While Frank clearly embodies the role of the black-hatted gunman from the opening, Morton also represents a new form of evil, one much more insidious, to soon haunt the American plains with a different form of dominance. In this matter, Morton reminds Frank:. You see, Frank, there are many kind of weapons. And the only one that can stop that [the gun] is this. This simple truth from a crippled man appears to haunt this former figure of evil as to his remaining place and identity in the changing American frontier—seeming to become a point of preoccupation for him in trying to understand how to sway power in his favor when a fast finger on the trigger was formerly applied as the most obvious answer.
At this point in the film, the two gunmen have engaged in a coy dance with one another. Frank: Morton once told me I could never be like him. Now I understand why. Nothing matters now—not the land, not the money, not the woman…I came here to see you. As Harmonica has pointed out, though on opposite sides of the gun, he and Frank both belong to a different race than the type that men like Morton that will soon invade and dominate the frontier. This is a West owned by the men of money and means of power that exist outside the violence of a gun.
Rather, this shootout signifies the end of these archetypes. Whereas Once Upon A Time in the West synthesized and amalgamated all those conventions of the genre and unified them under one umbrella of an epic Spaghetti Western film to elicit those themes discussed above, The Great Silence turns toward the opposite direction. Corbucci takes every conceivable staple of the genre and opts for its total antipodal opposite to arrive at a similar destination of consideration upon the end of the West.
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These severe conditions have prompted the poor to rob: labeling them criminals in the process, and placing a bounty on their head as a result. Consequentially, the town has transformed into a haven for bounty hunters—mostly psychotic men who have coopted the job description as an outlet for their violent tendencies. However, hope arrives in the form of a mute gunslinger who has made it his mission to hunt down such bounty hunters—the eponymous Silence Jean-Louis Trintignant. Moreover, the harsh conditions of this burgeoning civilization help stress this idea of man attempting to impose his sense of righteousness against the barbaric and untamable instincts of human nature.
And while Leone looks to the traditions of the genre to highlight these ideas, Corbucci instead chooses to buck these traditions and favors the more unconventional approach. While the immediate instinct of almost every Western is to imagine a hot, arid desert across a dirty terrain populated by cacti across sere topography, Corbucci instead envisions an unbearably cold and desolate winter blizzard to saturate the atmosphere of his Western setting.
Next, Corbucci subverts the archetype of the quiet gunslinger as found through the main character of Silence. In stark and ironic contrast, however, Corbucci pits this mute gunslinger against the loquacious lunatic named Loco played by Klaus Kinski.
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Within the severe conditions that have forced the poor to rob for food, and thereby placing a bounty on their head for the crime, Loco has adopted the bounty hunter profession as both a livelihood and ostensibly as a creative outlet for his psychotic tendencies. However, after hunting down the husband of a woman named Pauline, the widow calls upon the help of the legendary Silence—famous along the frontier for his penchant of avenging against bounty hunters.
In order to justifiable kill these bounty hunters, Silence will taunt the men into drawing their guns then shoot them before witnesses—allowing him to legally claim self-defense in killing them. While most Westerns use these ideas of bounty hunters and the burgeoning laws of civilization as an excuse for black-and-white tales of morality, a protagonist clearly on the side of the law fighting against those on its opposite, The Great Silence instead uses the juxtaposition of these two characters to highlight the very murky line that separates these two agencies of good and evil.
For in actuality, there is not much difference between these two men who both make a profession out of killing people. Both exploit the terminology of the law in order to fulfill those impulses of their personal ego. Another figure hoping to resolve these complicated moral and legal quandaries arrives in Sheriff Gideon Burnett Frank Wolff. Nonetheless, after Loco becomes temporarily arrested, the two exchange an interesting dialogue in questioning the philosophy of the law:.
The death of a bandit must serve as an example to other people who will not go on killing—. While transporting Loco to the larger jail, he promises the bandits that food will be made available to them in order to maintain a peace between both sides until the Governor declares Amnesty—a pact to which the bandits agree. During his trek across the snowy landscapes, however, Loco manages to outwit the Sheriff and leave him murdered—allowing for his return back to Snow Hill.
With the bandits believing that they are free from harm, Loco arrives with his fellow bounty hunters and holds them hostage at gunpoint within the local saloon to draw out Silence for a final showdown. This plan is proven to be a success: as Silence does indeed come out of hiding to confront Loco. What follow, however, turns out to be one of the most bleak and morbid endings in the history of the genre.
Upon arriving, Silence is unceremoniously shot down to die in the snow. When Paulina now his lover leaps to his side to comfort him in death, she is instantly killed, as well. Moments later, Loco and his gang then proceed to massacre the dozens of bandits in order to collect the bounties placed upon these poverty-stricken men, women, and children. As Loco leaves the saloon—alive and well and about to becoming much, much richer—the following text crawl materializes over the screen:.
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While many Westerns certainly end on a note of deeply thematic, emotional catharsis or thought-provoking revelations concerning the era of the West, The Great Silence maintains the crown for the outright bleakest and most straightforward about its feelings toward these values. Over time, the legacy of both The Great Silence and Corbucci has slowly grown to be recognized as the much more bizarre, brutal, and mean version of the Western when compared against his contemporary Sergio Leone.
Moreover, the intriguing and compelling morality tale at the dark heart of The Great Silence offers insightful commentary into the contentious seeds of American morality that laid the foundation for the burgeoning twentieth century of civilization in the West—and one that marked the end of more simple morality tales of good versus evil. Instead, as similarly explored in Once Upon A Time in the West , the two Sergios use the conventions of the Spaghetti Westerns and their archetypes to navigate the more treacherous roads that lay ahead for America in the imminent death of the Western.
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Though achieving a similar goal through the complication of traditional moral norms—specifically in regards to the law—by embedding much more ambiguous character archetypes, and by utilizing the setting of a snowstorm to underscore the scope of these men attempting to conquer civilization in the face of unconquerable forces, Corbucci paints a much more unusual yet similarly thought-provoking thesis in consideration of the decline of these men and this era.
In both cases, these two masters of the Spaghetti Western genre imbued their own specific sensibilities into the best films of a genre unto which—not unlike the lone gunman protagonists of their narratives—arrived as outsiders but left as men who produced an immeasurable impression not only upon the genre at hand but filmmaking at large…who contributed immersive, groundbreaking films toward a subgenre largely cultivated into their own…and who questioned the essence of that very genre toward which they had ultimately constructed their careers.
A statement that speaks to issues of masculinity, human nature, genre conventions, and the future of America at large as seen through the genre of the Western. There is no single character motivation as clear or compelling as revenge. A character is wronged and seeks vengeance for what he perceives to be an injustice—an emotion that any audience member can recognize and understand. In his trilogy of films exploring the concept through three different, yet kindred premises with revenge at their core, director Chan-Wook Park weaves a compelling triptych that examines these themes of revenge, violence, and redemption—along with their consequences—in a profound, thought-provoking manner.
Starting with Sympathy for Mr. Each of their journeys also includes creative and shocking set pieces fueled by their specific versions of vengeance, as each character successfully accomplishes their pursuit. And, ultimately, Park uses this compelling vehicle of the revenge to demonstrate how such a strong motivator can often be the most futile and unsatisfactory path to moral fulfillment. The first film in the trilogy demonstrates this dichotomy of revenge through the two characters on either side of its agency—and the most blatant example of its futility for both parties.
Sympathy for Mr. Besides these disabilities, he is also laid off from his grueling factory job when he is most in need of money. But despite these obvious reasons for revenge which would suffice most storytellers , Park painstakingly displays the various ways that both Ryu and his anarchist girlfriend—Yeong-Mi—hope to avoid the conventional label of kidnappers and the negative connotations that accompany their actions: they entertain the victim, try to avoid any violence, hope to only ask for the money which they justify as the victim not even needing due to his extravagant wealth , manipulate the truth of the situation to appear worse than they are actually treating her, and attempt to rationalize every line of logic that would make their reasons for revenge justifiable.
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Her father, Dong-jin, now becomes fueled for his own quest for revenge against Ryu and those responsible for the death of his daughter—shifting the narrative at almost exactly the midway point to trek this new track of revenge. While Ryu and his anarchist girlfriend attempted to justify their reasons for revenge, the death of his daughter leaves Don-jin in a state of near-suicidal plan of action. The father sees no other outlet for satisfying his bloodlust other than the murder of those who murdered his daughter.
Ultimately, Dong-jin proves the victor after rigging his home with an electrical trap that knocks Ryu unconscious.
The group savagely stabs and kills Dong-jin—leaving him as dead as the disembodied corpse of Ryu not but a few feet ahead of him. Perhaps the most intriguing premise of the three, Oldboy follows the quest for vengeance led by Oh Dae-su—a man imprisoned for fifteen years and suddenly released with the single motive of revenge on his mind. These include a scene of Oh Dae-su consuming a live octopus upon his release, and an extraordinary, single-take hallway fight scene that pits the protagonist with a hammer against a narrow corridor filled with fighters ready to stop him.
As Oh Dae-su seizes upon the few clues made available to him during his imprisonment to find those responsible, he also falls in love with the young woman Mi-do, who reciprocates his feelings of love and attraction. However, Oh Dae-su also begins to unravel the mystery of his imprisonment that imbues another layer of moral ambiguity. Oh Dae-su discovers that a man named Woo-jin is responsible for his fifteen-year-imprisonment.
In the climactic confrontation between the two men, Woo-jin finally exposes the truth of his elaborate plan against Oh Dae-su. For exposing his own incestuous affair, Woo-jin has dedicated his own plan of revenge toward replicating the experience upon Oh Dae-su—to catastrophic and horrifying results. Woo-jin offers Oh Dae-su the chance to kill him by offering the remote to a pacemaker in his heart. Nonetheless, when Oh Dae-su presses the button, Woo-jin offers a final mocking attack by revealing that the pacemaker remote is actually a remote to a speaker system—one that replays the audio of Oh Dae-su and Mi-do having sex.
Having achieved his coup de grace, Woo-jin commits suicide with a bullet to the head.
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Cutting to some unknown time later, Oh Dae-su consults a hypnotist for help in ridding his memory of the entire affair. Both of these men have completed their revenge against the other, and one has killed himself, while the other walks away as a shell of a human being. Wrongfully accused for the murder of a child that she did not commit, Geum-ja spends her time befriending other inmates and exacting her plan for revenge against Mr.
Baek—the man that blackmailed her into accepting the arrest in order to spare the life of her own child. Lady Vengeance contains the most atypical structure of the three—to surprising and compelling results. With red-eye shadow upon a pale face, black pumps, and an almost ninja-like trenchcoat, Geum-ja transforms herself into a manifestation of revenge—yet one that distinctly maintains her femininity and flashes of her former identity.
Baek for whom she has targeted as the object of her vengeance. Consequently, she reaches out to the former detective involved with the case, who then helps her confirm the fact that Mr. Most intriguingly, and in stark contrast to the former two films in the trilogy, this causes Geum-ja to choose not to be the sole executor of revenge for the crime. Instead, she reaches out to the other bereaved family members of the murdered children and asks them to collude in punishing Mr.
By leaving photo evidence of acting as a unit so that they may not turn on one another, the various family members take turns individually torturing and punishing Mr. Baek—until a lonely grandmother delivers the fatal blow with the scissors that belonged to her granddaughter. Afterward, the group seals their fate together by eating a dessert and reflecting on their deed.
But after the group has left, Geum-ja remains haunted by a ghost of the victim for which she was initially blamed. The film ends on a somewhat ambiguous final shot, where Geum-ja plunges her face in a pure white cake—sobbing uncontrollably—while her reunited daughter hugs her in comfort. Despite the masterful storytelling exhibited in the former two films, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance contains possibly the most compelling issues of moral ambiguity so far addressed in this specific examination of revenge.
There is a scene in the last half of the film, where Geum-ja and the bereaved family members debate the ethics of their actions—weighing the pros and cons of how the legal court system would deal with this matter while also hoping to justifying their own personal blood thirsts—that plays out like the most perverted form of courtroom drama to ever grace the screen. And indeed, as shocking as the final twenty minutes of Oldboy stand for the utter depravity and brutality on screen, there is something as equally compelling and unbelievable as the final half of Lady Vengeance.
By the conclusion, Park leaves his character with another ambiguous, possibly worse fate than that seen before the start of their quest for vengeance. Now responsible for helping serve the fates of a group, as well as her own personal bloodlust, Geum-ja still looks for absolution in the form of the boy for whom she was originally accused. She receives a strange vision, wherein the boy now at the age that he would have grown to gags her.
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Despite helping those still grieving the loss of their child achieve some form of collective catharsis, Geum-ja is also faced with the fact that her child still survives. Unlike the others at the dinner table, now able to move forward with their lives without their child, Geum-ja remains faced with the fact that her entire life had been motivated by this single desire. Like with the prior two films, his conclusion to the trilogy ends on a note of contending emotions. Moreover, Park proves himself an innovator in the genre.
Much to the frustration of more literal-minded audiences that desperately cling for continuity, Miller has again opted to basically uphold only the titular character of the franchise and his strange setting somewhere in a post-apocalyptic future.