Stagecoach and Unforgiven are two western films that represent the genre. Stagecoach is a positive film that shows a community of optimistic people and a brighter side to western. Unforgiven, however, shows the pain of a sinner and his atonement. Both films are a success and have created a new era of western films.
Stagecoach features many western elements, such as cowboys, an outlaw and a cynical attitude towards civilisation. The movie is more traditional western because it features gunfights in deserts, and the survival of attacks by Native Indians. Native Americans, too, are portrayed as barbaric, primitive villains who focus more on action than dialogue. Monument Valley is a generic western formula that shows the west’s geography and its vast scenery. This makes the film seem less technical and more simplistic.
Close-up shots are used to emphasize facial expressions, such as pain or sadness. The movie doesn’t have scenes that are deliberately edited in a complicated way. A romance element enhances the plots and gives it a more hybrid feel, with romance and western elements interacting. Stagecoach conveys a frontier spirit by showing how characters grow and learn from each other.
Unforgiven is more emotional than other westerns. Unforgiven does have some western characteristics, like the Wyoming backdrop and cowboys. The movie isn’t a typical Western movie because it doesn’t have these features. The movie is not about chasing or horseback riding or gunshots. No romance or hero. The movie is a western, but it’s more about William’s agony than the Western elements. William has a guilt conscience, unlike the western. In the movie, he is shown suffering from guilt and killing. This self-criticism, too, is not Western.
There are also differences in how guns are used. William doesn’t show off his shooting skills as in classic westerns. William does not kill as much in classic westerns. He doesn’t admire gunfighting. ‘Unforgiven is not a generic western movie. William would not have been able to win the love of his life if he had followed generic western movie formulas.
Unforgiven might be a great example of how a specific western subgenre can reflect a certain social ritual and have a distinct personality. Long shots are used to create an aesthetic of sunsets and riding horses. The long shots at the end and beginning of the movie of Bill’s home are a good example. Cutaway shots when Will enters Big Whiskey, raises his shotgun, and switches between characters and dialogues create a lot of tension. It’s not the typical western editing. The ending music also isn’t western. The guitar and the setting sun in the ending do not represent an epic hero of western culture, but one who is alone.
They also have similarities. Both movies are centered around the beauty of landscapes and nature. Both movies use non-diegetic music and sound to create an atmosphere.
They have a different view on certain issues. Women, for example. Unforgiven is more open about the breasts of women and less old-fashioned. Women are also more powerful in this movie. They speak to cowboys telling them they can’t ride horses.
Stagecoach shows feminism differently than Unforgiven. Stagecoach’s women are not charismatic or powerful. They play the role of man’s partners. Lucy is a woman who is pregnant and loyal to her husband. She is also protected by men. Unforgiven edits like cutaway are more expressive and bold, expressing emotions. Unforgiven, on the other hand, is more representative of social issues including racism and feminism. Stagecoach also has a different mood because there are more scenes at daytime in that movie. It has a brighter atmosphere. Unforgiven, although it contains some scenes that take place during the daytime, has a more tranquil mood and is generally darker.
Hollywood has long been a fan of the western genre. Aside from influencing many genres including action, the glory of gunfights has also influenced many others. Classic westerns were dominated by white males and dealt with many issues such as racism, feminism, and the slaughter of natives. Western may not be as popular today as it once was, but it can still be reworked from the old western to send important messages in movies such as Unforgiven. Western has been a major influence on film grammar despite its bad ideology. More film makers need to dedicate themselves as Clint Eastwood has done.