Monday, 16 February 2015

Shane (1953)

Shane was released in 1953 and was directed by George Stevens and shows the story of a gunfighter, Shane, as he tries to settle down with a homestead family, the Starrett’s, while a conflict rages between the settlers and ranchers. Ultimately Shane has to intervene in the conflict to protect the Starrett family which then means he must leave the homestead or face prosecution for the crimes he committed to protect the homesteaders.  

The movie Shane contains opposing aspects as shown in Kitses antinomial grid. This grid proposes that Westerns contain different oppositions in their structure. Shane relates to this grid as it portrays the opposition between the individual and the community, which are shown in the community of the homesteaders and the individualism of Shane. 

The film focuses on Shane’s struggle to fit in to a community where compromise and social responsibility are needed compared to the freedom and focus on self-interest he is used to as a loan traveller. As well as this, the film focuses on the conflict between the homesteaders and Ryker which is used to show the ideas of nature vs culture in the western genre. The homesteaders and Ryker and his men both contain aspects of Kitses ideas of nature and culture, for example Ryker shows signs of corruption (categorised as Culture by Kitses) in his wish to force the homesteaders from their land. 
He also shows signs of brutalisation and savagery which Kitses classes as being a part of the nature category. The homesteaders show signs of purity (Nature) in their behaviour, in particular Joe Starrett, as he believes that Ryker can be reasoned with when he is going to meet with him in the saloon, but he then finds out that Ryker will kill him. As well as this Shane shows signs of both knowledge and humanity as well as savagery and experience. 
[2] (Kitses grid)

What I am trying to show by using Kitses grid is that Shane isn't as simple as it would originally seem, it is more than just a simple bad guy versus good guy story. Both ‘sides’ of the conflict express aspects of both the wilderness and civilization which when analysed shows how Shane is much more than it seems at first. It actually has a very dynamic structure with much deeper characters than would be expected.

This film shows a more serious side to the western, with less of a focus on the idea of the cowboy fantasy (although there are still elements of this in, such as in the closing scene). “Death is a serious thing here, and gun play is realistic, not cartoonish or gratuitous. There’s also a sense of the harshness of frontier life.” [1] Its much more than a silly cowboy adventure story, it shows a lot of realities of frontier life, such as the corruption and conflicts in everyday life.

One aspect of the film I personally dislike is the portrayal of Marion and the other women. Although this can hardly be criticised as it was created in the 1950’s when women were seen as having to be only nurturing mothers and wives. I also dislike the slower paced nature of the film, but this is because I prefer more fast paced modern films, and so is just personal preference. Overall I feel this film is much more complex than it is seen as by just a casual viewer and it explores some very interesting aspects of western life.


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