Some Ramblings - Django Unchained (2012)
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Is revenge the best reparations for historical injustices? During the 90s, there was a constant drumbeat, in the civilian and political circles of US society, that slavery somehow had to be avenged and accounted for, even if in monetary terms. That the argument's tone and tenor rose with the simultaneous rise of the (conservative) evangelicism in heartland America, which pined for days before the racial integration, was no accident. The civil rights leaders who marched along side the Reverend threw their hats in the ring and put an actual (not notional, not nominal, but an actual figure) value to how much compensation the black community of today had to awarded for the litany of terrible deeds meted out to their ancestors. And the number ran in to a ridiculous number of zeros. But that wasn't the hard part. The important question became one of identifying the individual or organization who/which was going to be held responsible to settle bill and the matter once and for all. Or should the amount be divvied up among the surviving progeny of the long dead slave owners? Just to rile up the conservatives even more, even the government was dragged into the mix, holding it responsible for slavery for lacking a law to tackle issue, because after all, government was and has been nothing but the will of the people ever since the country took its first breath of free air, and if government erred that meant its constituents erred too. So how soon was the Treasury going to make out the check for the untold hundreds of billions of dollars to put the matter to rest once and for all, as that would automatically normalize the simmering tensions in the race relations in the country? Well, if not for a check, at least apologize for it, compromised one said. Nothing doing, past is past, done is done, claimed the opposition. ('I would never apologize for America' - Bush Sr.'s words, in a different context). So that's where the issue is presently stuck, between an award and an apology. And the American society continues to walk on egg shells, when it comes to the matters of race, almost feeling sorry, but not quite…

Should historical blunders be properly redressed or merely regarded? Tarantino begs to differ on both counts on account that neither do enough going all the way. Since what was done cannot be undone, any amount of remorse or any kind of recourse is unlikely to completely wipe out the dark blots on history. His solution? Drown it in red, deep red, blood red, squirting red. The final color might be something else, but would not definitely remain the same glaring dark. And the way to do it is reimagining a parallel universe where Hitler is riddled with bullets at the hands of a Jew, a cunning plantation owner is outwitted by, of all people, a German with an Austrian accent, and an erstwhile slave freshly minted as a cowboy. The horrors of reality can only be upstaged by overworked imaginations of fantasies. There are no requests for apologies here, nor begging for reparations. Empowerment is achieved solely by artistic flourishes, and if that means bashing the brains of a captured yet unrepentant SS officer with the business end of a baseball bat by a Juden, menacingly referred to as 'Bear Jew', well, that's the price to pay. The inequities of history cannot be handled by the accurate portrayals of that period alone, A little bit of 'good ole ultra-violence' is sometimes in order, if not for setting the equations right, but at least to please and placate the burning hearts, raging minds and tortured souls of the aggrieved.

'Django Unchained' has all the right ingredients that is expected of a typical Tarantino historical-rewrite-genre-clubbing-revenge-fantasy fare (which is soon becoming a genre of its own) - loquacious colorful characters set in a grim milieu where brutality lurks arounds the bends of lengthy monologues, all against a background that is apt and ripe for some avenging. Yet, the final act of the movie moves way too far and way too quick taking its fantasy chip on the shoulder much too literally almost earning the dreaded "too convenient" tag in the process. There could probably be no right way to end a burning issue like slavery with the usual dismembering of the villains and riding away into the sunset, as it was possible in 'Inglorious Basterds' where killing Hitler would had put to end The Final Solution right away. And add to that, working in the Goebells' propaganda piece into it and plotting the revenge element around it felt very organic, as it turned the movie from being a mere fool's fantasy into something that was quite plausible and probably would had even been looked into as a potential plot to kill Hitler. However no such luck with Django, as no amount of skillful negotiations or violent conclusions would have been a fitting end to a problem that lasted well over a century after the country was formed, and whose after shocks are still felt in the present society. But the good thing is, there still 2/3rds of the movie left to be admired at for the craft, and to be entertained from by its audacity. With the rest of history itching to be retold from Tarantino's perspective, starting with the original sin (not be confused with the biblical Original Sin), the crucifixion of Christ, Django Unchained can be regarded as an act of sharpening of the blades, before he launches himself into a full scale slaying mode.




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