Wild West Compressed: This Town Ain’t Big Enough

"Westerns meet the vertical mobile format."

Wild West Compressed: This Town Ain’t Big Enough is a short directed by Christian Kaufmann about the difficulties of shooting a Western film in the vertical format of contemporary mobile devices. The short belongs to a three-part miniseries created during Kaufmann’s studies at Germany-based Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.

Two main characters, non-standard conflicts and a focus on playing with the aspect ratio and codes from the Western genre for comedic effect are the main elements of the short. It’s one of those shorts that play with film form and elements from filmmaking, incorporating them into the script.

The short provides interesting material for analysis: characters meet for a typical duel (external conflict) but find themselves constantly struggling with an unusual obstacle, the difficulty of fitting themselves into the vertical format of the frame. Conflicts are generated due to the wishes of the characters colliding with basic elements from filmmaking.

A stylized aesthetic is employed with a saturated palette and iconography from Western films (vast landscapes, cowboys, a duel, guns, etc.). Framing commonly used in Westerns is clearly not suited for the vertical format. The director takes advantage of this, playing with occlusions and offscreen space for comedic effect. Music resembling Ennio Morricone’s style and related sound design complement the visuals.

What makes the short work so well? Fun and original way of playing with conflict and essential elements from filmmaking, effective use of surprise for comedy and a partially-occluded ending that leaves viewers with a question mark.

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