The opening scene of The Book of Eli (Hughes Brothers, 2010) establishes the film’s skewed relation to the Western. A dead man, apparently killed in a fight, lies crumpled on the floor of a gloomy forest, his six-shooter-the cylinder open and empty-fallen in the dirt near his outstretched hand. The soundtrack hints at the historical shift immediately substantiated by the camera pan. We hear amplified breathing, which turns out to be filtered through the gasmask worn by a shrouded figure aiming his bow and arrow in the direction of the corpse. Eli is no Indian, rather the survivor of some obscure apocalypse poised to shoot a strange animal that has been attracted by the scent of death. It turns out to be a hairless cat, which Eli will cook over a campfire for dinner, collecting the drippings to use as lip balm in a wasteland (the forest disappears after the opening scene) where water has become scarce and survivors wear sunglasses to protect themselves from the sunlight pouring through a hole in the sky.
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- The Post-Apocalyptic Western as a Bookish Genre: The Book of Eli’s Vision of an Archival Future
Andrew S. Gross
- Palgrave Macmillan UK