood is known through his characters as the hard, smart talking, no nonsense, afraid of nothing type casted actor and so his films that are directed by him bring a whole new level to that type of character.
He brings the softer side to these characters that we do not expect to see. He reveals the inner dilemma within his character to show that just because someone has done some really horrible things in their lives that does not mean that they do not have internal struggles between what is right and what is wrong. The consciousness of the guilt, the validation, and the justification of what he is doing, eats at him and his inner struggles that come with knowing what he has done but seems to diminish over the length of the movie.
It seems to get easier for him to accept what needs to be done and just does it even though he no longer wants to do it. Thematic Elements The central idea of this film is injustice and what can happen when an injustice is made right in the eye of the beholder. This movie had hit on several different perspectives regarding its focus and was dependent upon which character it was highlighting at the time. One of those perspectives being from that of the main character William and his constant battle within himself to stay true to his goodness and not to allow the old evil side out.
Another perspective is that of the working women who just want to be respected and not feel as though they are personal property. The Sheriff, Little Bill, who was played by Gene Hackman had of course another perspective on the whole situation which was to play off the entire ordeal by fining the two culprits instead of arresting them. With that being said, this film covered several categories regarding a central idea and subordinate ideas. Although I found injustice to be the central idea, I also felt that there were other categories that were touched on.
Truth of human nature (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, pg. 26) and how even though this took place in 1880 you could still feel the injustice today and feel those feelings that were portrayed by the characters wanting to make this right although not all the characters wanted to make it right for the same reasons. The social problems that were in this film, which were the crimes against women, social acceptance and the draw that money has always and forever will have on us as a society are still prevalent today therefore we can understand and appreciate what is happening.
We know now as a society that we cannot take the law into our own hands but in 1880 it was prevalent and more acceptable therefore we can relate as maybe we wish he could sometimes take the law into our own hands and make an injustice right when one has been wronged. Setting and Set Design The filming took place in the wilderness of Alberta, Canada and one scene (the train scene) in California. The majority of the scenes were either out in the wilderness or within the small town of Big Whiskey’s saloon and the adjacent main street during the fall and winter season of 1880.
The buildings were dark, small and gloomy on the inside and due to the fact that the majority of the movie took place in the nighttime hours and it was stormy more than not, the outside was just as gloomy as the inside. The lighting was minimal as it would have been back then bringing mood with it. The foreshadowing of the stormy weather worked in making this movie what it was, the rain seemed to let you know when something was coming. As much as the wilderness scenery was beautiful, I found it downplayed by the drab colors of the costumes and the non use of color throughout the entire film.
It seemed as though the only time color was used was determined by what that particular scene was about. For instance, as English Bob came into town the only item of color was the drab red of the stagecoach, so we knew whoever was in that stagecoach was going to become an important character to a scene coming up, everything else was a muted earth tone of tan, brown, green and blue. As stated in our text a director may simply let their settings just be a backdrop and let the action of that scene take over. (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, pg. 74) This was exactly how this movie was told; it focused on the story instead of glamorizing it with colorful costumes and scenery. We needed to see the drabness of the subject in the muted colors of the movie. Another scene that showed a pop of color was that of William (Eastwood) and Ned (Freeman) were having a conversation where William was trying to make himself and his friend believe that he was no longer an evil person, he no longer drank and no longer killed and at that point their horses walked past some very bright yellow colored trees which just brought a sense of hopefulness to that section of the movie.
As if by justifying his goodness it truly made him a good man, the validation from his friend was needed by him as a reminder that he really was a good man, that this couldn’t make him a bad man again because he had been good for so long. Sound and Score The first scene of the movie was that of William Munny in the distance tending to his farming as the sun set on the other side of him. The only sound at that time was that of a very soft playing guitar that had the feeling of a ballad, soft and gentle. For the remainder of the movie the sound and scores were very minimal.
Natural outdoor sounds, animals, the breeze, rain were the sounds heard most of the time. Music was minimal and was used for dramatic pauses when no words were necessary and the message needed to sink in or to build up to an upcoming scene. The softness of the music was calming and not too overbearing especially in the action parts of the movie when some directors scream music. Clint Eastwood in this movie chose to use music to “reinforce the rhythms of the action” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, pg. 375) instead of making it a priority. He used music the same way he used his colors.
I found that during the soft reflective moments of the movie that the music was that of a sole guitar or very soft music and when it involved a little more action an orchestra was involved. The most profound sound of all was that of the rain. Depending upon the message coming through made the difference between how hard it was raining and how loud it was heard. Not only was the rain foreshadowing but also the sound of the thunder and lightning that was used. It was letting us know that something was coming, something was going to happen and it was an integral part of the film.
Casting and Acting Performances As it is explained in (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, Introduction to Film) “In the choice of actors, one director may take the safe, sure way by casting established stars in roles very similar to roles they have played before. ” Clint Eastwood is well known for his hardened characters and his experience in westerns. I could not imagine any other actor portraying William Munny. Clint Eastwood brings to the table a hardened character that transforms himself from an uncaring murderer to a loving husband and father back to his hardened man that has to make justice where there was none.
Little Bill (Hackman) was a typical sheriff of the time where he laid that law with an iron fist and was going to lay that law any way that he could. In the film you want to believe that Little Bill is one of the good guys but in the end he is no better than the men he was trying to run off. In one scene Hackman was explaining that he did not like men of no character or assassins but in true life really was no better than them but justified it to himself with his badge. Morgan Freeman played Ned, William Munny’s old partner in crime.
He had also retired from the killing fields and was now a farmer married to his Indian wife, Sally Two Trees. Ned truly believed he could help his old partner but by the end of the film had realized that he could no longer kill someone and chose to return to his wife but not before being captured by Little Bill’s crew and ultimately killed. Freeman brings a sense of calmness, stability and outright warmth to the film and breaks up the stark harshness of William Munny’s character and the haracter of Scolfield Kid, played by Jaimz Woolvett, a young man looking to make some money but has no experience with that of a paid assassin or of life experiences in general. He was a simple character but one that grew throughout the film to make a realization that his view point on a glorified act has sharply turned and took another route. As the characters seem to complement each other and all of the actors seemed to fit each character to a tee, there are not too many actors in my mind that could have lived up to the actors that were chosen for these roles.
I found one character flat but only because she was written that way, I do not blame the actress as I think she did a great job, it was the character as a whole. Screenplay and Narrative Structure Clint Eastwood, as the director, chose to tell this story very simply by filling the audience in with a written narrative in the first scene. It tells you about the main character prior to this time in his life without taking up more time than was needed. It was straightforward and simple.
It was not told through any one character but you could feel the story through each of the characters it was focusing on in that scene. As there is no way of knowing how the screenplay was written it is hard to tell if Eastwood followed what the screenwriter had envisioned or what he envisioned but for what it is worth, Eastwood brought himself to this film in a way that shows not only the hard side of a prior life of killing but the softer side of a man that chose the good of a woman and wanting to please her.
There is also a narrative at the end of the film that lets us know that William Munny chose in the end, his children and his wife’s goodness. He chose to leave and moved himself and children to Los Angeles and works productively in dry goods. We know that not only did he make it through that darkness but came full circle twice. He started out killing, bettered himself with the help of his late wife, killed again when his friend was killed because of the act that he committed and then went back to the goodness when he felt as though justice had been served.
Once his friend was killed and he took a drink of the alcohol, he lost himself in his old ways as the anger and guilt came bubbling out. Once he felt as though he had righted a wrong, he took his children away from all of the bad and started anew. Objective Evaluation Overall this film was successful in bringing to an audience a western drama with compassion, with ignorance, with greed, with honesty. It showed the softer side of a killer, one side we don’t normally see in a film, we saw the journey of a man trying to find who he is without being defined as an assassin and the struggles within that journey.
By suppressing the colors and tones of the film and leaving the lighting at a minimal it really focuses on the feelings and the story as a whole. It wasn’t about the actions but about how people react to certain situations (especially when information is misconstrued) for an example, this all started by a whore getting cut in the face but by the time the information was received by William Munny, the crime had more than doubled in severity. If the story of the cutting had stayed true would this story ever had happened?
Would the characters have wanted to kill those men if they had known she still had her fingers and such? Maybe that was what William Munny’s inner struggle was about once he had met the cut woman. The story was easy to follow and William Munny’s character was easy to like, he had been trying to live right for 11 years but when he realized he couldn’t provide for his children because the pigs were getting sick, he had to resort to what he knew he was good at.
Only problem was that he found that he was extremely rusty at it, from his shooting skills to his eyesight, he wasn’t the same at it and it didn’t feel good to do. The emotions in this film were portrayed wonderfully from Alice the fiery working girl to the laid back calm character of Ned. You could feel their emotions and understand them and connect with them as people. Final Analysis In closing, the movie Unforgiven was a great movie filled with emotion and heroism. Although this movie was about injustice and human nature, it was also about healing, renewing and hope.
As gloomy as the subject matter was, it was also about hope and realizing that no matter what you have done in the past you can make a choice or choices and make a new life that doesn’t have to involve criminal behavior. People like to think that justice always prevails so this movie provides that. It provides justice for the girls but at the same time caused a ripple effect and they got more than what they had bargained for, not expecting as much bloodshed as this one incident had caused. Clint Eastwood and the other cast members made this story a believable one.
Not only is Munny (Eastwood) a somewhat cold type of character you end up seeing sides to him that make you like him as a person. Not only are we willing to forgive his past, we want to see him succeed whereas Little Bill (Hackman) was in a position of superiority and used it to intimidate and manipulate his way of running things. I found this character to be arrogant which showed when in building his home, asked no one to help him. Clearly it was needed. The only character I found to be flat was that of Delilah (Anna Levine), victim of the cutting.
I can understand that her character might be a little timid after the ordeal but found her to be flat throughout the rest of the film and wish she had more of an impact. Overall this movie was a nice movie to watch. Not only was it easy to follow it made you want to continue watching to see what happens. The characters are believable and the storyline tells an entire story. The use of muted colors and natural sounds lent to the mood and tone of the entire movie. The focus is of the story neither the scenery nor the costumes but was strong enough to stand on its own without going over the top.
Not only was this film a western but a drama as well, great for men and women as it touches emotions and evokes emotions on both sides of the gender box. References Boggs, J. , & Petrie, D. (2008). The Art of Watching Films (7th Ed. ) with tutorial CD-ROM. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. ISBN: 9780077282301 Peoples, D. W. & Eastwood, C. (Writer/Director). (1992). Unforgiven [Motion Picture]. Hollywood: Warner Bros. Pictures
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