Friday, October 26, 2007

The Man With No Name

On a recent lazy weekend, I watched the movie trilogy featuring the iconic character of “Man with No Name” played by Clint Eastwood in the movies “A Fistful of Dollars”, “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. The movies are a treat to watch and regarded as the classics of the Western genre. However, it is Clint Eastwood’s character which is quite intriguing. He is in fact one of the more popular manifestations of a particular class of male on-screen characters – they work mostly alone, are a master of their art (either fighting skills or detective acumen) and generally do not get paired with any female character.

It fascinates me to think that how these men are able to immediately make their mark upon the scene on which they arrive. Their demeanor is one of raw confidence just short of haughtiness. They are men of few words, accurate actions and unexpressed sentiments. Their morality is in a ‘grey zone’ – they don’t hesitate in double crossing other characters who themselves are not necessarily evil. Probably, they are closer to reality than the other heroic figures on screen which hold high moral ground and fight for honor, country, love etc. While the latter leave the audience with a surge of inspiration, the former bring a wry smile to the face. One wouldn’t want to mess up with these loners and would prefer to be on neutral territory with them. Their friendship does not exist as such, except when they betray a shade or two of emotion and do the ‘right’ thing by saving/helping some minor characters in distress.

I find the IQ - independence quotient - of these “Man with No Name” characters to be quite extraordinary. It is perhaps a quality to be sought for when the environment around one is of constant conflict of interests, when friendly terms with people around get evaluated and re-calibrated quite often, and when trust on a person is an outcome of Game Theory playing itself out in the given circumstances. This character is at peace with his shades of grey, unlike the superhero story themes as in Batman. The character, though conniving and manipulative, is also not the anti-hero which we are familiar with. He is most likely to be the survivor of the lot in thrillers with a heist as central theme of the plot.

However, the movies comfortably skip some of the issues which concern the sustenance and survival of the ‘Lone Gunman’ characters. These characters have no place which they can call home as they are almost always on move. They generally don’t have a ‘occupation’ which would make them work in teams, face customers or report weekly to a boss. They either are ‘self employed’ (in Clint Eastwood’s case, as a bounty killer) or work for someone but have entire decision making power (the super-agents like Ethan Hunt and Bourne who are an agency unto themselves). We are never told where they hold-up when they fall ill, who bakes their daily bread and how they survive old age. So, while one may get pulled to live a life on the edge like that, it is imperative to find answers to these somewhat mundane but nevertheless vital questions.

Also, such men are not born. They are made. There have to exist triggers to make a person to turn his back on the society. Though they are not sociopaths, yet they too don’t exhibit generally accepted social behavior. The movies generally skip the part of the character transformation of these individuals. Rarely, like the Star Wars trilogy, the attempt is made to understand why the transformation occurred.

I may not have, yet, concrete explanation of these ambiguities, but I can make a fair guess at one thing – these lone warriors would most probably not be maintaining public blogs. It must be against their very nature to put across their views in an elaborate manner. So, those of you (me included) who want to holster up and dig your stirrups into your stallions from tomorrow morning, please put up a bye-bye post on your blog.


Gaurav Sachan said...

Agreed NEO, movies like Bourne Ultimatum, where the person (read : Matt Damon) himself is a "walking" agency and decides/acts on his own...these kindaa people are not born "mostly", but developed by the situations.They just have a mission to follow, which doesnt include their family / career / financial security etc, but just the MISSION !!
HOLLYWOOD / BOOLYWWOD have yet to come up with the movies on more general people who have all the NON - (BOND / BOURNE / AGENT HUNT) kindaa situations to face with :)

Gaurav Sachan said...
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