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Film Analysis “The Searchers” and “Stagecoach” by John Ford
Without a doubt, John Ford became one of the greatest and most intuitive storytellers in American Film History. Although his most important films are Westerns, he was capable of making pieces that were great in their way. In Stagecoach, we see microcosms of an era long lost, a movie that intends to defy the conventions of the depression era, and the Western films. In the same way, it was produced with great care, as Ford intended it was not a “B” movie, but a film that the serious adult public could enjoy. Also, instead of featuring a single story, stagecoach featured several that intertwined together in the stagecoach trip. On the other hand, in The Searchers we observe a new Ford, whose views toward the world have changed. Although the movie is about the kidnapping of a girl by Indians, there is not racism on it. As if Ford had addressed those issues that abounded in Western films and gave them a different direction, focusing on the action to create an excellent western movie.
In this essay, we shall do a critique concerning the esthetic qualities and similarities of both films. We shall do observations concerning camera; editing; color, and story. To do a thorough and comprehensible analysis, we shall address each issue separately.
Camera. In “Stagecoach” Ford uses high-angle shots to contrast the size of the stagecoach with the immensity of the Valley. Also, there are many close-ups. For instance, the moment where Dallas announces “It is a girl.” The close-up in Luke’s face, and the alternate take that goes from the driver’s face to the long shot of the coach. These movements are meant to create the illusion of movement, and action, as to provide a rhythm to the movie. In “The Searchers we can see the same deal of close-ups, and angle shots but the camera movements are more into giving a geometric impression. The high angles of the shots are used to provide an illusion of greatness, to make the warriors look greater in numbers when compared to the Rangers.
Color. Both movies’ photography is impeccable. Since most of the length of the movies filming was in Monument Valley, Utah, we see many similarities concerning the color palette use in the movies. To Ford, the valet was one of the most beautiful places on Earth and used it often as a setting for his movies. In the same way, the way the shots are lit is important to give the movies the dimension they have. It makes the landscapes look gritty, and the men tough. As if they were not only fighting Indians but the nature itself.
Editing. We have found a similarity in both movies’ editing. The films use an editing technique known as match-of-action. This method is used to provide smooth transitions between two different scene locations. Alternatively, to ensure continuity of the story’s narrative. For instance, passing from a close shot of something to the action; to a shot where the character is exiting a room. Also, both movies make use of long shots with continuous action in the fight and riding scenes. In the same way, we see the director predilection for action shots, opposed to dialogues as if he wanted that the actions, and not the conversations, unfold the story.
Story. As we stated in our brief introduction, both movies are Western films, and they depict situations found in the Westward expansion of the U.S.. For many people travelling in stagecoaches was the only way to move around in the West, since the railroads and trains had not yet came to the “Wild West”. In the same way, movies feature indians and Mexicans. In “Stagecoach” we can see a rather racist depiction of both of them while in “The Searchers” Ford’s approach toward them is a tad more sensitive. However, we find many similarities in the movie’s stories. For instance, the recurrent theme of the man against the nature. In both movies the characters struggle against the unknown, they face many hardships when cruising a land that is not yet theirs but belongs to different people, who try to protect it from whom they consider evil. However, it is important to note that despite the nature is hard to the characters, they are not corrupted by it. Instead, they develop a high sense of morality, a feeling that helps them and strengthen them against the perils they face.
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