Over at Film & TV Reviews by Romi there was an excellent, if somewhat old, post titled “Breaking Bad and the Spaghetti Western.” At the start of the post, Romi described the influence of Film Noir and the movies of Fritz Lang on Breaking Bad. Then he turns to the influence of the Spaghetti Western. Here is what Romi wrote:
What is so important about the western and noir is that, according to Vince Gilligan, in an interview after the final episode of this season of Breaking Bad, he credits not only noir as his influence, but the western, specifically, the spaghetti western. The spaghetti western was made famous by Clint Eastwood in the mid 1960s, with a group of films directed bySergio Leone in Spain for low budgets (many other spaghetti westerns were shot in Italy). The Eastwood character tended to be a lone hero, alienated by all and would stop at nothing to get what he needed to accomplish with little dialogue and a lot of riding around the desert.
Gilligan explains that he actually had the potential directors this season watchOnce Upon A Time in the West which now makes all of the strange openings and extreme alienation of Walt something that makes even more sense. In noir as in the western, your protagonist is always going to be an antihero, someone who usually did his best to play by the rules and work within the system but something happens, something dramatic (in Walt’s case, he got cancer and needed money for bills and to provide for his family) and our antihero decides to throw caution to the wind and make his own rules. Hence, why Walt has evolved so much in the past 4 seasons. It makes even more sense, this hybridity of the western and noir, to remember the locale Breaking Bad takes place in: New Mexico. The Old West. Where laws are broken constantly and lawmen are scrambling to keep some sort of barrier between civility and lawlessness. If the protagonist is a true anti-hero and cannot live within the system any longer and function as a human being, there are only two options for him, to live somewhere, usually alone or with other outlaws or to die. In true noir, as well, our protagonist/anti-hero tends to die at the end of all great noir films, since their lives are doomed from the start. I just don’t see a happy ending for Walt. All I know is that so far it has been a great ride.
It is fascinating to see that these movies that genre fans love are more culturally relevant today than they ever have been. They have generated images and experiences that contemporary artists in film, television, and comics still turn.
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