Django Unchained

Django Unchained ★★★★½

Amid a Texan forest, a pair of white men move on horseback pulling some black slaves they just bought through chains. Just in the opposite direction, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) runs into them in his carriage. See the conditions of this scene that takes place only after the initial credits. The forest is dark, desolate and dense. There is not exactly a path traced to facilitate the transport of stagecoaches, but even so Schultz meets these people as if it were a coincidence. Of course it is not, but here are two important characteristics for the whole movie. The first is that the narrative, which although realistic and will be responsible for explaining every detail of the argument, also announces that it is fictitious. The forest has too much light to be in the middle of nowhere. Everything seems perfectly calculated and here the second statement – Schultz is a very intelligent man, so much so that his plans have the organization of a military genius. In later scenes, he confesses that it is necessary to believe in what you are doing and that you must have enough security so that everything goes well.

However, the intelligence of Schultz, although it has structure and truth, exceeds on several occasions the plane of reality and is a man of superhuman abilities that feeds the idea that "Django Unchained" feels like a fairy tale. The rest of the cast has similar features. Whether in their thoughts, in their way of expressing themselves or in their actions, they help to capture what the writer and director Quentin Tarantino does with all his films – a combination of realism and dream in a macabre exaggeration that does not prevent the audience from releasing the intrinsic connection that what you see is happening.

Why does Tarantino make his films with this style? Because his subjects demand it and, therefore, their treatment. A story taken from real events like the Holocaust requires the seriousness of a film like "Schindler's List" or the almost infallible precision of a documentary like "Shoah". However, "Inglorious Bastards" is nothing like those movies – for describing it, we would even use the word comedy. The same happens when it is intended to cover the dimensions of slavery and the apartheid system in the United States, such as in "The Help" and "12 Years a Slave". In comparison, "Django Unchained" is far from how it deals with the facts of that historical context.

This also applies to the resources with which Tarantino communicates to the public. We are accustomed to violence in certain ways – brutal, repetitive, morbid and visceral. But how does this American director project it? With the same adjectives, but the objectives are higher, smarter and more stylized than in most movies where we only see blows, shots and tides of blood without meaning. For Tarantino, blood is essential to make us understand something and its purpose in a scene rises, beautifies and acquires meaning. Hence, "Inglorious Bastards" is not, easier to see than "Saving Private Ryan" or that "Django Unchained" is less serious than "Gone with the Wind". Yes, their whole message is expressed differently, but the form does not change the substance.

Tarantino's films reflect crazy and horrifying events that humanity has experienced at some time. When Schultz observes the travelers' treatment of the slaves, he knows he must do something about it. He repudiates slavery, but in the south things are different two years before the civil war. As the doctor is interested in one of the prisioners, called Django (Jamie Foxx), he manages to buy him at the same time he manages to free the rest. Waltz's performance establishes the plans that the film will reveal later, and his character is a sophisticated, kind and intuitive bounty hunter that requires the help of that prisoner to kill a trio that the government seeks. "Alive or dead", they must verify that he murdered them, in order to enjoy a juicy reward.

Django accompanies him and between the two cooperate by capturing bandits from Texas to Tennessee and from there to Mississippi. Schultz has an argument and explains that if in the United States there are people who sell others for racial reasons, then why not trading meat criminals for money? That makes Schultz and Django killers, of course, but they have a point. In a world where whites are above blacks and treat them like scum, Django finds his position as an avenger.

I think Tarantino would like people like these two to have existed. I think he knows that the rest of us would have liked it too. Consider the master plan of the bastards against the most important Nazi chiefs. We have the feeling that it could have been like that, like Schultz and Django as vigilante gunmen who do not let themselves be erased by others, regardless of their hatred or the number of weapons they have. Tarantino looks through these characters and lets them act as he would like to these things, which like everything, are supported by elaborate and ingenious plans.

Django is a free man in this one, his movie. Most do not see him that way and cannot do it. Schultz is a grateful man and after placing his trust in the man he saved, he transmits his teachings. In a training scene, he tells him that he will become one of the best gunmen in the south. To prove his gratitude, Schultz promises Django to support him to find his wife Broomhilda von Schaft (Kerry Washington), who is in the lands of mighty Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). As they cannot get close to offer a short sum of money, they need his attention, presenting themselves as Mandingo traffickers, who are black men who fight to the death to win and thus offer Candie $ 12,000 for one of the best he has. Using that, they will aske him to buy Broomhilda.

The scenes in Candie's house stretch far enough to reach this goal. During dinner, there are many cameras and many people. Everyone is doing something, and Tarantino lets us observe. Among all eyes, those of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) –Candie's favorite slave– notice something else. The conversations flow in continuous time and the tension increases as the negotiation seems not to go so well. Here we remember movies like "Pulp Fiction" and "Jackie Brown" and we accept the exemplary and absolute dominance that the director has over his stories.

"Django Unchained" is pure entertainment. Tarantino is responsible for making it fun, even with the degree of violence that anyone would get out of his mind. Yes, this is a very funny, objective and fantastic movie, as if it were the legend of a prince saving his maid as told by Schultz in the opening scenes. However, the rawness of some moments cannot be separated, as when dogs devour a slave or when a pair of mandingos fight until one of them dies. Perhaps they are, among others, scenes that do not make you laugh at all, but it is also when Tarantino throws explicit fun signals as the fact that those who see these atrocities within the film enjoy what they see. And even Tarantino does not abuse and when one of the mandingos takes a hammer to kill his opponent or when the dogs are dismembering the slave, the camera moves away. It is extreme violence and the director knows it, so he omits those scenes and lets us imagine them, which can be even more disturbing.

The film efficiently uses the 165 minutes that it lasts, and Tarantino uses the exploitation of violence as a factor that develops different effects in the film, testing the audience. Remember the long sequence of torture in "Reservoir Dogs" or the blood dash in "Kill Bill: Vol. 1". It is no accident that "Django Unchained" goes from a moment of negotiation and pie to one of bullets and mass deaths. Just as an annotation, I would have preferred that the director take more risks to get out of his own conventionalities, as in the character of Waltz, which is very similar to Hans Landa's "Inglorious Bastards".

Nonetheless, Quentin Tarantino is a great filmmaker, who along with Martin Scorsese represent the dynamic duo that make their stories extravagant feats of visceral fury. Both are commonly criticized for their work, especially for the violence they use. But these are their films and they defend their ideas and discourses at their will, their understanding and with a great fascination for making art.

"Django Unchained" is a spaghetti western that mixes the classic with the modern and uses the great photographic work Robert Richardson and the edition of Fred Raskin and the soundtrack of Luis Bacalov so that hand in hand with the cast, we remain faithful to the staples of the Quentinian seal. True, with "Reservoir Dogs", QT got my curiosity and since "Pulp Fiction", he has my full attention.