This paper looks into two films individually: The Searcher, directed by John Ford (1956), and Once upon a time in the west, directed by Sergio Leone (1968). It describes their mise-en scene and beyond, introduced first by their corresponding synopsis. A comparison is made at the end.
Synopsis. Although filmed on Navajo land in northern Arizona, The Searchers, begins in 1868 Texas. Ethan Edwards (played by John Wayne), a soldier, returns to his brother's farm after the end of the Civil War where he fought for the Confederacy. It has taken Ethan three years to come home, after fighting on the losing side of the Civil War. Ethan is in love with his brother's wife, Martha, but unlike his brother, he is not the man to settle down and raise a family.
In this film, Ethan Edwards is seeking the two nieces who were abducted during a Comanche raid, in which his brother's family is murdered. Finding the mutilated bodies of his family, Ethan is guilt-ridden, feeling he was not there when he was needed. He thus becomes obsessed with recovering his two nieces and seeking revenge on the Comanche. This fanatic search provides the only rationale for Ethan's life, and he is determined to succeed. "We'll fin'em just as sure as the turning of the earth," he says.
Ethan is a bitter and lo...
Ethan becomes more concerned with executing vengeance than with finding her. During the search, when Ethan is asked, "You wanna quit" he angrily replies, "That'll be the day!" and he repeats this phrase many times in the course of the film.
Theme. Based on a screenplay by Frank S. Nugent from the novel by Alan Le May, "The Searchers" deals with the winning of the West, the struggles between the invading White Man and the Native Americans, the Western Code of Honor, and old-fashioned determination vs. selfish, vengeful spite (Puccio, 2006).
Ethan embodies the most important attributes of the Westerner: individualism, self-sufficiency, strength, non-conformity, and loneliness. In this movie, Ethan's solitariness is stressed visually. The film opens with a magnificent inside framing shot of a cabin door, opening up to high desert red sandstone formations and turquoise sky. Ethan appears out of nowhere, from the desert, and, at the end, after his mission is accomplished, Ethan returns to the desert. In the film's last shot, Wayne stands alone, silhouetted in the door's frame, while other people pass around, ignoring his presence. A shot similar at the beginning bookends the film.
In this film, Ford illustrates the outcomes of racism and Indian hating, a seeming eloquent statement in support of the Civil Rights movement (Puccio, 2006). Consider the following conversation -
Brad (to Ethan, as they follow the Comanche): They gotta stop sometime; if they're human men at all, they've gotta stop.
Ethan: A human rides a horse until it dies, and then goes on afoot. Comanch' comes along, gets that horse up, rides him twenty more miles ... then eats him.
Techniques. In the story, drawn away