Collected Works: Film
For a Few Dollars More
directed by Sergio Leone
A gang of bandits relax in their hideout, enjoying the twisted entertainment provided by their leader. Indio, a vengeful prison escapee, torments the bounty hunter that jailed him. He gives orders to have the man’s family murdered in the next room, then demands a duel, ruling that shots should be fired only when the chimes of his pocket watch end. Amid searing emotions, sweaty faces stuff the screen. The tolls of the timepiece are absorbed into the score, pulling the drama ever closer to its fate.
For a Few Dollars More centres on a familiar antihero, the Man with No Name, who chases the infamous Indio, along with the inflating reward on his head. The Man opts for a route of deception, infiltrating the villain’s gang in order to pursue his prize. But if the lone wolf is to succeed, he must consider compromising his independence. Mortimer, an enigmatic Civil War veteran, hunts the same prey. As the action gallops onwards, distrust forms a source of constant tension between the two.
At the heart of the setting is Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack, comprising choruses of cowboys, vast percussion, guitars, and well-tuned whistling. Sound design and score are blurred, with knuckle-cracking, buzzing flies, and shrill shrieks built into the sonic experience. The music of the titles sequence is fragmented and scattered across the film, its motifs attached to certain characters. The chimes heard during the shootout permeate many later scenes, accumulating significance with each appearance.
We are often left unsure of the characters’ stakes, as are the men themselves. The narrative is sparing with dialogue; these are self-styled alpha males who speak with weapons, not words. The fights, like the vast desert arena in which they play out, are depicted with unwavering intimacy. The anxious interplay between the main characters ensures that suspense only intensifies. For a Few Dollars More climaxes with a pair of familiar gestures: the drawing of a revolver and the squint of an eye.
Words by Hugh Maloney