Cinematography is much more than merely filming what’s on the page. It is about accurately bringing to life ‘ideas, words, actions, emotional subtext, tone and all other forms of non-verbal communication’ (Brown, 2012:2) whilst peeking through a lens.
The film “Unforgiven” which was produced, directed and starred in by Clint Eastwood is said to be ‘Eastwood’s most acclaimed Western’ (Cornell, 2009:24) because of how it embodies the genre so perfectly through the showcase of the themes of love, life and the disruptions of society. (Sterritt, 2014:166)
Static wide shot. Opening sequence.
In the opening shot, more specifically a wide shot, the basis of the story is laid down to the audience with a mixture of visuals and textual aid, which establishes the death of a farmer’s wife. The text, assuredly told in the perspective of the wife’s mother, tells of how she never understood how her daughter could have married a man known for his murderous and alcoholic tendencies, known as William Munny (Eastwood). And such is emphasized by the visual stimulant of seeing Munny, as the grieving husband, burying his wife within the sunset landscape of the state of Kansas. (Cornell, 2009:28)
Medium shot of Munny as a pig farmer.
Wide shot of the Schofield Kid, superior position in relation to Munny.
Further along, Munny is seen as a struggling pig farmer who is trying to care for his children when he receives a visit from a ‘young gunslinger, (…) called, the Kid’. The visual contrast of Munny, as an old man, being dragged down to the mud by a hoard of pigs whilst Kid, a young man, towers above him on his mighty horse serves as a means to show the inversion of roles between the two characters and how Munny’s past is behind him. (Gallafent: 1994:221)
Medium shot. Munny after deciding to take up the Kid’s offer.
Medium shot. Use of natural lighting in outdoor sequences. Scouting out the cowboy they plan to kill.
His past starts catching up to him once more, when Kid offers him the chance of becoming his partner since he is “heading up North (…)” to “(…) kill a pair of no good cowboys”. Munny battles with himself but decided to accept the offer since he sees a chance to gain some much needed money to feed his children since his pig farm isn’t offering much profit.
Medium shot of Ned Logan. Symbolism of shotgun on the wall representing Ned’s nostalgia of the ‘good old days’ with Munny.
An old partner in crime of Munny, called Ned Logan, is also recruited for the job and the two of them alongside Kid, start on a venture that, for all intents and purposes, serves to ‘avenge womanhood’ (Gallafent: 1994:223) as they intend to punish those who wrongfully attacked an unarmed woman.
Wide shot. The ladies taking care of Delilah after the attack.
Medium shot. William Munny, half in darkness half in light.
In summary, the shot right before the trigger is pulled, in the final sequence where Munny kills Little Bill as an act of revenge for his fallen comrade Ned, shows William with his face half bathed in light and half consumed by the dark. This play on lighting represents his inner turmoil of being stuck between Good and Evil, eventually sealing his fate as the trigger is pulled and he is seen retreating further into the darkness of the dingy saloon.
Medium close up. Delilah’s cut face as she inspects the new arrivals to town.
The themes of injustice, which comes from perpetrators not paying for their crimes; vengeance, as to avenge the maiming of an innocent woman and ‘the tragic cycle of violence and reprisals’ (Wilson, 2010:90), that eventually led to one or more characters being condemned by their actions, were what captivated Eastwood the most because of how realistic they were.
Wide shot. Strawberry Alice (center frame) with the rest of the prostitutes. Powerful stance against Delilah’s aggressors.
Medium close up. Kid right before he kills for the first time.
Medium shot. Ned being whipped by Little Bill.
Sheriff, Little Bill, saying his last words. Low lit, overhead shot.
If the rowdy cowboy had never felt belittled by the naïve prostitute because of his ‘teensy little pecker’ (Kitses, 2010:308), then he would never have lost his temper, which means Strawberry Alice and the rest of the prostitutes wouldn’t have put out a bounty to whoever kills the cowboy, which means that William Munny would have still been living his poor life with his children as a failed pig farmer instead of shooting the sheriff of ‘Big Whiskey’ along with the majority of his deputies.
Low angle shot. Munny after killing Little Bill. The point of no return.
This represents how ‘violence begets violence’ turning it into a vicious cycle that merely provides more split blood. (Kitses, 2010:308)
[DISLCAIMER: All the images were taken from the internet.]
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