23 – Film studies write-ups (What are Westerns films?)

Let’s start simple. A Western is a film that is set in the desert and mountainous region of America. They are set in the 1800’s most usually and feature ‘Cowboys’ and ‘Indians’ So now that we have a starting point. What can you expect from a typical western? Gun fights, Bars, Predominantly male heroes, Horse riding, etc. Given the time period you can also racism, both in the script of the 1800’s and also behind the camera 1950’s and 1960’s. Not in dialog but in the script and how often each actor/actress is involved on screen. The Indians are usually deemed as evil which links in with racism seeing as they have a dark tone. Unequal gender roles. Women are mostly very house based doing work such as washing and cooking, or a ‘damsel in distress’ kind of character and all of the cowboys would be male and non would be female, meaning their are no female ‘heroes’. Some westerns may have a very childlike view to them. ‘Good people’ against ‘bad people’ and in particular the ‘good guy’ against the ‘bad guy’. The older westerns may present more of a good for good image on the main character, but as the years roll by, more anti heroic heroes will come into play. Westerns feature cowboys vs Indians but the type of person that the main character is, is completely down to the creators. Seeing as the western films are more male based, this means that violence will often feature. This will be in many different forms. Their may be violence in the main character’s persona, their may be gun battle violence or their may be straight up violence which is more aggressive and bloody. Because it is set in the desert their will be lots of wide shots, showing off the exotic locations. But also often using shots from inside buildings such as isolated buildings or huts or caves to display the outside. Older westerns will use very typical sound effects for things such as gun-shots. Their will be other sound effects such as horses, boots, bar fights, screams, etc. In the Sergio Leone westerns, extreme close ups are a common theme. By using close-ups, you can illustrate the emotions of a character and what is going on inside their head because with gun fighting, saving woman, and more, a lot of emotion is usually going on inside the main character’s and other character’s heads. But the close-ups are also used during face-offs. It is about who can draw their weapon and kill the other first. The ideology of westerns will be similar in both a child’s eyes and an adult’s eyes. The good vs bad will still be apparent, as well as all the fighting. As well as westerns featuring cowboys vs Indians, they can also feature cowboys vs cowboys. This works well with the local towns, bar fights, etc. The film is on a more personal level and you can understand the hatred because having two cowboys means that one of them will be a bad guy, such as the phrase ‘This town aint big enough fro the both of us’.

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