The classic Western turned on its ear!
Screenplay By: Carl Foreman
Directed By: Fred Zinnemann
Everyone has their own ideas about the Western, but most of those ideas were formulated by the black and white Western. The heroic gunfighter, the brave townspeople, the posse at a moment’s notice, the good guy always wins, and the town always comes together to rejoice. High Noon is the first movie, that I am aware of at least (let me know if there were others previous) that turned all of those ideas on their head and laid the groundwork for Westerns like Unforgiven, The Proposition and The Man with No Name trilogy. The hero stands alone in High Noon, and he isn’t much of a hero, he’s just a man doing his job. His wife abandons him, his ex-lover doesn’t want anything to do with him, his deputy quits, the townspeople won’t help him; Marshall Kane is truly a man against the wall and against the wall all by his lonesome.
The premise of High Noon is very simple, the acting is simple, the direction is simple, the music is simple; everything about High Noon is simple. That is why it succeeds where it might have failed, nothing is overblown, it isn’t overly dramatic, nor is it full of unnecessary explanations. We never get all of the back story, but the direction lets us know that the back story isn’t necessary. You have one man going up against four, he is a man of principle and they are hoodlum’s intent on killing him for some past wrong. That is all we need to know and that is all High Noon lets us know.
I mentioned it before, but the music in High Noon is hypnotic. It’s one lone song, played in a constant in and out loop. From the ominous beginning where words aren’t necessary to let you know that trouble is a brewing to the end when you don’t need to hear anything that happens, you need only see Marshall Kane throw down his star and ride into the sunset. The music sets the tone throughout and it never lets up, it never allows for you to get sidetracked or lose interest in even the smallest of moments, that is what powerful music should do.
High Noon is simplicity seen in a day and age when movies feel the need to be more and more complicated. I dare say that I don’t know if the casual movie going audience of 2008 would accept a movie like High Noon. There is too much left unexplained, the setting is too sparse and it leaves too much for the viewer to figure out on their own. That is sad because High Noon is one of the best Westerns ever and a movie that does hold up on repeated viewings and maintains its place as an absolute classic.