“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars” - Martin Luther King Jr.
“Unforgiven” was a revolutionary film for its time. Directed, produced by and starring Clint Eastwood as the main character, William Munny, the film is an ode to the talent of Clint Eastwood. This film portrays the violence, brutality and savagery which occurred in the late 1880s in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, USA. The consequences which occur due to violence is the main idea behind the film. Eastwood focuses on using powerful film techniques such as lighting and dialogue to enhance the violence behind this film. Through Eastwood’s development of these techniques, he pulls the viewer into the film, making them feel the pain each character endures during the film and leaving the viewer wanting more.
Eastwood stars as the main character, William Munny, a reformed outlaw that falls back into his old ways after the death of his wife and the addition of his significant money problems as he tries to raise two children alone. Eastwood showcases the film’s brutality in an unforeseen and violent way, yet you can not help but get wrapped up in the storyline.
Clint Eastwood’s film “Unforgiven”, set in 1880’s America, exhibits humans’ violent nature and consequences of violence. Specifically, the film follows the journey of William Munny, a retired outlaw who was known for his brutal killings back in his prime. William Munny met his future wife Claudia, who rehabilitated Munny, and they settled down and had a family. Yet after Claudia’s death, Munny’s farm begins to fail, and he turns to his old life as an outlaw to make money for his two children. Munny is enlisted by the “Schofield Kid”, a young and naive boy, to help catch the people who disfigured Delilah Fitzgerald, a prostitute from Big Whiskey, Wyoming. When Munny and the Schofield Kid arrive in Big Whiskey, they are met by another group of outlaws which they clash in an attempt to gain the reward for Delilah’s disfiguration. Eastwood’s film “Unforgiven” has received many awards since its release in 1992 and has been highly praised for its significance in the history of Western America.
PARAGRAPH ONE (Delilah’s attack - sounds effects & lighting)
In the film “Unforgiven’’, Eastwood captivates the viewer’s attention by immediately introducing them to the violence of the film. In one of the film’s first scenes, we witness the brutal attack on Delilah, a prostitute who was working, when Quick Mike, a cowboy, starts to attack her with his knife. Quick Mike disfigures Delilah’s face with his knife then the owner of the brothel, Skinny, arrives and breaks it up. The attack on Delilah takes place in a small room in the brothel with dim, dark lighting. A storm is happening outside the room, covering a slight majority of Delilah’s screams; however, the audience still hears many. This use of lighting and sound effects adds to the brutality and barbarity shown by Quick Mike as he cuts Delilah in the film. These film techniques used by Eastwood are done deliberately to engage the viewer and portray the film’s message. Eastwood has purposely set this vicious attack in a small room with poor lighting to add to the mystery and make the attack seem more brutal. The lighting in the room is known as backlighting. Eastwood uses this film technique to illuminate the characters from behind and make the scene more violent. The darkness shows the fear Delilah is enduring, and Eastwood uses it to make the viewer feel emotional. The absence of light in this scene creates an aura of violence and pain. Delilah’s blood-curdling screams also command the viewer’s attention in this scene as her face is repeatedly sliced open. The storm happening outside the brothel signifies the trauma and distress that Delilah is experiencing and is shown through the storm. Eastwood has used this storm as a diegetic sound effect to enhance the scene and engage the viewer as the use of this film technique heightens the scenes intensity. This intrigues the viewer into a thought process about violence in today’s world. Living in the 21st century, violence is still a significant part of society today, which it shouldn’t be. Nobody deserves to be put in excruciating pain due to another’s anger or frustration. Eastwood has deliberately filmed this scene in a specific way to make the viewer feel pain for Delilah and to address their own lives if there is violence occurring in them.
PARAGRAPH TWO (Davey boy’s death - close up & dialogue)
Dying a slow, painful death is something many people don’t spend much time thinking of; however, this was not the case for Davey Boy, Quick Mike’s friend, who William Munny shot in the gut. Initially, Munny’s aged outlaw friend, Ned Logan, attempted to shoot Davey Boy but couldn’t bring himself to end Davey’s life. Finally, Munny took the gun from Ned and landed a shot in Davey Boy’s gut just as Davey Boy crawled behind a mound of dirt after three attempts. Davey calls out, “I’ve been shot, boss”, and “Slim, Slim, get me some water please, please” then Munny yells, “get him a drink of water, goddammit”. Before Davey reaches the mound of dirt he hides behind; we see him in a close-up camera angle of his facial expression as he attempts to crawl to safety and then a close up of his legs stopping moving when Munny shoots him. Eastwood’s use of these film techniques shows the viewer the pain Davey Boy is in as he tries to crawl to safety and call for help. They show the pain represented through Davey Boy. Eastwood has used the close-up of Davey Boy’s face as he attempts to crawl to safety to show the viewer with their own eyes the pain Davey Boy is enduring through his facial expressions. The close-up of Davey Boy’s legs when he is shot stop moving also signifies to the viewer that Davey has been shot and the end of his life is near. Only showing Davey Boy’s legs instead of his gut where he was shot is a cunning technique used by Eastwood in the film. The use of dialogue by Eastwood in the film is also very significant. When Davey Boy begins to call out that he has been shot to his friends, his voice is still significantly strong, but when Davey Boy says, “Slim, Slim, get me some water please, please”, Davey Boy’s voice begins to waver as he bleeds out. This dialogue shows the audience the pain that Davey boy is in and has been significantly injured. The pain which we see on Davey Boy’s face and can now hear in his voice reveals to the viewer the suffering Davey Boy is experiencing. This suffering we viewers watch makes us feel for the character of Davey Boy despite everything he’s been involved in throughout the film. This scene leaves the audience hanging in a way, therefore, leaving us wanting more. Eastwood uses this technique in many of the scenes during the film “Unforgiven”. This scene also triggers questions in the audience regarding violence, such as is using violence to fight violence the right thing to do?
PARAGRAPH THREE (William Munny & Schofield kid talk - dialogue & lighting technique)
A memorable scene in the film “Unforgiven” was the talk held on the hill outside the township of Big Whiskey between William Munny and the Schofield Kid. After the Schofield Kid kills Quick Mike, an outlaw cowboy, and Munny and he escapes the fire of the other outlaw cowboys at the Oast House, they are both seen talking on the outskirts of Big Whiskey. The Scholfield Kid begins to drink as he is pretty shaken up and admits to Munny that that was the first person he had ever killed. The Schofield Kid continues and states, “It don’t seem real, how he ain’t gonna never breathe again, ever, how he’s dead, the other one too, all on account of pulling a trigger”. Whilst saying this, the sunlight half lights up the Schofield Kid’s face. In reply to the Schofield Kid, Munny says, with his back turned away from the sun, “it’s a hell of a thing killing a man, you take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have”. Eastwood has used this scene to captivate the audience and further his point about violence through the film techniques of dialogue and lighting. Lighting has been repeatedly used in the film “Unforgiven” by Clint Eastwood for a purpose. The purpose behind the use of lighting is that Eastwood tries to present the difference between good and bad to the audience. As the Schofield Kid speaks, his face is half-lit by the sunlight meaning that he is aware of the immoral thing to take another’s life. His face is lit up and shows that now he has seen the light figuratively and would rather live in the light and be a good person than in the cold, murderous darkness William Munny lives in. During Munny’s reply to the Schofield Kid, his back is turned to the sun casting him in dark surroundings. This signifies how Munny is surrounded by darkness and death in his life and that he is a lousy human being. The Schofield Kid’s words to Munny in a voice filled with disbelief that he had just taken someone else’s life to resound with the audience. Then when Munny turns to the Schofield Kid and bluntly says, “it’s a hell of a thing killing a man, you take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have”, reverberates through the audience. This dialogue shows the brutality and cold-heartedness which lies within Munny. Eastwood has created this character to portray this to the audience and make them engaged in the film. The pain and straightforward way Eastwood used to quieten the Schofield Kid describes the type of man he is and his outlook on life. The audience is captivated and fully engaged with what has just happened in the film and begins to understand American history’s harsh brutality and the lives people lived back then. People can often get wrapped up in the goodness they hold in their lives and forget about the past and where they have come from. Eastwood reminds us that it is never okay to hurt, let alone kill another human being which is of the greatest immoral sin. This scene Eastwood had also crafted to make the audience understand that there is still light at the end of the tunnel that Eastwood portrayed in the Schofield Kid, who believed he was a stone-cold killer when he was far from reality.
PARAGRAPH FOUR (Munny killing Little Bill - sound effects & close-up)
Possibly the most captivating scene in the film was Munny’s execution of Little Bill, Big Whiskey’s head police officer. When Little Bill’s deputies caught Ned, Munny’s friend, Little Bill was the one who tortured him until Ned’s sudden death. This ignited rage in Munny. Ned was one of his closest, if not his only, friend. They had been through thick and thin together, so when Munny was told Little Bill had caught and killed Ned, Munny went searching. He found Little Bill at Greely’s, and after a shoot out, it was just Little Bill with a gunshot wound to his stomach and Munny left in the saloon. As Little Bill lay on the floor of the saloon bleeding out, Munny stood over top of him. Simultaneously, this scene shows a close-up shot of Munny raising the Spencer gun to his eye and aiming at Little Bill. As Munny aims at Little Bill, half his face is covered in darkness and a thunderstorm rumbles outside the saloon. Then as Munny pulls the trigger, you hear the reverberating sound of a gunshot echo through the screen. Eastwood uses these film techniques to display brutality and violence once again. Sound effects and a close-up add to Eastwood’s character, William Munny and the violent life that he lives. The close-up of Munny’s face shows no emotion, Munny is a cold-blooded killer, and the killing of Little Bill is no different from that of the multitudes of other people he has killed in his past. The thunderstorm outside the saloon as Munny shoots Little Bill signifies the violence and darkness surrounding Munny alongside only half of Munny’s face being visible. Eastwood has used the thunderstorm as a diegetic sound effect. This film technique links the storm to the violence of the film and this scene specifically. The darkness is a part of Munny, which is displayed throughout the film in a variety of Eastwood’s film techniques. Eastwood’s depiction of the violence and brutality in the film compared to the real world brings us to address violence for ourselves. Are we willing to stand up for what is right and give in to the easy thing to do in life? As humans and as Kiwis, we need to have a strict understanding of what is right and wrong in our country because when lines get blurred it can be very hard for some people and things to come back to us and heal.
In conclusion, the film “Unforgiven”, directed by Clint Eastwood, was a brutal film that depicts violence which is the fundamental idea behind the film in a specific way through his use of film techniques. Many people enjoy watching violent films because they can understand either side of the argument, and it gives them real-world links rather than some made-up fairytale. Over Eastwood’s career, he has grown to understand his audience that watch his films and what gets him views, but it is more than that. Eastwood is trying to get his point across that violence is evil. Even though in the film we are brought to cheer for Munny in certain scenes, what Munny accomplishes over the film is still wrong and immoral and Eastwood plays with the audience’s emotions in this way. Finally, I agree with the statement that the idea behind the text is the one that matters. Eastwood shows us that the one thing which hasn’t changed over the 140 years since “Unforgiven” was set is violence. Violence has played a crucial part in our history as a planet. It has shaped each different country, government and person differently because of its effects on us separately. Clint Eastwood’s film is a reminder of the balance in humanity today and is a prompt nudge for us never to never forget the fragility of our existence.