John Ford 's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Essay

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John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a depiction of an inescapable transition where the society is transformed from an old and wild social order to a modern and organized one. In this film, Ford brings to perspective the society in the past and how it died as a result of modernization. The western frontier ideals are brought to light with the transition from a lawless social order embodied by the gunslingers into a modern society governed by law and order (Ebert). The inevitable transition represents a death of the Old Wild West, which then paves way for a new, tamed and civilized society. Ford’s message can be seen through the main characters’ social conflicts, and in the cinematic elements such as the harsh use of lighting, uneasy shot composition and the aesthetic decision to shoot the film in black and white.
A black and white film could be one, if not the best way, to evoke a sense of the past and the mythical. Ford strategically does that here because Technicolor features had been produced long before the filming of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance began around 1962. Ford shows the town of Shinbone as full of disparities. The opening scene starts with a stark contrast between technology and the organic (mountains and hills) in an uneasy diagonal one-point perspective. From the very beginning, this impactful scene puts the viewer in a tense mode, which is the same way the character Ransom Stoddard was feeling like when he arrived at the wild town of Shinbone.…

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