I watched the movie “Unforgiven” last night. I had no preconceptions other than a recommendation from a friend that it was “great”. Unforgiven is a Clint Eastwood Western made in the 1990s. I found the movie enjoyably jarring. It was peaceful and chaotic. The cinematography was beautiful and distant.
The movie starts violently, and ends rather violently. But the violence is not natural. No one thinks the violence is normal or warranted. All of the characters seem to inhabit a violent world, and are forced to violence, but against their will.
Thinking about the movie after I watched it, I was struck by how on the nose the point of the movie was, and how I had missed it while I was watching the movie. There are no good guys. Everyone is tainted.
In one scene, Clint Eastwood is waiting for payment with a young kid who has just killed for the first time. The kid is confessing and drinking whiskey. Clint Eastwood is squinting towards the horizon. The kid says, “well I guess they had it coming” – to which Clint responds, “we all have it coming, kid”. That is the essence of the movie. We all have it coming.
In our own “cancel culture” of 2020, this struck me as apropos. In Unforgiven, no one is innocent. Everyone is a combination of good and bad. If you look for the good, you’ll find some. If you look for the bad, you’ll find some. In our own culture, it feels like we are in a righteous pursuit of saints only. Who wouldn’t love a nation of saints? Perhaps we get there, perhaps we end up revealing a nation of hypocrites.