Compare and contrast the representation of “the man with no name” in “A Fistful of Dollars” and William Munny in “Unforgiven”. Do we have sympathy for with these reworked heroes? Your answer should include reference to film language, especially the use of generic conventions and iconography. The Spaghetti Western film “A Fistful of Dollars” by Sergio Leone and the Western film “The Unforgiven” by Clint Eastwood (who also starred in both films) are about corruption American society, they both portray a hero who only works for money and has no morals.
“The man with no name” is the lone hero in “A Fistful of Dollars” however he shows no emotion when a child is being hurt by older men. He is sharp but not impulsive. Also, he does not do anything unless he is getting something out of it for himself and this something is mainly money. The close up shots in the first gun fight of the film are used to show how unperturbed he is in danger, but the Baxter’s are sweating and even afraid of this man.
“William Munny” in “the Unforgiven” is the same kind of hero but he has become old and no longer possesses his skills which he had when he was young. He can no longer get on a horse without help he cannot shoot very accurately and he does not drink anymore. William Munny has become a father and is no longer the feared assassin he used to be. When he was in his prime he was the most feared man in America and stories of his exploits have travelled around the country. Now he is an old pig farmer. The audience is shocked by the mise en scene shown in his opening scene, a man crawling around in the mud contrasts with the stereotypical American hero who kills all the bad guys for no profit and saves the town.
Although the man with no name is younger and more attuned to his skills, he does share some similarities with William Munny. The first is the fact that neither of then show any emotion or reaction in the films. William Munny does show some emotion when he is confiding his regret of killing innocent people for no reason. Both of the directors in both films use close up shots of the hero’s faces to show reaction and more importantly, emotion. However throughout the film “a fistful of dollars”, the man with no name shows no reaction to any situation. Neither does he ever show emotion apart from when he is pretending to be drunk and is carried up to his room. Throughout the entire film, the man with no name has the same resigned and serious expression on his face indicating that he has no interest in anything apart from surviving in the harsh, barren desert.
William Munny also has the same feature, even though he is an old man now and has a family; he has no expression on his face. Even when his best friend and old partner dies and is put o show, no expression is shown. The next feature they share in common is family, they both value families because they are rare to come across in the west and they do not survive long. Spaghetti western films all show that it is tough for a family to survive in America, the families either get picked on by other men and women. Their children are killed along with the fathers. The women are forced into whore houses. Families are hard to come by and hard to keep alive.
In “A Fistful of Dollars”, “the man with no name” risks his life for a family who he does not even know very well. He gives them money, saves the mother from the Rojo’s and gives them a warning to leave town and start a new life somewhere else. In “Unforgiven”, William Munny was originally a feared cowboy in the west; he then gave up that life to settle down with his wife who put him on the right track away from killing and drinking to a family with children. William Munny gave up being a hired killer to raise a family and care for them. When he goes away again to earn some money, he still does not resort to his old ways and remains faithful to his wife as well as his children.
A further similarity is the music related to them. In “A Fistful of Dollars”, “the man with no name” has a certain piece of music only for him when he is going to kill people or get into danger. The usage of this song indicates to the audience that something important is going to happen. The iconography of the two characters is comparable as well; they both wear the stereotypical features of a cowboy in the west. They both carry a gun; wear a Stetson and a poncho.
The iconographies in Spaghetti Western are important because they indicate to the audience what kind of film it is. In both of these films, the particular props used in them which are typical of western films are given different meanings. The hat is changed around from being a symbol of respect and heroism to symbolising mystery and concealment. The sheriff’s badge is normally used in westerns to represent authority but now this authority is corrupt and ignored as a result.
The most important similarity is the costumes, what a hero wears in a film is important and relative to what he is going to do. The appearance of our hero’s, reflect their personality and character. “The man with no name” is always wearing a poncho to hide his physique and emphasize the mystery of him. The mise-en-scene of a frame gives the audience information about him and the world he has to live in. So as to enhance the mystery of him, he wears clothes to hide himself in shadow and refrain from showing us his true physique.
The poncho he wears hides what his body looks like and also hides his gun from view, if the enemy cannot see a weapon or what he actually looks like then they become intimidated by the stranger. The “man with no name’s” poncho actually makes him look tall, broad and imposing. The audience also gets curious to know what he is like because he is constantly hiding from them. The hat which he is always wearing is tilted to hide his face in shadows and again increases the mystery and secrecy of our lone hero. In “Unforgiven”; William Munny starts off dressed in the filthy dirty coverall of a pig farmer but when he goes out on his excursion he darns the same type of clothes as “the man with no name”, to hide his weapons, physique and features. This increases his air of mystery around him.