BFI Classics: Unforgiven

Author: Edward Buscombe

It is far from any surprise that this film finds its way onto the BFI Classics list. One could spend hours alone on the visual composition of the shots through such a beautiful film. And author Edward Buscome clearly did in his research for this title.

From the opening and closing sunsets of the film the book looks at Eastwood’s career (especially in that of the western) and then proceeds to talk about the narrative of the film itself. The second chapter details the opening shot of the burial of Munny’s wife, and more importantly the diction of the opening crawl on the screen.

As the narrative unfolds so does the dissection of Eastwood’s career. Parallels are drawn with the portrayal of women, the involvement of black actors in the Western, landscapes and dialogue that fuel the forward momentum of this film to its dark final act where Munny seeks his own personal retribution.

There is also a coda that talks about the films warm reception by critics and the public. A true classic of its time; and it remains so, even 20 years later. Unforgiven finds itself in the BFI’s sights here with a book that is perhaps most at home with Eastwood fans – as they can make sense of all the references to his previous work.

Steven Hurst

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