Django (1966) is an Italian western directed by Sergio Carbucci. It stars Franco Nero as mysterious ex-soldier Django on his quest to seek revenge for his dead wife. Thus, he returns to the south, where a war rages, but not the civil war. A racial war wages between that of the native Mexican people, and the southern forces. Colonel Jackson and his red-hooded riders seek to rid the land of the Mexicans, while the Mexicans pledge the same. Django is not concerned at first, but is caught in the war as he opts to save Maria, a scorned prostitute from death as some of Jackson’s men attempt to burn her alive.
Django is not overly significant for it’s narrative, while the idea of a racial war is definitely an original one in the context of a western. The significance is how it’s formed, the tones, atmosphere and mood of Django are what classifies it as something different and ultimately very appealing. On set as they attempted to film Sergio’s set manager claimed they should clean up the set they intended to film on because of harsh mud, and swamp due to weather conditions, however Sergio claimed it would only improve the harsh macabre mood of the film. The town is unlike most you’ve ever seen in a western, empty, deserted and decrepit. Only the home to whores and murderers, the lighting is always fairly grey and dark to suit this bleak depiction of life, and we never see the sun rise or set over the town. Only a malignant, disconcerting grey.
It’s also a stand-out for being one of the most violent films ever made at the time of it’s release, though obviously the same can’t be said now in the advent of gorehouse, and tortureporn flicks.Where Django offers a lot of analytical depth is in the reading of it’s primary protagonist Django. Django a fairly atypical male character in juxtaposition of typical western males. The blueprint for traditional western leading males were primarily in the wake of John Wayne and such others, usually an older man of larger stature and of rugged qualities and typical macho or of manly disposition, being the contextual modern idea of what a man should be. However, as the western was gradually converted and subverted in much more opposing forms such as the Revisionist, and Acid western sub-genres (Both of which Django is a part of), we see this ideal of the leading male and masculinity questioned.
Django is ultimately a revision of that stereotypical gender role. He’s a much younger man but also much more troubled, enigmatic, and mysterious in his purpose.You could say there are elements of the tragic hero in Django’s construction, particularly in his mourning for his wife, and his inability to love again. Greed is Django’s near downfall as he has both of his hands brutally broken for stealing the gold he and the Mexicans worked so hard to get. Thus he also flawed in his ideology, he is not the traditional do-gooder, but one who has sinned and will continue to sin. This is equally said for his unrelenting brutality in gaining his revenge, most notably in the scene in which he harshly mows down all but a few of Colonel Jackson’s men with his heavy machine gun. In addition the casting of Django and characters like him are typically more attractive and more handsome contrasting to older actors. This was certainly the case for Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s films as ‘The Man with No Name’.
Thus this new kind of character that stemmed from the grittier, more violent revisionist westerns became intensely popular. For example, the character of Django appears in over 30 additional films since the original appearance due to the sheer amount of filmmakers wanting to replicate the success and iconography of Django. Franco Nero only played the role once more since his original portrayal in the official sequel made in the 80’s. But the general look and iconography of the character remained. However, Django still remains a prominent factor in popular culture even now with many elements of the film being referenced to in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012). In particular it uses the two tracks from the film’s score, the stylized title card and the name of the film’s main protagonist. Franco Nero also appears in a very tongue in cheek cameo, in a kind of passing of the mantle to Jamie Foxx.
Thus Django is a very significant piece of Italian and Western film culture. It stands for the changing of the guard in the genre, and also it begins to show the slowly turning wheels of the evolution of cinema from the neo-classical, towards the new contemporary with it’s emphasis on characters and style over traditional narrative. As an icon I do consider the coffin dragging ex-soldier a part of significant film culture, and for those who haven’t seen Django I would strongly recommend it. That’s it for today, and thanks for stopping by, and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Sams_Reel_Views.