Analyse Shane with Specific Reference to the Films Visual Style and Western Themes

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‘ Analyse Shane with specific reference to the films visual style and western themes.'

By analysing ‘Shane' (1953) in conjunction with its visual style and western themes, it will clearly show what aspects of western culture are apparent in the film. By looking at the visual style, this will show how the mise-en-scene informs the audience that ‘Shane' is placed in the western genre.

Firstly I will analyse the western themes that are visible in ‘Shane'. The whole narrative of ‘Shane' is the struggle of the homesteaders against the ranchers. In the late 19th Century when ‘Shane' is took place, homesteaders moved to the West to set up home. The homesteader's sought agricultural development, they wanted to earn their own living on their own land. The homesteader's felt that by moving to the West would provide them wonder and promise. Loy states, (2001, p.45), ‘ ‘Shane' shows the coming of wheat farmers who fenced in the open range to protect their crops.' ‘Shane' portrays the on-going conflict between the homesteaders and the ranchers. The ranchers who occupy the tiny town and are led by greedy Mr Ryker feel the land taken by the homesteaders is their land. The ranchers increasingly terrorise the homesteaders in hope that they will disperse from their homes.

‘Shane' focuses on the Starret family, the father in the film, is defiant throughout, insisting the Rykers will not drive him out. The western themes evident in ‘Shane' are obviously the typical western setting. There is the dusty border town inhabited by the Rykers. It is not your usual western town, compared to Tonto in ‘ Stagecoach'. The town in ‘Shane' is in comparison desolate and not many buildings have been erected, whereas in ‘Stagecoach' they have. The emptiness represents an eerie and unsafe location. Even though the town is so deserted it still has the main wooden buildings visual in most western films. There is the saloon, mostly occupied by Ryker and his men, The Grayston general store which is bordered off only by the saloon doors, the blacksmiths, where Tory is visiting (before he gets murdered by gun-slinging Wilson) and finally a hotel.

We are made aware from the opening that Shane is connected to the wilderness as he descends from the mountains. The mountains are another key western theme that occurs time and time again. The opening scene echoes the final scene, as Shane proceeds back up the mountain he descended from. This shows the ‘ individual' leaving the ‘ community' of the homesteaders that he has been welcomed into.

Another key western theme shown in ‘Shane' is the idea of boundaries and fencing off. In the American history of the westward expansion there was the invisible borderline constantly moving West. Kitses quotes, (1969. p.10), ‘ Is the West a garden of natural dignity and innocence offering refuge from the decadence of civilization.' This Henry Nash Smith idea of the garden and the desert is obvious in ‘Shane' and this theory intertwines with the theme of boundaries and fencing off. The ‘garden' in this western is where the homesteaders have settled. The ‘ garden' (a huge open space), symbolises the Garden of Eden. This vast land could also be perceived as the desert, because the open plains could be fearful where no inhabitant of the East had travelled before.

The boundaries apparent in ‘Shane' are, an invisible boundary between the town and the homesteaders. When the homesteader's visit the town or the ranchers travel to the open plains, it is as if an enemy line has been crossed. Chaos erupts when a homesteader or a rancher is not where they are supposed to be. The swing doors in the saloon show a boundary between the general store and the bar. The saloon is distinguished as a masculine environment as women never enter. Bar fights are also a common occurrence signifying further that it is not a feminine space. The swing doors too show a division of masculinity. Another aspect of a boundary is the tree stump in...
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