Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Volontè and his creation of the sociopath El Indio

His outward look, his indolence at the time of killing or his evil plotting against others made Gian Maria Volontè credible with just his gestures.
March 26, 2006

Sergio Leone, creator and maximum exponent of the Spaguetti Western, always gave special importance to the wicked of his films. He endowed them with a very particular personality that he used to outline every detail. They are more than ruthless beings, they are, in reality, sociopaths who do not hesitate to perform the most cruel acts that someone can commit: killing an equal. Moreover, not only do they not think about it when it comes to pulling the trigger, but they seem to find some pleasure in unloading their revolver without a trace of compassion. Says Willy Munny, the character of Clint Eastwood in “Unfogiven”: “Killing a man is something despicable. You take away everything he has, and everything he’s going to have. For this type of outlaw, usually in a state of unconsciousness of alcohol, drugs or their own sick mind, this does not seem to count. They kill without blinking.

    The phrase of ‘El Indio’: “It’s better for those two to face them than on their backs, and better still cold. Completely cold

Returning to Leone, he created two of his most charismatic evils in “Fistful of Dollars” (Per qualche dollare in più), with El Indio embodied by Gian Maria Volontè, and in “Once Upon a Time in the West” (Hasta que llegó su hora) with the extraordinary Henry Fonda who scandalized the U.S. after breaking his stereotype of the everlasting good man. But we'll talk about Fonda and his character Frank, the child killer, on another occasion.

Gian Maria Volontè.

I wanted now to pay my modest tribute to this exceptional Italian actor and his superb interpretation of El Indio. Gian Maria Volontè (1933, Milan - 1994, Florina, Greece) graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1957 and debuted on TV with the adaptation of the play L’idiota. He worked for the first time in the cinema in “Under Ten Flags” (Sotto dieci bandiere, 1960). Then he shot two other films in 1962 and 1963, but international fame came in two films that, according to Wikipedia, he never considered serious: “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964) and “For a Few Dollars More” (1965). Both, by the way, filmed in Almeria to reduce the excessive costs involved in filming in the typical American Westerns. But his career would continue after these successes on very different paths. As explained on this RAI website, by directors such as Francesco Rosi and Giuseppe Ferrara, Volontè became "The most representative face of a cinema with strong political and civil connotations" thanks to his interpretations of real characters such as Aldo Moro in “Il Caso Moro” (1986), the famous Italian prime minister kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigade in 1978. His last job was shot in Spain, where he achieved fame, but in a very different record from the 1960's. He interpreted Tyrant Banderas in the adaptation of this classic “Valle-Inclán” directed by José Luis García Sánchez, who also wrote the script with Rafael Azcona.

Why do I find his work great as The Indian in Death ...? As convincing as the perpetual state of hanging in which this murderer and robbery seems to be. His outward look, his indolence at the time of killing or the evil when he plots against others makes Volontè credible with each of his gestures. His physical appearance, with his gray beard and scruffy hair, seems typical of a tattered disturbance. And his look, most of the time as a way, make El Indio a most despicable type. He is not even courageous as a leader of criminals, because his ruined nature leads him to save himself in using his men to avoid facing his fearsome enemies, the bounty hunters played by Clint Eastwood (El Manco) and Lee Van Cleef (Colonel Douglas Mortimer). For all these reasons I find this view of Volontè outstanding, who contributed to make this Leone classic bigger than life.

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