Death in the Mud
In “Django” the main setting is a desolate town in which only the whorehouse seems to be operational. There are two warring factions; one is a gang of Mexican bandits, the other a KKK-like group of criminals and racists. And then there’s Django – a wanderer who is hauling a coffin wherever he goes. You may think that he is the classic western hero, or at least the equivalent of the silent, nameless icon from Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Well this is a spaghetti western and Django is indeed an icon, but he is not a hero nor is he very silent. He is vengeance incarnate, and Django's (Franco Nero) amazing steel-blue eyes speak way more to this than the words that come from his mouth.
This world that Sergio Corbucci paints is one of the bleakest visions of the west that I’ve seen so far. There is something very apocalyptic about it all as any sense of morality seems to be non-existent and the few people that populate this hellish landscape seem to be scraping for a dollar and for life itself, even our anti-hero lets greed get the better of him. And then the majority of these people get killed off – the body count in this film is really immense, in once scene Django kills over 40 men on his own. And no one gets spared, the innocent suffer as much as the vile, but then again who is innocent in this story?
Obviously this is a very violent film, but even though the violence is quite omnipresent in this world it is also very stylized. Some of it is very disgusting and even a bit disturbing as well which makes the film walk an interesting line between Leone-like cathartic violence and something real and grotesque. So despite appearances I never felt like this film was glorifying violence itself, even though it is often an outburst of masculinity or is perpetrated by characters out of simple pleasure for violence. However this very much fits the characters and the bleak style of the film.
And this style is the film’s main asset. There are very few living things in this world, no critters or green trees. Everything seems dead and dusty and damp. Then there’s that muddy main street of that desolate town, it looks amazing on screen especially because everything is deserted, and only Django with his coffin is walking down it. All this mud makes the whole movie look quite filthy which just further feeds in to that grim aesthetic, and whenever Corbucci gets the chance he seems to gladly let his actors roll around in that mud a bit.
As the shooting style is concerned Corbucci seems to be influenced by Leone although “Django” does lack that meticulous precision of Leone’s work. The extreme close ups and stylized frames are there but he never seems to be slavish to this aesthetic and does serve his film first and foremost. And all this leaves “Django” as a very competent and memorable film, but it is also a flawed film primarily because of a few missed opportunities and the plotting and odd character decisions. However there’s a lot to love here and obsess over and the film does ultimately provide a very unique portrayal of the west.
Franco Nero - Django
Loredana Nusiciak - Maria
Jose Bodalo - Gen. Hugo Rodriguez
Eduardo Fajardo - Maj. Jackson
Angel Alvarez - Nathaniel the Bartender
Original language: Italian