Right from the opening credits The Good, the Bad, the Ugly declares its intentions to ‘historicise’ narrative content in a different way. Not only is there a cannon among the weapons that carve and then dissolve the director’s name (the dull rumble caused by the deflagrations of its bullets accompanies the sequence for a good stretch); but the faces and figures of the protagonists are displayed from time to time as daguerreotypes alternating with images that we later discover are part of battle scenes between Northerners and Confederates. Moreover, to heighten the visual effect, the images are furrowed and scarred by the tracers of artillery shells.
The idea of interweaving major events and the vicissitudes of individual characters will remain a constant in Leone’s cinema from this moment on; a compulsory framework, which nevertheless does not blur the outlines of any character. With Manzonian solemnity, Leone manages to bring even the smallest of his protagonists into focus in his stories. Whether or not he has a line, whether or not he is given a close-up, each figure imagined by the director, even if only for a moment, always lives by its own light.
When in Leone’s films pictures with families or sets of people are framed, they are either on the verge of being overwhelmed by the irruption of destiny or they become the instrument that exposes memory to the scars of nostalgia.
[by Andrea Baldinotti]