Scene Analysis – Jesse James

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Scene Analysis – The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford The Assassination of Jesse James breached new heights in the western genre. It is unique in its narrative style and conventions, challenging the norms of the classic western, leading way to a whole new perception of it. Its excessively dramatic overtones reveal a part of the Western world that is so scarcely portrayed, diverting people’s general ideas about it. The film’s narrative focuses on a dying hero as opposed to a reigning hero, and we begin to develop a sense of reality about Jesse James’s character as the film moves on. The beginning stages of the film portrays the legendary, almost inhuman Jesse James figure, and as the film progresses, so does his character, towards the norm of society. The film’s magnificent approach to the western genre had caught my attention and that is why I have chosen analyze a scene from it. I will analyze the train scene near the beginning of the film, where Jesse James and the rest of his bandits await a train’s arrival before robbing it. This scene captures Jesse James’s mythical figure through the use of specific conventions. The mis-en-scene is a prominent factor in this scene. There is no dialogue, and therefore what we see is important to our understanding and connection with it. The setting is significant with regards to the whole scene. It is set at night in a dingy forest, which enhances the melodramatic feel of it, allowing specific conventions to be used effectively. The dark captures Jesse and his gang’s mythical qualities. They roam the night and are blind to the people around them during the day. As it is a night scene, lighting plays a significant role. As Jesse James awaits the train on the train track, the camera focuses its attention predominantly on his face. The lantern he is holding lights up right side of his face from underneath which contrasts significantly to the deeply shadowed left side of his face. This contrast captures his intense character, as it brings about dramatic overtones. As the train approaches around the corner a combination of the trains light and smoke fulfils the air and its presence also brings about a dramatic feel to the scene. The shadows in the forest hide the bandits like ghosts, which is effective in that the beginning stages of the film are dealt with Jesse and his Gang’s surreal presence.

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