It’s important to understand where human savagery and civilisation show their presence in modern society. Clint Eastwoods ‘Unforgiven’ shows the viewer aspects of humanity that make him or her consider where we tend to find human violence and savagery in the modern world. Eastwood communicates these ideas through the use of lighting techniques and camera shots.
‘Unforgiven’ tells the story of a man named William Munny, a failing pig farmer in Wyoming, 1881. Munny is actually a retired criminal who used to “kill women and children” However when he hears of a bounty set on a cowboy for assaulting and cutting a prostitute, he sets out to claim it. Throughout the film a contrast of dark and bright lighting are used in conjunction with high and low angled shots to influence the idea of civilisation versus savagery.
The opening scene of the film is where Delilah (the prostitute) is attacked by Quick Mike (the cowboy) Inside the building of the attack, dark and gloomy shadowing is used to emphasise the true nature of the attack. In the heat of the attack a high angle shot of Quick Mike is shown and shortly after a low angle shot of Delilah is shown. The viewer sees dark flashes and shadows on both peoples faces as the attack unfolds. This combination of film techniques is purposely used by Eastwood to show viewers violence within a civilisation. Eastwood wants the viewer to understand aspects of humanity that are violent, and in reality are extremely uncivilised for a supposed civilisation.
Further on into the film, the viewer witnesses another brutal attack. This time Little Bill (the local sheriff) attacks William Munny for his involvement in collecting the bounty. This occurs in the local saloon where dark lighting on the walls and dark figures of men create a disturbing tone. As Little Bill interrogates Munny before beating him, a close up shot of Munny’s face is shown covered in dark shadows staring coldly at the table. This sends a chill down the viewers spine as he or she understands the immorality of the scene. Eastwood wants the audience to feel uncomfortable in this scene as there are ideas such as civilisation versus savagery and violence in society that Eastwood wants the viewer to consider and relate to the modern society.
The contrasts to the two previously mentioned scenes are extremely important in building ideas and forming questions such as where do we most see violence in society? In both the attack on Delilah and the attack on Munny the scene is set inside the town (Big Whiskey) and inside dark buildings. However in the scene where Munny and Ned Logan (Munny ex criminal friend) are away from the town and away from civilisation the viewer sees beautiful camera shots of the surrounding nature. A long shot shows the vast mountainous terrain, this combined with the bright blue sky and lighting gives a sense of beauty and peacefulness to the audience. This contrast of civilisation and nature is an important concept that Eastwood wants the audience to understand.
The idea of civilisation versus savagery and violence in civilisation is an important concept that Eastwood shows the viewer through the contrast of dark and enclosed shots and bright lighting and spacious shots. Eastwood is trying to say to the viewer, how civilised is human civilisation?
Its questions like these that truly matter and that Eastwood wants the audience to reflect on.
In modern society where do we see violence occur the most? Of course it’s around cities and towns and most importantly civilization. This is somewhat ironic considering you would intuitively think civilisation would be “civilised”. The modern world, however, begs to differ. On the news we see riots, protests, inequality and human destruction especially in cities in America right now where Black Lives Matter protests turn into riots and small wars where people and cops resort to violence and eventually someone gets killed. So why do clusters of human society become more violent the more civilised we get? Eastwood points to the fact that it’s in human nature to be violent and that violence sadly is a part of who we are as a species. Unfortunately for us , humans are natural predators, our eyes at the front of our heads. Therefore aggression and violence are a big part of who we are. So does this make violence morally correct and justifiable?
The use of light and dark lighting as well as close-up shots and longshots in Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’ show the viewer the idea of violence in society. Eastwood wants the audience to consider these ideas and relate them to the modern world and question the society we live in.