23 March 2014

Movie Parallels: 7 Women vs. 7 Men

Seven. There is something about that number. Not only has it been used countless of times in movie titles and themes, but it, of course, goes way back to several biblical, religious, mathematical, astronomic, musical, antique, literary etc. symbolic references. There are seven days in a week. Seven seas. Seven colors in a rainbow. Seven archangels. Seven deadly sins. Seven principles of man.

Well, one could conclude a lot of different things, metaphorically and literally, from the use of the number seven in the two films "7 Women" (John Ford, 1966) and "The Magnificent Seven" (John Sturges, 1960). The latter, a well-known western with an iconic assemble cast and score. The first, a rather misappreciated drama that arguably could be called a western or even Catholic propaganda, but with an just as iconic assemble cast. Anyhow, both are very well executed and acted out, and they both somehow deal with the topic of saving a group of people from 'savage' captivity. The only difference is that the first film deals with a group of seven different women being captured by Chinese bandits, hoping to free themselves, while the other film is about a group of seven different men trying to rescue a village from Mexican bandits. Yet, all total 14 individuals have that in common that they all seem to have or hide some personal struggles of their own while dealing with the dramatic situation they're finding themselves in, respectively. Each woman must decide for herself what she is willing to sacrifice in order to stay alive - or help the other women stay alive - and hopefully gain freedom from the brute hands of the 'savage' bandits. Similarly, each man must decide for himself what - or if - he wants to gain from the low-paid, unsafe task of helping some innocent village people from a 'savage' gang. The gender-divided take-offs make basis for a critique of a gender-stereotypical perspective, e.g. that the 'sinful' woman (Anne Bancroft's character in "7 Women") is redeemed through her self-sacrifice for the group. Or the seemingly heartless and materialistic men in "The Magnificent Seven" finds redemption, peace or 'a better purpose in life' through protecting the innocent villagers. The idea of the seven deadly sins certainly lurks as a moral reminder in the background in both cases. But both films also deal with the necessity of working together despite differences and keeping a cool head in tough situations, even when others stronger than yourself can't. Some make it, others don't. It's the ultimate (American) test of the human spirit: selfishness vs. self-sacrifice. And whether you like the 'americaness' of it all or not; the great performances, cinematography and directing style certainly will convince you that they're worth the watch - and a constructive critique as well.