Thursday, April 1, 2010

Per un pugno di dollari

The landscape is a key convention of any western and Leone makes good use of it, almost as if it itself were a character. The film begins establishing both the landscape and the protagonist, the Man with no Name. The camera looks down at the ground, showing rocks and dirt both harsh and dry. The land has little to no vegetation, which suggests that there is little to no love or nutriment to be found out in the wilderness, and that life, like the terrain, is rough. This is soon to be reinforced as Jesus, Marisol’s son, is pitifully shot at by Rojo’s cruel goons. In the first scene alone, both The Man with no Name and Jesus are shown to be a part of the landscape. The boy is dressed in all white, blending into the walls of the two houses he is caught between.

The Man with no Name is shown in close-up, against a backdrop of brown mountains, his brown face under his brown hat and above his brownish poncho. This could be an effort to suggest a few things. One thing being that both MWNN and Jesus are in their natural surroundings. The MWNN is a wanderer and presumably does a lot of traveling through the desert, it is only natural he would become a part of the landscape.

Jesus, on the other hand, stands out against the brown of the desert, but blends in with the houses, possibly to suggest that he is not suited for the life outside of the house, at least, not yet. In white, he represents innocence and because he matches the house, he represents family and roots. The MWNN has neither.

The landscape is usually shown to be vastly immense and overwhelming, dehumanizing in WS and LS. In these kinds of shots, it is made most important, reducing humans into small, indistinguishable figures. This may cause confusion over which faction we are observing, or at least realize that, on such a grand scale, they all look the same.

While the Rojos and the Baxters have their shootout in the desert, near the graveyard, the men all become part of the landscape as they are obscured in darkness and become faceless. But even in the landscape, there are idyllic images to be found, including a shot through a window that shows a trail of soldiers on horseback among two bushy trees and a two leveled white and blue sky. This shot is both simple and stunning.

Landscape of the Face – CloseUps
Perhaps as to counter the dehumanization of the immense and unavoidable landscape, Leone utilizes a TON of close-ups. In the initial shootout between the Man with no Name and the Baxter thugs, shots are at a distance, WS or MS, but as the tension begins to mount, close-ups become much more frequent. First, there is a MCU on one of the Baxter thugs, the one who stands alone. Then, there is a CU of another thug, as he begins to look worried. Then, there is a CU of the Man with no Name. He looks up with determination in his fierce eyes, a crease between his eyebrows, and his grimacing squint. He talks through the grit of his teeth, still clamped on his cigar, this thin lips moving quick and furious. There is another CU back to thug#1, who is static, but clearly feels the imminent danger. There is another CU to thug#2, who was grinning, but now his smile is shown to falter. Then, there are the onlookers. There is a CU of the coffin-maker, looking worried, and another of Silvanito, who is terribly fretful. Cut back to the Man with no Name, cut to thug#1, who just spits, back to the Man with no Name. His eyes drift down and then back up. Then, this chain is broken by two shots that show the thugs at a distance and then subsequently drawing their pistols, but then there is a CU of the Man with no Name shooting, and then a WS of the men falling. The sequence ends with a CU of the coffin-maker smiling. Close-ups not only provide the characters with a face, but also allow the audience to see what the other characters cannot from their distance. The audience is allowed into the character’s private world and able to study their face and read into their emotions. These close-ups provide visual character development in the absence of dialogue to where even characters with limited screen time are shown to be three-dimensional.

Ramon’s Perspective
Ramon is the only character who the audience actually shares a point of view with. First, in his introduction, he guns down soldiers and we, the audience, are allowed to look down the barrel of his gun with him. This alternates between the CUs of his sweaty, rugged face as he sadistically smiles.

Later, the audience shares Ramon’s perspective as he dies. The camera “woozes” and sways into the bright white light of the sun, spinning and swirling until he falls over defeated. This is a curious element, why are we allowed to see and possibly sympathize with the villain, but not the supposed hero? Perhaps if we could see through his eyes, his hero mystique would be ruined. Or, maybe, it would have killed chances of a sequel.

A Fistful of Dollars at Rotten Tomatoes:

A Fistful of Dollars at Clint Eastwood’s tribute website:


kelco411 said...

This blog was very interesting because it really proved how important camera angles and shots are within a film. A Fistful of Dollars is no different. I completely agree with the fact that the small child and The Man With No Name blend in with their surroundings. This was definitely done on purpose; it was supposed to symbolize how they don't belong in the area they are in; they are simply just blending in with the background. I also like how this blog goes into great detail about the close-up shots that happen throughout. The scene that really shows this is the scene at the end; The MWNN and Ramone's battle. As the suspense builds, the camera moves in closer and closer to the characters. This is make it even more suspensful, and to show the emotion of the characters at that point in time. Along those lines, I really liked how this blog talked about the point of view shots that were given to Ramone a few times in the film because I noticed that right when I seen it in the movie. Giving point of view shots to the audience makes them feel more engaged and feel like they are right there with the action. That is very important for a viewer for sure. It was definitely important to me, and made me get a lot more into the film.

Jessica said...

I think you made an interesting point about the landscape.I like the idea that the dry desert and lack of vegetaion serve as a metaphor for their quality of life (or lack of it). I know that in many neorealist films, there is particular importance placed on the landscape. Although this film was directed after the neorealist period, I wonder if the relevance of landcape in Western films is a carry-over from the neorealist period.

You mentioned the idea that close ups provide the audience with the ability to see emotion and gain a better understanding of what a character is thinking. Do you think the Man with no Name portrays a lot of emotion or seems to wear that classic "poker face"? Do we really get a better idea of who the Man with no Name is with a close up?

Emirjona85 said...

As the music, the landscape and also the camera close-up shots show the importance of the scene. I like the idea how by getting the camera closer to someone, it shows the face expressions and also make it more interesting to think about.

Tani said...

I liked the careful description of the landscape going along with the point of view shots. One thing that I feel should be noted about the landscape is the relation that it has with the man with no name. In my opinion when the director did this he chose it so that the two would be correlated to one another. The land, from a viewer's prospective is dry, empty and isolated. Yet, if we pay careful attention when Ramone kills those soldiers we see trees and water. Similar context surrounds the man with no name in which the viewer believes he is simply an empty soul, since we know nothing about him other than the fact that he's tough, likes to make money and cause trouble. At the end of the movie though we find out that he has been in a bad situation before and nobody was there to help him. Automatically he turns into a hero. The correlation that I feel the director left to us viewers in confront to the man with no name is that he wants us to find out about the landscape and the character itself little by little and in doing so, keep our attention and increase our wish into watching the continuation of the story.

Celia said...

I honestly would have never thought how important landscape is for this film. I liked how the blog showed the importance of it. After reading it, I do agree in a way that landscape, in a way, is its own character. The film's landscape represents the desertion and abandonment the town is facing. The town is abandoned and deserted due to so many people leaving and/or dying. And it is out in the middle of nowhere.

elisa6690 said...

I really like how much information you were able to gather about the meaning of the film merely due to the landscape. I totally agree with the fact that costume vs. background has a huge significance towards the film as well as put everything in perspective for the audience. Although we may be unaware, we subconsciously realize that even if the the young boy lives in the Wild West deserts, he is still fragile and innocent and in need of his family and home. The fact that he is wearing clothing that matches the house, and it happens to be of the color white, portrays innocence and vulnerability. The contrary goes for MWNN, where he wears harsh fabrics and natures colors. We are led to believe that he is rugged and untamed. He survives based on sheer street smarts and he takes advantage of what he is surrounded by. Very interesting blog-its detections like this that keep me looking out for the little details in films and what they may or may not signify. Well done!

Cinepresa87 said...

A Fistful of Dollars served its purpose as a “spaghetti western”. Clint Eastwood as Joe (The man with no name) gave a respectable performance playing a drifter wondering into a troubled town. As an enthusiast of other film genres, this film was good, but offered little to walk away with. The ultimate question may be is Joe the good guy or bad guy in the film? It may be a toss up because he causes a stir of violence in the town but does do some positive things within the town that redeems his bad guy perception. As a spaghetti western it was reasonable, but it didn’t score with the best of Italian made films.

Cool Italian Pics said...

As this triology goes, I still enjoy "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" much better, but that film is perhaps too long for our class.
Sometimes a film is meant to entertain rather than provide deep meaning. We tend to think of movies has having a particular story value first before considering the visual aesthetics and the enjoyment of the motion picture. But the landscapes and music of this film are simply superb! However, this particular western subgenre has a special character to it. The hero has his flaws, is no mister nice guy in his day to day presentation, but he still manages to make us root for him. As a capitalist cowboy, The Man with no name gets the money, but not the girl!

tots288 said...

Being the first Western I have recollection of actually watching, this was a good one. It basically made the genre exactly what I've always thought it was. I have to agree with everyone on the fact that the music alone was just fantastic and was very appropriate for such a film. Infact it was probably one of my favorite parts of the movie itself, after the obvious fact that Clint Eastwood is totally awesome and intimidating. For the very first Western I've ever seen, it was exactly what I picture a Western of being like. Definitely enjoyed this one!

Mr Hooster said...

This film represents everything that a classic Western should be. As we discussed in class, we see a struggle, a strange character coming into town, a conflict that gets violent, and in the end, the people are saved by a hero. That being said, it is made to be enjoyed in the moment and does not leave one with much afterthought. There isn't any issue with this as it serves its point well. I like how the environment can be related to the people and situation in town. They do match well but this generalization can be made with most western films. The use of close ups in the movie also proved to show emotion very well.