Me: “Hey Wanda lets go see Django Unchained!”
Wanda: “I don’t like violent movies”
Wanda: “Unless its GORY REVENGE violence”
Me: “Ok – we’re good to go”
And so it came to pass that Wanda J Mas, and my good self, found ourselves in Gold Class preparing to watch Quentin Tarantino’s latest masterpiece.
Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Di Caprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained also has a host of well known faces in minor roles.
Django tells the epic story of a slave and his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). The two are cruelly separated – amongst the legion of everyday cruelties – by being sold to different owners in different parts of the South. In 1858, in the South, as slaves, the chances of being reunited would appear to be nil.
Quentin Tarantino had the idea for Django since 2007 and the broad idea was to present the issues of slavery and deep injustices in Americas past, but not in a “big issue” movie kind of way. He wanted to give it a really strong genre feel. I presume to make it more accessible. More pervasive. In this case using the Spagetti Western genre as the vehicle.
When the slave traders transporting Django (Jamie Foxx) encounter the unusual German bounty hunter/dentist, Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), Django is given the chance to change his master and mode of servitude.
After a brief negotiation Schultz buys Django from the slave traders.
Schultz is interested in Django as he can identify three men that Schultz holds the bounty for. A bargain is struck. Help me find the three – point them out – and I’ll give you your freedom, $75 and a horse.
However, Schultz becomes fascinated by Django the more he learns of his story – especially about Broomhilda who was taught to speak German by a previous owner. Broomhilda (Brynhildr) was the name of a maiden from Norse mythology who was imprisoned in a tower surrounded by fire and could not be freed until rescued by a warrior who would marry her.
Both Schultz and Django become aware of the powerful parallels between the epic Norse myth and Django’s quest to find and free his Broomhilda. Schultz becomes part of the quest having felt an obligation to the man he has freed.
After a successful winter collecting many bounties together Django and Schultz learn that Broomhilda is kept as a slave on the Candyland plantation. Candyland is owned and run by sadistic, albeit urbane slave owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio). It holds special horrors for the slaves unfortunate enough to live there.
Schultz devises a plan to visit Candyland with Django and purchase Broomhilda, re-uniting the two and providing her freedom. Knowing that Calvin Candie won’t sell one insignificant slave, Schultz’s plan involves a diversion around a much bigger purchase and places Django in a dangerous and unorthodox role.
When the plan fails to execute as expected, Django and Schultz resort to more conventional methods of conflict resolution.
Living in Australia as a white middle-class male I’m not qualified to talk about the issues and the history involved. I can only talk about my feelings as a film goer.
Django Unchained juxtaposes a video game or remote type of violence against a very personal type of violence. A kind of casual inhumanity, thoughtless atrocity and everyday barbarity that is, in some places, breathtaking.
Did they really do that? Could they really do that? Is that how people can behave towards each other?
The story, dialogue, acting, music, visuals all worked to create an expansive, rich and vibrant world. There are some shifts in visual style and color, and changes in music and tone that are not jarring but provide some great texture and relief.
There are also superb comic moments, amongst the drama and the docu-horror. Sometimes this can be a risk – a movie doesn’t end up with a consistent personality or any cohesion and disbelief falls away. Not in this case. The shifts all become part of the film.
Candyland was a great example with some absolutely beautiful, fluid scenes contrasted later with some of the bloodiest and scariest.
I tend to rate films pretty easily if I like them. But this film is a cut about the rest.
Two bizarre things though. Quentin Tarantino’s cameo with a weird Australia accent and John Jarrett sporting the same. Also the very end – some dressage ?
Still 10 out of 10