Django Unchained: An Unconventional Hero

Django UnchainedSpoiler Alert

Django (with a silent D) Unchained has all the characteristics of a Tarantino movie. Dynamic soundtrack which varies from Ennio Morricone western themes and folk music to 2Pac and James Brown, panoramic long shots combined with extreme close ups on the characters’ faces, memorable prose, the postmodern cult aesthetic of the movie, manifested as early as in the Columbia logo and the movie titles and of course last but not least the extremely big amounts of blood shed all over across the travels of Django and Dr. Schultz.

The movie revolves around a black slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), who gets bought and freed by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) in order to assist him in identifying some wanted men. Django becomes a bounty hunter himself with the support of the “civilised” and open- minded Dr. Schultz, while at the same time he makes plans to rescue his wife, who is a slave too working in Candyland, Candie’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) plantation.

Django’s evolution throughout the film is a core theme of the plot. At the beginning he is a slave wearing just a rag, which he takes off, in a rather symbolic way, as soon as Dr. Schultz buys him. Scared he enters a saloon and tastes his first beer not able to realise what freedom means. After Dr. Schultz’s encouragement his first decision as a free man is to choose his own clothes. He dresses up like a character from a Molière’s comedy, something he will change only after his first killings as an assistant bounty hunter. The killings and the taste of revenge seem to empower him and help him discover the free version of himself ; an evident change not only through his clothes but in the way he shoots and speaks also. With his Mentor’s death, he enters the last phase of self discovery, accomplishing the impossible, not to be treated as a black man in Mississippi in 1859.

Even though Jamie Foxx embodies an alternative type of hero, he embarks on the archetypical heroic journey to save Broomhilda, his on screen wife. The name Broomhilda, as we learn from Dr. Schultz, derives from a mythological German princess, whose father imprisoned her on the top of a mountain – we never learn why – with a Dragon guarding this mountain. A hero climbs the mountain because he is not afraid and defeats the dragon because he loves Broomhilda. The dragon in Tarantino’s story, or even better myth, is not the ruthless owner of Candyland, “Monsieur Candie”, but his black slave – butler of the Big House ( Samuel Lee Jackson). He is the one who realises first that Broomhilda is Django’s wife and unmasks the real motives of Django’s and Dr. Schultz’s visit in Candyland and later he is the one who proposes Django’s punishment and torture for killing Candie. He is also the last one killed by Django at the end of the movie, after a short dialogue, which is bound to be repeated for years by whoever watches the movie.

Tarantino delivers another classic to his fans. Breath holding and beautifully directed action scenes, interesting and hilarious dialogues, in a neo – western way, carefully arranged mise en scene and exquisite interpretations from his supporting characters, not only Christoph Waltz, who is nominated for an academy award, but also Samuel Lee Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio, who should be nominated alongside Christoph Waltz.

It is rather unlikely that Django Unchained will win the academy award for best motion picture, but Tarantino’s movie pays tribute to the whole genre of western films and exalts the western heroes by challenging and questioning the stereotypes and the values of them at their core. Django Unchained is a western movie, produced in 2012, with a black, former slave, man in the lead role.


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