The Searchers, a rugged story of a pioneer family in Texas just setting down roots in 1868 in the unspoiled country of the Comanche, takes advantage of the imposing, and unforgiving desert landscape of Monument Valley sprawled across the Utah-Arizona border to underscore the isolating dangers of frontier living (Dirks)…
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In both films the landscape effectively highlights salient features of the storyline and characterizes its inhabitants in a way similar to the Westerns reviewed in Jane Tompkin's insightful West of Everything (70-87).
Winton C. Hoch photographed The Searchers in VistaVision,1 cinematography in Technicolor with wide-angle perspective, on-location in Monument Valley. According to the Special Features section of the DVD edition, beyond the colorful sandstone spires and buttes reminiscent of its ancient inhabitants, the cameras caught on film a living, breathing recent element of the desert landscape in some of the 500 destitute Navajo families employed as actors on the set (Ford).
Loyal Griggs actually won an Academy Award for his second director-of-photography effort in Shane. Ultimately all Griggs had to do was to position his camera with some aplomb and let the Grand Tetons of Wyoming speak with quiet eloquence (Purdy). Filmed in Technicolor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and shown on an expanded screen that served to emphasize the vastness and beauty of the fertile surroundings, the film creates a living picture of the boundless promise of the American frontier, "forever framing the action in relation to the unspoiled land surrounding it." (Crowther)
In her evaluation of the Western film Tompkins compares the sanctuary of the homestead or the pioneer cabin with the rugged challenges of the desert landscape (87). The Searchers opens from the safety of one family's haven into the vast reaches of the unfolding story as a lone figure on horseback rides slowly into view out of the barren wilderness. The breadth and length of the landscape scenes create a sense of authenticity for the much-abridged time and distances of the unfolding action in the narrative. The Searchers will come full circle to an identical doorway as members of a reunited family press past the threshold into their home totally oblivious to the hero as the door closes on the lonely drifter striding quietly back into the dusty landscape (Ford).
On the other hand, the point of view in Shane is chiefly through the eyes of young Joey as the child vigilantly watches the distant stretches of Wyoming prairie where sundry strangers make their debut in the story from the outlying horizon. The viewpoint on the closing action will belong to Joey as well when the landscape, veiled in darkness, echoes with the child's heartbreaking appeals for his friend to return, and the wounded Shane slips quietly out of his life into the shadowy oblivion of the Wyoming hills (Stevens).
Tompkins suggests that the genius of the Western is to have the terrain speak for itself (71). The physical settings in each film visually develop unique aspects of the narrative in much the same way as background music creates an ambience that heightens the emotion and suspense of the drama. In The Searchers the harsh nature of the character's surroundings accentuates its isolating and dangerous nature for the extended pioneer family (O'Brien). In striking contrast to the welcoming and simple world filmed inside the log cabin, where Ethan Edwards yearns to fit in, is the Civil War veteran's native element in the brutal and unforgiving environment which at last lures him away yet again into its untamed independence (O'Brien).
The Shane exploits are mostly reflected through the eyes
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Using appropriate stylistic devices, performance artists quickly draw attention of their audience or readers. Content and relevance of a drama, for instance, depends on how author of a play explains his/her themes. In addition, effectiveness of a drama, as a means of communication, depends on flow of play episodes and how characters in a drama contribute to plot development and explaining drama themes.
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