Of sound mind: The Good, The Bad and the Django


[Community member Nathsies looks ahead to Tarantino’s Django Unchained, taking a look at its script and how its sound and music may help to define it. Want to see your work here? Check out this month’s topic and write your own! — Kauza]

A few days ago my Screenjabber editor guy and I were talking about Tarantino. He worked on the set of Basterds so it was interesting hearing some commentary on what the guy is actually like behind closed doors. It was then that my editor guy sent me the script to Django Unchained, the new Tarantino movie, to which I promptly scanned for viruses (in case he got virused up too) and then got the all clear. We both poured over it with me finishing it first and us both talking about it the day after. 

In both our words, it’s a masterpiece. 

It’s odd to see how Tarantino constantly manages to re-invent himself and insert his own little paradise into practically any genre and setting. It’s odder still to imagine (pitch-perfect in fact) some of the casting around the film. The role that Waltz has been long rumoured for is in many ways the reverse Hans Landa and with Hans Landa being one of the greatest villains in recent memory it’s kind of all the more weird that the role is that of the heroic kind. 

From beginning to end it’s beautifully written, paced and often so intense that you end up skipping sentences just to get to the good stuff. Tarantino is one of the most terribly brilliant writers of our modern times, Nolan is my favourite modern director but he ain’t no writer-guy, Tarantino however has a true grasp on the power of language. The familiar ‘n word’ is dotted throughout the script as much as ‘I’ or ‘we’ in any other text, but it’s not for the sake of the ‘n word’ but for the sake of slowly normalizing the audience into the film’s world. It’s a brutal and often harrowing tale of slavery, redemption and triumph. 

It’s original in every sense of the word, I’ve never seen a Western that fits so perfectly as both a slavery story and as a story of your age-old Westerner. 

It’s here then I started to wonder about the sounds behind the film. Given the genre of the script and, after reading a few pages, the general rhythm of the story beats I was firmly set on perhaps playing some music in the background. Text only gets you so far and I’ve only read two scripts before this (Basterds, Kubrick’s Napoleon) so I’m slowly getting something in my head that I’ll talk about later. 

I of course decided to play Ennio Morricone’s audio-iconic masterpiece that is The Good, The Bad & The Ugly soundtrack. 

It’s possibly the greatest film track in all of existence. It’s not empty like 2001, it’s not this elongated pause of electronica from Blade Runner but something else. Both of those soundtracks fit the purpose of the genre and story, an empty thoughtful film that didn’t need huge notes and giant string instruments to make it sound good. I will say the end theme to Blade Runner is one of the finest tracks in all of existence, but nothing compares to Morricone’s OST. 

There’s so much weight here, so much audiophiliac nightmares and dreams and memories that just ooze out of the beats and the tones and the rhythm and the screams and the direction and the whistles and the hands of the musicians. It’s like shaking hands with God and closing your eyes and blocking out your senses, just hearing the rattle of bones and flesh together. That is what a true Western film is; shaking hands with God. 

A true Western is one that paces itself within the nature of an olden, dead time. This is the time when men destroyed each other in showdowns, saloons ran dry, Sheriffs were shot at noon and Deputy’s were left shotless. That was a Bob Marely thing there, deal with it. This is the time of, above anything else, atmosphere. It’s of cowboy boots and lassos and of gunslingers. It’s of cowboys, Sheriffs and scroungers. The good, the bad and the ugly. 

Tarantino’s Django Unchained‘s lifeblood is atmosphere and I feel it’s captured inside Morricone’s ecstatic soundtrack of Serigo Leone’s timeless Western classic. For the first time in my life I realise something I haven’t before, it’s of what a film is without a visual note or a soundtrack or without a heart of character. Quite often us human beings take things for granted, we have taken each other for granted in the past, thought ourselves of possessing dominion over slaves. 

It’s when you strip away these elements that you realize just how important absolutely everything is. From the characters to the soundtrack to the visual Jedi mind-tricks, this is what makes a masterpiece. It’s what made2001, it’s what made Blade Runner and it’s what will make Django Unchained. Films don’t always need a soundtrack and some of them don’t deserve one, but when one is used in all of its comforts, then it adds more flavour than most of us care to notice. 

It makes it all the more better when you read up on the fact it’s also been long rumoured that Morricone will score Django