C'era una Volta il West (1968)

Once upon a Time in the West / Er Was Eens in het Verre Westen / Het Gebeurde in het Westen

C'era una Volta il West (1968) - poster

Raiting: 8,4 /10

Genre: Western

Director: Sergio Leone

Stars: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson and Claudia Cardinale

Country: Italy / United States

Release date: 21 December 1968

Length: 165 minutes / 175 minutes (Italian restored version) / 145 minutes (theatrical version, US)

"C'era una volta il West" (Once Upon a Time in the West), directed by Sergio Leone in 1968, is a monumental entry in the Spaghetti Western genre, renowned for its epic storytelling, iconic music, and stylistic cinematography. The film intertwines the tales of several characters, each driven by their own motives, against the backdrop of the American frontier's expansion.

The film opens with a mysterious, harmonica-playing gunman (Charles Bronson), known simply as Harmonica, whose haunting music preludes his deadly intentions. He is on a personal quest for vengeance, though his reasons remain shrouded in mystery. Meanwhile, a brutal outlaw named Frank (Henry Fonda) has been hired by the railroad tycoon Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) to secure the land necessary for the railroad's expansion. In a shocking turn of events, Frank and his men massacre the family of Brett McBain, a widower who owns a valuable piece of land called Sweetwater.

Upon arriving at the Sweetwater ranch, McBain's new wife, Jill (Claudia Cardinale), discovers the tragedy. She is a former prostitute from New Orleans who had hoped to leave her past behind and start a new life. Now a widow, she finds herself at the center of a land dispute that she neither understands nor cares for, but her steely resolve keeps her from leaving. Jill becomes the object of desire and manipulation by the men who surround her, each with their own agenda.

Another key player is Cheyenne (Jason Robards), a charismatic bandit wrongfully accused of the McBain murders. Despite his outlaw status, Cheyenne possesses a sense of honor and justice, becoming an unlikely protector and ally to Jill. As these characters' paths converge, a complex web of motives and histories unfolds, leading to a series of confrontations that are as much psychological as they are physical.

The film culminates in a series of revelations and showdowns. Harmonica's past connection with Frank is revealed in a dramatic flashback, explaining his quest for vengeance. The final duel between Harmonica and Frank is a masterful blend of tension, music, and visual storytelling, providing a satisfying resolution to Harmonica's journey. Meanwhile, Jill secures her future and the future of Sweetwater, symbolizing the enduring spirit of the West and the birth of a new era.

"C'era una volta il West" is a cinematic masterpiece, with Leone's direction creating an operatic and expansive vision of the American West. Ennio Morricone's score is nothing short of legendary, enhancing the film's grandeur and emotional depth. Each frame is meticulously crafted, with Leone's use of extreme close-ups and expansive widescreen shots contributing to the film's epic feel. The film's deliberate pacing and intricate storytelling demand the viewer's patience but reward it with a rich narrative tapestry that has influenced countless filmmakers and remains a benchmark for Western cinema.

Top cast - C'era una Volta il West (1968)

Woody Strode

Woody Strode

Frank's Gunman

Jack Elam

Jack Elam

Frank's Gunman

Keenan Wynn

Keenan Wynn


Frank Wolff

Frank Wolff

Brett McBain

Trailer - C'era una Volta il West (1968)

"C'era una volta il West" (Once Upon a Time in the West), directed by the legendary Sergio Leone, stands as a towering achievement in the Western genre and cinema at large. Released in 1968, this film is celebrated not just for its grand narrative but also for its stylistic innovation and profound impact on the visual language of storytelling. With its operatic scope and intimate character studies, the film transcends traditional Western tropes to deliver a timeless and emotionally resonant experience.

One of the film's most distinguishing features is Ennio Morricone's unforgettable score, which is as integral to the film as its visuals. The music is evocative and haunting, weaving a complex emotional tapestry that perfectly complements the on-screen drama. Morricone's melodies linger long after the film concludes, echoing the characters' journeys and the vastness of the landscape they inhabit.

The casting of "C'era una volta il West" is a stroke of genius, particularly the against-type role of Henry Fonda as the cold-blooded villain Frank. Fonda's performance is chilling and nuanced, subverting his established screen persona to great effect. Charles Bronson's Harmonica is the quintessential enigmatic gunslinger, a man of few words but immense presence. Claudia Cardinale delivers a powerful performance as Jill, embodying both vulnerability and resilience, while Jason Robards adds depth and charm to the outlaw Cheyenne, creating a character that is both rough and endearing.

Leone's direction is masterful, with his use of extreme close-ups and long, lingering shots that build tension and develop character in a way that few other directors can match. The film's pacing is deliberate, allowing the audience to soak in every detail of the richly textured world Leone creates. The opening sequence alone, with its meticulous build-up and sudden burst of violence, is a testament to Leone's ability to command the medium.

Visually, "C'era una volta il West" is stunning, with sweeping shots of the American frontier that highlight both the beauty and the desolation of the landscape. The cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli captures the essence of the West in a way that is both mythical and grounded, a perfect match for Leone's vision of the Western as a canvas for larger-than-life stories.

In conclusion, "C'era una volta il West" is not just a film but an experience, a work of art that encapsulates the spirit of an era while delivering a narrative that is as compelling as it is tragic. It's a film that demands attention and respect, rewarding viewers with a richness of detail and emotional depth that few films can claim. Leone's epic is a testament to the power of cinema to tell stories that are both grand and intimate, and it remains a benchmark against which all Westerns are measured. Whether you're a die-hard fan of the genre or a newcomer to Leone's oeuvre, "C'era una volta il West" is essential viewing that continues to resonate with audiences more than half a century after its release.