In this essay I will present the variety of ways in which Sayles’ Lone Star can be examined as ‘a story about borders’. . Analysing the relationship between history and geographical borders as well as the separation border between fathers and sons, I will present the complexity of these border relations. Focusing initially on the most apparent and literal borders between Mexico and Texas, I will then explore the borders that are present beyond the surface
The most obvious border explored in this film is geographical American/Mexican border, hailed as ‘the only place where the first world abuts the third world.’ 1Each side of the border holds a different ideology, culture and understanding. As Sam crosses the border to get to ‘the other side’2, Mexican music is played providing a new cultural meaning and depth for the non Spanish speaking viewer. As Sam meets with Chucho, it is interesting that the choice of costume for these two characters are very similar. They both wear a watch on the same hand, as well as the same shirt, in different colours. Chucho’s white shirt is not tucked in and two buttons are left undone, implying a sense of familiarity in his present Mexican environment. Consistent with Sam’s Sheriff uniform, his brown shirt is neatly tucked in and all the accustomed buttons are done up, representing Sam as an emblem of professionalism and the Texas law. However, from Chucho’s Mexican perspective, this particular Rio County Sheriff uniform ought to bring back traumatic memories of his past experience with the Texas law (this memory, in which Chucho’s friend is murdered by Charlie Wade, is presented in the following scene). Now that Sam is in Mexico, Chucho tells him ‘You're not the sheriff of nothing anymore, just some tejano with a lot of questions I don't have to answer.’ Sam is aware of the different meanings present beyond the American border thus he removes his Texas sheriff badge prior to entering Mexico. Throughout this scene, framing is used to distance Sam and Chucho (who are respectively representative of Texas and Mexico) from one another. The scene begins with a long shot that tracks past a Mexican worker, as Sam and Chucho walk into the frame. Subsequently, as they engage in conversation with one another, the scene continues in shorter shots from over the other’s shoulder. After Chucho draws the line in the dirt, never do the audience fully see these two in the same frame again. This framing technique suggests a culture clash. The conflicting ideologies of Mexico and Texas (of which Chucho and Sam are representative of) are entirely too contradicting, to the extent that both characters cannot be presented in the same frame. As a result, the audience are constantly reminded of these geographical borders as they are present within the characters of the film.
It is vital to examine the fact that these geographical borders are ingrained in its history. Deluze states that ‘history is inseparable from the earth – we must not pass along the event, but plunge into it, go through all the geological layers that are its internal history’3. I believe Sayles certainly adapts this philosophy throughout his film. The opening scene begins with a literal a shot of the earth, including a variety of plants (‘purple sage, garnet, nopel) representative of the different cultures present in Frontera. Two soldiers exploring the land, humorously refer to the ‘Coronado Expedition’, 4thus establishing a historical relationship with their physical location. They soon discover a skeleton, Mason’s ring and sheriff badge buried in the ground, initially classifying Sayles’ film as a murder mystery. The fact that this scene is placed before the opening credits (so that it becomes an almost prologue to the film), suggests that Sayles is entirely aware of the central relationship between history and the earth, a vital connection to explore when examining these geographical borders.
Correspondingly, Pilar (as a history...
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