Sergio Leone Web Board
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
July 24, 2024, 07:49:39 PM
:


+  Sergio Leone Web Board
|-+  Films of Sergio Leone
| |-+  Once Upon A Time In The West (Moderators: cigar joe, moviesceleton, Dust Devil)
| | |-+  Character Motivations in OUATITW
0 and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
: [1] 2 3
: Character Motivations in OUATITW  ( 20596 )
jitterbug
Road Apple
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 1


« : April 08, 2005, 09:01:43 AM »

I'm a massive fan of OUATITW, a masterpiece which I discovered last year for the first time.

One of the things I love about the film is that Leone does not feel the need to 'explain' its narrative complexities in the heavy-handed way common to Hollywood films. He takes the more European approach, and makes the viewer work a little bit to piece the story together. For me, this approach ultimately makes for a much richer cinematic experience. Tying everything up with neat little bows after the credits roll might leave the audience with a satisfied glow, but it doesn't credit them with much intelligence.

After watching the film for the first time, I was awed by its style and its artistry, but I lacked an understanding of exactly why the characters acted as they did in every scene. Having rewatched the film several times, listened to the dvd commentary and read some critical responses to the film, I now feel I have a much better appreciation for character motivations in the film, but I still have some questions.

Perhaps some of you have some theories that might help me understand various puzzling aspects of the film:

1. Why does Frank not keep his original "appointment" with Harmonica at the train-station, and instead send a welcoming committee to murder him? At this point, he doesn't even know who Harmonica is, so what's his motivation in wanting him dead? I know he's a murderous pyschopath, but surely he must have some justification for this extreme action? Even if he were suspicious of Harmonica's request to meet, surely he'd want his men to bring Harmonica to him first before the execution?

2. Why does Cheyenne risk his hide in rescuing Harmonica from Morton's train? At this point in their relationship, they don't seem to know very much about each other at all. Does he have some other motivation in this scene which I'm just missing?

3. Why does Jill put Sweetwater up for auction at all? She seemed intent on staying there prior to her 'love' scene with Frank. Now assuming he threatened her into releasing the property, why didn't she just do a private sale with him or Morton?

4. Why does Harmonica buy Sweetwater for $5000 anyway? He is part of the 'Old West' and obviously has no interest in being a 'businessman' or living in a burgeoning town. Why should he think that buying it will convince Jill to stay (if that is indeed what he thinks)?

5. Why does Cheyenne submit to being captured by Harmonica for the $5000 bounty? Presumably this is a ruse worked out between the two men to raise the money for the property. But why? It would seem insanely risky for Cheyenne to go along with this plan with only the vague hope that he may find a way to escape from prison. (Or should we believe that Cheyenne is captured unwillingly? In which case, why are Cheyenne and Harmonica on good terms at the film's close?)

6. Does Harmonica ever give Jill her land back?


Oh well, I'm happy even if these questions can't be answered. I think Leone is interested less in straightforward 'realism' than in presenting a highly-stylised West in which the characters act in accordance with their own iconic moral codes.  The film is extremely self-aware, and in many cases, the action is governed not so much by 'real world' logic but by Leone's mythopoeic  reinterpretation of standard Western cinematic tropes, characterised chiefly by sly subversive intertextual references to earlier film classics.  The pleasures to be found in this approach far outweigh any doubts I may have concerning narrative consistency.





 






Leone Admirer
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2476


Filmmaker with a fiery passion for films


« #1 : April 08, 2005, 09:55:23 AM »

"Oh well, I'm happy even if these questions can't be answered. I think Leone is interested less in straightforward 'realism' than in presenting a highly-stylised West in which the characters act in accordance with their own iconic moral codes.  The film is extremely self-aware, and in many cases, the action is governed not so much by 'real world' logic but by Leone's mythopoeic  reinterpretation of standard Western cinematic tropes, characterised chiefly by sly subversive intertextual references to earlier film classics.  The pleasures to be found in this approach far outweigh any doubts I may have concerning narrative consistency."


I think you may have answered you're own questions with this aproach but heres my own two cents on the questions you have given for my favourite Leone film (Sappy though this is I watched this 3 nights ago and I broke down when Jill rode in the buggy with the theme playing. Pure beauty, Pure genius, this is why Cinema is the best art form. )

1. Frank can't be bothered to keep his appointment. I presume that he would have made many enemies in his time and he may have felt Harmonica could have been a bounty hunter or someone who may have been threatning his life.

2. I always took it as a sort of grudging respect of Harmonica. Perhaps recognising in him an aspect of himself as younger or intrigued by his engimatic qualities.

3. Frank wasn't a great buisnessman as we are reminded by Morton so this may not have come to his mind when threatning or giving Jill instructions.

4. I feel to get back at Frank. To humiliate him.

5. Partly answered in my answer to Q. 2.

6. Who knows ? ;)

Hope this helps  :)


Films: You cant just love them, you've gotta adore them!
dave jenkins
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 16810


The joy of loving is to live in a world of Mandom


« #2 : April 08, 2005, 04:16:48 PM »

And here are *my* ideas:

1. Frank always plays it safe, that's how he has survived so long. He shoots first and asks questions later, and when he can get other people to do his shooting for him, that's an even safer play.

2. Cheyenne wants to track down the people who framed him and his gang. When the trail leads to Morton and Frank, he finds that Harmonica has interests there that may parallel his own. This makes him useful to Cheyenne, according to the old adage: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

3. There may be value in making a public show of things, to keep people from looking too closely into the matter later.

4. Harmonica has one interest: provoking the careful Frank into a showdown. The $5000 land deal should get his goat, and it does.

5. He thought it would be easy to break jail in Flagstone. He didn't reckon on being sent to Yuma.

6. Harmonica really never bought the land. It was a ruse to provoke Frank (title never changed hands).



"McFilms are commodities and, as such, must be QA'd according to industry standards."
rex
Road Apple
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 5


« #3 : October 20, 2005, 09:07:40 AM »

One other fan's answers to your questions (I like most of the other answers -- I just want to get in on the fun!)

1. Frank just wants to take care of the annoyance of Harmonica's appointment -- like swatting a fly. He sends three trusted men to eliminate a small obstacle. His mistake...

2. Cheyenne doesn't know Harmonica very well, but they've had their confrontation at the cantina, where Harmonica mystified Cheyenne and didn't back down to him, but also didn't directly challenge him. Then, Cheyenne met Jill at Sweetwater and started to fall in love with her and subsequently watched as Harmonica saved her life. He follows them into town to see what is going on. He starts to realize that this Harmonica fellow is embroiled in whatever is going on (as is Cheyenne -- due to being framed for the McBain murders). He figures he better help Harmonica out.

3. Frank rapes her, essentially telling her that he will kill her if she doesn't give up the property. Yeah, she makes the sex good for him (she is good at her previous job), but she is fighting for her life in that scene. Frank can kill her and get the land, or he can do what he's doing and scare the land out of her. She is so good in the sack, basically, that she charms him into paying her $500 for the land (remember that Morton has chided him for not being a good businessman). But in order to make the payment really good and legal, she puts the land up for auction (at Frank's behest) so even the sheriff witnesses the transfer. And Frank's men run the auction, controlling the bidding. No one else can bid. The land will certainly sell to one of Frank's men for $500. Nice plan, except...

4. Harmonica looks in the window and sees what is going on and he and Cheyenne come up with a quick way to get $5000 dollars. They turn Cheyenne in. It's not so much to convince Jill to stay as it is to right the wrong of her land being stolen from her and to stick it to Frank.

5. It is risky. But Harmonica wants to bedevil Frank, and Cheyenne is in love with Jill, and they both want to get Frank off her back. And Cheyenne has escaped from custody before, and he does expect to be thrown into the local jail. So they take the shot that they have available to them.

6. And Harmonica does give the land back to Jill. I can't remember her line exactly, but in the saloon, after the auction, when Jill and Harmonica have a conversation where she mentions a tub of hot water, she starts the conversation with some line about the auction and Harmonica replies, almost surprised, "Oh that? I don't invest in land." She gets the land and the $5000. Neither Harmonica nor Cheyenne care about that at all.

I like your last paragraph and I think that is a real fine way to approach all of Leone's westerns, but actually, this section of OUATITW doesn't do too badly logic-wise. Logic isn't necessarily the top concern in Mr. L's films, but he doesn't always ignore it, either. This story often works very well.

Lurking my way through many boards concerning OUATITW I come across one thing that I think a lot of people miss that I think is extremely important to the logic of the movie -- in my opinion, Cheyenne falls deeply in love with Jill and that is his motivation through the film. Lots of people don't seem to see that, and it seems to raise some confusion as to why he does certain things. Next time you watch the film, keep your eye on Robard's performance and how he reacts to Cardinale (with the exception of the first cantina, where he barely notices her). Once that lady makes him coffee, he is smitten, and everything else he does in the movie is for her -- and that has a lot to do with how the plot functions. My two cents.

The Peacemaker
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 5107


OH SH*T!


« #4 : October 20, 2005, 03:18:22 PM »

I noticed that too Rex. Nobody else really notices that Cheyenne falls in love with Jill. That's the REAL reason he hates Morton. Notice after he rescues Harmonica from the train and only Cheyenne, Harmonica, and Morton are left, he looks very pissed off at Morton. He knows Morton is the boss and is paying off Frank to kill the woman he loves and because Harmonica already called dibs on Frank, Cheyenne will take his anger out on Frank's boss.


dave jenkins
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 16810


The joy of loving is to live in a world of Mandom


« #5 : October 20, 2005, 08:15:06 PM »

Cheyenne's love for Jill isn't required for him to hate Morton. It was Morton's men who tried to put the blame on him for the McBain killings. Beside the fact that it puts him in dutch with the law, Cheyenne is incensed that he could be taken for a child killer (which to him is as bad as being a priest killer). Morton has dumped big-time on Cheyenne's rep. That's why he later makes sure Morton takes a long time to die.....



"McFilms are commodities and, as such, must be QA'd according to industry standards."
redwoods
Road Apple
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 4


« #6 : October 20, 2005, 09:25:27 PM »

That's a good point about Cheyenne deeply in love with Jill. I previously thought that he has some interest in her, but didn't think it's very serious...now that I think about it, it makes sense.

Now that'd make Cheyenne the fullest male character in this film.

BTW, I'm a bit amused by Cheyenne's logic of "...make belif it's nothing--they have earned it." But I disagree with his logic.

HEX
Guest


« #7 : October 21, 2005, 12:01:08 PM »

why do u disagree?

Sackett
Gunslinger
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 253


One revolution is more than enough for me.


« #8 : October 21, 2005, 07:58:40 PM »

"You know Jill, you remind me of my mother.  She was the biggest whore in Alameda........etc."
You guys have all put forth wonderful reasonings.  Glad to see others who appreciate this film so much and have thought it through so well.
For my own perceptions, I always felt that Cheyenne was pissed at Frank implicating him  in the McBain masscre and not understanding the bigger picture as Harmonica is able to grasp so quickly.  He seems to grow more in understanding while Harmonica has known what Frank was like for a lifetime.

Dlanor
Gunslinger
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 217


I'm a llama!


« #9 : October 22, 2005, 11:33:36 AM »

I think you're right Sackett.
Concerning Cheyenne interest toward Jill, I would not go so far to say he loves her. I think his interest for Jill is mainly sexual, as every man.
But to say, he is in love with her, there is a huge step.

Groggy
Bounty Killer
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 11454


This post gets Agnew's stamp of approval!


« #10 : October 22, 2005, 02:10:55 PM »

I noticed that too Rex. Nobody else really notices that Cheyenne falls in love with Jill. That's the REAL reason he hates Morton. Notice after he rescues Harmonica from the train and only Cheyenne, Harmonica, and Morton are left, he looks very pissed off at Morton. He knows Morton is the boss and is paying off Frank to kill the woman he loves and because Harmonica already called dibs on Frank, Cheyenne will take his anger out on Frank's boss.

Who could blame him?  :P



Saturday nights with Groggy
redwoods
Road Apple
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 4


« #11 : October 22, 2005, 07:45:02 PM »

Interesting comments from everyone.

While I think Cheyenne falling in love with Jill can be a great story, I also wonder about if it is at all possible for people like Cheyenne (and Harmonica, as well as Frank, for that matter) to fall deeply in love with anyone... They all "have something to do with death," revenge, killing... So do these men have the capacity to love?

********************************

Hex, I disagree with Cheyenne's logic because I look at the issue from a woman's perspective. I mean, I wouldn't want those men (or any man, unless he and I had a romantic relationship) to do that to me just because they had done some hard work. Would you?


HEX
Guest


« #12 : October 22, 2005, 11:58:38 PM »

i see youre point


very well


no i would suppose not

Dlanor
Gunslinger
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 217


I'm a llama!


« #13 : October 23, 2005, 12:52:06 AM »

Cheyenne has an oedipian complex with Jill who remembers him his mother and he hates Frank because Frank his the "father". What do you think about that?

HEX
Guest


« #14 : October 23, 2005, 11:01:46 AM »

is that the complex where the son wishes to bed with the mother and murder his father?

: [1] 2 3  
« previous next »
:  



Visit FISTFUL-OF-LEONE.COM

SMF 2.0.15 | SMF © 2017, Simple Machines
0.066144