Even before going to see Django I had already imagined what it would be, a classic slave story of lifetime brutality punctuated with heroic moments of one barely believable black man on horseback. I also wondered how it correlated with an earlier same-titled Tarantino film which was a wonderful Japanese version of rivaling tribes in an old American west setting. This version of Django used the old American west setting with half the film taking place in Texas but the rivaling “tribes” included one German-born bounty hunter (Dr. King Schultz played by Christopher Waltz) and a purchased slave, Django, (played by Jamie Foxx) against the entire system of slavery.
If you are looking for the classic Tarantino film style of bloody gore, this film has it but instead of looking like science fiction, the brutal excerpts and interludes were totally realistic. Any historian of the American past can pinpoint a tragic scene in the movie to a non-fiction slave chronicle. I would be remiss to fail to mention that history books come to life with re-creations of the slave “hot box,” muzzle masks, hog ties, hot iron branding, disfiguring whippings, cotton fields, cramped living quarters, dull, dark, impersonal clothing rations, brutal deaths by bloodhounds and forced fighting to the death for “entertainment” purposes. These images tamed the random use of gun violence and brought a whole new level of evil to the forefront that modern society is not desensitized to.
As a woman of African descent, I give kudos to Tarantino not just for his application of historical fact but the human characteristics he ascribed to the slaves. We were pictured as much more than blind, dumb and ignorant servants who were constitutionally classified as sub-human. We shivered from the cold after long treks through the snow. Our ankles bled, swelled and were rubbed raw from the shackles imposed during a chain gang. We fumed with anger, trembled with fear, cried from shame, begged for mercy, groveled for acceptance and rejoiced in accomplishments. We laughed and spoke freely and openly with each other in the absence of an overseeing presence. We felt love for each other and without fear the main character, Django, fought for it and in classic heroic style, did not die but recaptured his wife, Broomhilda (played by Kerry Washington), from the clutches of slavery.
Brilliant in employing a murderer to help Django’s cause, it was easy to not feel too sorry for Dr. Schulz, the German dentist turned bounty hunter, when he was killed. Repeatedly throughout the movie he stressed that instead of profiting from live flesh, he profited from providing dead bodies of wanted criminals.
If you are looking for wit and humor, Tarantino brings it in only a way that he can. I had to laugh when I saw the bright royal blue outfit Django chose to wear when offered the opportunity. He wanted to stand out as a self-regulated man much like a modern-day pimp would, #imjustsaying lol. Tarantino mocked the “distinguished” mega-plantation owner lifestyle with innuendos of incest. He also wasn’t afraid to include a classic Uncle Tom, Stephen, (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who although reviling for his traitorous tendencies, injected undeniable humor with his blatant attempts to curry the favor of his owner Calvin Candie (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Stephen’s dramatic reaction to the death of Candie is a definite gut buster.
Without giving you a play by play, I hope I gave you enough to understand that Django is a must see. It definitely lends a hand of social justice to every person who had a slave ancestor.