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Django Unchained, seventh movie of Quentin Tarantino, was released in 2012 and appreciated by the entire world critics. The movie pays homage to Sergio Corbucci’s Django (1966), a motion picture that was out during a time that was mainly productive for the spaghetti western, and overcomes the configuration given to the genre by Sergio Leone, revealing to be more violent compared to the movies of the Roman director, with mass slaughter and gore amputations. If Django by Tarantino proposes a very different plot from the ultra-violent movie by Corbucci, it certainly stays true to the poetry and the undertone.
In both movies the female figure is portrayed as an object of violence: the main characters (Maria and Broomhilda respectively) are introduced with a scene where they are being whipped, Maria by the Mexicans and Broomhilda by the slavers. The audience is obligated to witness these abuses, and can only perceive the woman in a voyeuristic way, like an object where the persecutor’s pleasure is projected on. Therefore the woman looses her own subjectivity and, once left behind, is not seen as a parent anymore, but like a simple item (Maria is a prostitute, Broomhilda is a slave). Even though the identity of a woman is viewed as less important, the two of them represent the reason, besides money, that push the protagonists to action. In other words, the audience is thrown in a dimension where the materialism is a standard that prevails in the society, where America is far from but still close
Traditionally, the western genre is something that speaks about boundaries and shows, in a constant way, the reflection on the threshold theme, intended as a line that goes from a place to another, both in a physical and metaphorical sense: from a comfortable party place, to a racist dimension, in which there are bloody ideological fights.
In this context, typical of a classic western, the dialectic of the hero prevails compared to the one of his enemy, but in Corbucci’s and Tarantino’s movies, both of the divisions are made up of cynical anti-heroes (racists Mexicans bandits in Django; racists bounty hunters in Django Unchained) that, oddly, tend to separate themselves from the racial atmosphere, as well as connecting, briefly, to another division, but only to go after their interests. The threshold between the good and the bad, which is an element that comes from the style of spaghetti western, is also unstable in the two motion pictures of 1966 and 2012, while the heroes don’t stand out that much from the rivals, they are just “less worse” than them.
To make the protagonists more realistic compared to the ones in the traditional western, besides negativity and individualism, is their ability to fail: if the classic heroes could always get away with it, almost unharmed, these “new” anti-heroes are beaten up or caught way before reaching their goal. Inside an environment where the violence and the injustice take over, the main characters can’t help but adapting to the context, and still keeping themselves away from the “true” villains. One of the many interpretations about this strain is referred to a critique about the western Christianity: in Django and Django Unchained the religious figures are sided with the opposite part rather than the one in which they should be; in other words with the wicked and bullies instead of the weak and honest. And it is this apparently bizarre position that raises disturbing questions regarding the role of religion in the yesterday’s and today’s society.
Filippo Fante – Translated by Beatrice Birolo