The most successful texts influence us through a skilful combination of techniques.
Without the use of a combination of techniques, a text would not be successful.
Eastwood makes the audience aware of the consequences of violence in his 1992 masterpiece ‘Unforgiven’ by using techniques in skilful ways. Set in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, William Munny is a former outlaw and a notorious murderer who gave up that life due to the influence of his late wife and becoming a hog farmer with his two kids. A young man and a self-proclaimed Schofield Kid seeks out help from Munny to go and collect a bounty for the death of two cowboys who have attacked and cut the face of Delilah Fitzgerald, a prostitute. Munny approaches his former partner Ned Logan, and together they begin on their quest.
This film impacts the audience because it makes us feel uncomfortable as director Clint Eastwood uses a combination of film techniques to point out the apparent consequences of violence in the attack on the Delilah scene.
The director uses techniques such as weather motifs and dialogue to show that there is conflict. Although we didn’t know this yet, the audience realizes as soon as the film begins with pouring rain and thunder sounds. Eastwood uses diegetic sound to build up tension and give the audience an uneasy feeling. During this time, the director makes us feel uncomfortable as Delilah pleads; she screams and cries in pain as one of the cowboys (Quick Mike) begins to slash and cut up her face violently. The audience suddenly hears someone in the background pleading for help, “No, please…please…stop it”. Her pleading causes us to feel stressed as we watch her being helpless and unable to get herself out of this dangerous situation.
Eastwood wants the audience to see this disturbing part of the scene because it shows the real-world consequence of violence and that violence is not glorious. The weather motif and dialogue techniques have helped us realize how effective they have been in creating an emotional response which the director uses to make us feel uncomfortable while watching this scene.
Lighting is an important technique used in films, especially in ‘Unforgiven.’ This technique deliberately creates a moody and suspenseful scene. The dark low key lighting and shadows focus on Delilah and Quick Mike specifically to give a dramatic effect and show the scene’s brutality. As Delilah is lying on the floor, the full shot of the set is mostly in darkness, apart from their body features slightly illuminated. Dark lighting and shadows are essential because they foreshadow evil or show that there is an evil presence.
In the brothel, a housing for the prostitutes, dim low-key lighting or shadows is always used by the director. This place is an unpleasant setting, especially for these women because they are not respected. Everything that happens here is transactional. The women are bought for sex and are used by men for their pleasure. When the brothel owner sees Delilah with her face cut and disfigured, he refers to her as “damaged property.” This use of dialogue shows that these women are only seen as property and not actual human beings that are meant to be respected. When the town sheriff arrives at the scene, he is also in dim lighting. It was a hint to the audience that he was an evil person. For example, he does not deal with the cowboys fairly. All he does is ask them to “bring five ponies…” Eastwood is trying to show the audience that violence often leads to violence when there is no love between characters or society. Eastwood uses dark lighting and shadows to emphasize the darkness behind the violence.
During the attack on Delilah, diegetic and non-diegetic sounds have been used to show the consequence of violence. The sound of a storm used in this scene indicates the darkness and violence in this scene. As Quick Mike is cutting Delilah’s face, we hear loud knife cutting sounds. This technique has been used deliberately to show that violence causes discomfort and makes us feel uneasy. It also allows the audience to hear what is happening around them and experience the character’s situation.
Without the use of non-diegetic sounds, it would not have highlighted the importance of this scene. This scene is similar to the 1960 film called ‘Psycho,’ in the shower scene. Hitchcock, the director of this film, also used the same techniques Eastwood used in the attack on Delilah scene. In the movie Psycho, a lady is stabbed by a killer whose face is unidentified. The similarities between these two films are that they use non-diegetic sounds of the knife cutting flesh and suspenseful music to add a dramatic effect. As the audience, we are unable to watch this scene without feeling discomfort. It is because it is almost as if we are experiencing the character’s pain.
Cross-cutting has been used to add suspense and create an emotional response to the audience. Shots are made back and forth between Delilah and Quick Mike, making the audience feel anxious as we anticipate what would happen next. Delilah shows vulnerability as a high-angle shot is used, while a low-angle shot on Quick Mike reveals that he is powerful. The close-up shots of her face used during the cross-cutting show fear, and looking at her body movements as she tries to look away, causes us to feel empathy. We begin to mirror Delilah’s anxiety when we see Quick Mike’s murderous look as he is captured in this shot. Eastwood then deliberately makes him the center of the scene, towering over Delilah, but it almost seemed like he was towering over us instead. This whole scene is a significant event in the film because it resulted in the prostitutes seeking justice when the situation was not dealt with appropriately by Little Bill. Eastwood is aware of this because, as human beings, fair treatment and equality are essential.
‘Unforgiven’ by Clint Eastwood has used techniques such as weather motif, dialogue, lighting, diegetic and non-diegetic sounds, and cross-cutting to make the audience aware of the consequences of violence. These techniques have shown that violence is not glorious and that it makes us feel uncomfortable and disturbed. For example, the cutting sounds as it cut up Delilah’s face or the camera angles used, which showed each of the characters’ emotions and facial expressions, made the audience feel very uncomfortable.
We can learn from violence in films that it is only used to create emotional responses from the audience. Today, violence in movies is used for entertainment, but Eastwood’s film was not the case. He had shown violence to show its consequences which is important for the audience because people might misunderstand why violence exists in films. What is supposed to be uncomfortable and disturbing to watch will become normal because it diminishes the emotional responses to negative imagery. This film is relevant today because people have become desensitized to seeing violence in films and video games. Because of this, there is now an increasing amount of violence in the world today.