The Structure of the Western Film
Will Wright wrote detailed chapters about the structure of myths and the structure of the western films. In the film industry, Westerns are considered to be one of the oldest, most established, and adaptable genres. The structure of western films has a lot to do with nature vs culture and wilderness vs lawlessness. It is often associated with the inferiority of nature and the mastery of surviving in the wilderness. The main components included in the structure of western films are myths, ideology, and aesthetics.
Myths refer to the substantial order of communication between society and the members of that society. It is not just the interaction of members of society, but the social concepts that are represented by the characters in a film. It is safe to say that a gun fight in a myth is a conflict of principles that the people do not agree on. Ideology in western films is significant when it comes to portraying the social needs of a culture, group, or even an individual. Ideological perspective refers to the beliefs and principles of these different societies. The aesthetics also play a major role in the structure of the western film. The primary aesthetics are classicism, baroque, and romanticism.
Most western filmmakers use wide shots to establish opening scenes. Western films have helped give people a better idea of America’s past history, values, and ambition of achieving goals. The classic and essential plot of a western film include opposed elements, such as gun fights, massacres, horses, etc., while also maintaining law and order on the frontier. The functions of classical plots do not have to occur in order or as a whole. However, western films usually have a character that acts as the hero that saves society from a villain threatening the well-being of the town. The character is typically a lone ranger who is unknown to the community that stumbles upon a town in need of help. Ultimately the hero earns the respect of the townspeople in a particular social group. Westerns also portray the lifestyle of traveling and being able to be out in expanded territory. They include western expansion and a society that may not be completely civilized. Other common plots of the western film include gang plots, stories about the cavalry fighting Native Americans, the construction of the railroad, and ranchers fighting to protect their family ranch.
The four oppositions in the structure of western films are the inside/outside opposition, good/bad opposition, strong/weak opposition, and wilderness/civilization opposition. Societies and groups often tried to have some control of their land and separate themselves from the concept of wilderness that is rooted in western culture. However, a lot of societies life styles were dependent on the resources from nature without the alteration of the land. The structure of western film also involves outer form and inner form. Outer form refers to what the audience sees in an image, including the setting, costumes, tools, etc. Inner form refers to what is communicated by what is seen by the audience.