Monday, 5 October 2015

Film review - Django Unchained - The hero's journey

Django Unchained, the hero's journey

Figure 1 - Django Unchained poster

Django Unchained is a movie written and directed by Quentin Tarantino in 2012. Since the movie is directed by Quentin Tarantino, it has a few over the top blood violence scenes you would expect to see in a Tarantino movie. To sum up the story of Django Unchained it is about a slave that is bought by a bounty hunter, who is after a group of murders and thieves. After helping the bounty hunter, Django tells the bounty hunter about his wife and joins the bounty hunter on other bounties to earn money to save his wife.

Within hero films there is a concept that runs along side most of them, this concept has been around for ages and was  written about by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), this concept is the idea that any hero movie or story tale involve certain points that makes it a hero tale. With these points, they don't have to be set in the exact order that Joseph Campbell wrote about, but most of the points will be involved in the story. Of course these points are up to interpretation within different films and to different people.

This review contains spoilers from this point onwards.

At the beginning of the movie Django is a slave and is walking through the woods with other slaves and their traders. A man called Dr. King Schultz approaches the slave traders and ask if they have a slave from a certain plantation, which happens to be Django. After Dr. King Schultz finds out Django is who he is looking for, he offers to buy him. Things go south and the Dr. has too shoot and kill one of the brothers (the slave traders) and then shoots the other brothers horse. This is the start of the hero journey and is called the call to adventure. The next point is called the refusal of call. This is normally where the hero either does not want to go on the adventure, or is stopped from going on it. In Django I believe that this point does not really apply as Django never really seems to not want to go with the Dr. The only time this could really come in to play is when Dr. Schultz kills the sheriff. The Dr. in this scene says something to Django which means he is stuck with having to help the him. "On one hand, I despise slavery. On the other hand, I need your help. If you're not in a position to refuse, all the better. So, for the time being, I'm gonna make this slavery malarkey work to my benefit.". So this "refusal of call" in my option is more taken away of Django's story as during the time period it is set in a slave had to do what his owner said. Django's "supernatural aid" (also known as a mentor) is Dr Schultz, from the beginning Django seems to look up to Dr Schultz and the more the story goes on the more Django looks up to him.

Figure 2 - Django and Dr Schultz

Once the call to adventure, refusal of call and supernatural aid have been established this normally finishes of the first act (which is normally the first 15 minutes of the film) the next point of the hero's journey is crossing the first threshold, which in Django Unchained is when Django shoots John Brittle on the plantation. This is possibly the first time Django has killed anyone that the audience knows of, he does it because he can get away with doing it as John Brittle is a wanted bounty and previously the Brittle brothers lashed Django and branded his wife. After Django and the Dr shoot and kill the Brittle brothers, the plantation owner meets the two of them with weapons and ask why they killed the three brothers. After explaining why they killed them and that they are bounty hunters, the plantation owner lets them go. Later on, the plantation owner gets a mob together to go after the Dr and Django. This is when the "belly of the whale" point comes in play. This is where the hero is put in a situation where there is danger around. The mob attract the Dr's cart but luckily the Dr was prepared for this situation and fight back from a distance. This is also the road of trials come in to play as this is when Django starts to help the Dr on his bounty's.

Figure 3 - Shooting practice

Normally the next point is meeting the goddess, but in Django's case meeting the goddess has already  happened as the "goddess" is his wife who has been snatched away from him. This is one of the main reasons Django decides to go on this adventure. Now normally the next point with in the hero's journey is temptation, this is where someone or something tries to tempt the hero from his journey, but in Django Unchained there does not really seem like there is any temptations for Django. At this point Django and the Dr have met Mr Candy, who has Django's wife. Knowing this Django and the Dr come up with a plain to buy a Mandingo and a slave girl who speaks German (Django's wife).While heading to Candyland, the convoy come across a slave that has ran away as he does not want to fight in Mandingo matches for Mr Candy any more. Mr Candy does not like this and tells his workers to let the dogs tear him apart. Dr Schultz offers to buy the slave but to make sure that the Dr does not blow there cover Django says to Mr Candy that they will not buy the slave as he's useless and that he can kill the slave. This scene seem to be the atonement with the father point of the hero's journey. As Django stands up to Mr Candy and says no to him and with Mr Candy owning Django's wife he holds the ultimate power in his life which means saying no means he could have lost his wife.

After Django and the Dr. get to Candyland, Mr Candy is told by one of his slaves that Broomhilda is Django's wife and that they are really there for her rather then a Mandingo. Knowing that the Dr. and Django are there for Broomhilda, Mr Candy uses this new information to get the Dr. to buy Broomhilda for the price he was going to pay for the Mandingo. This is where Django believes he has got his wife back, which is the ultimate boon in the heroes journey where the hero gets what he started out on the journey for. this then leads to the Dr. shooting Mr Candy in the heart and in turn getting shot himself. Which brings the next point of the heroes journey apotheosis. This is where someone dies a physical death which sort of immortalises the Dr. in Django's eyes. After the Dr. and Mr Candy are killed Mr Candy's staff start shooting at Django, Django returns fire until one of the staff gets hold of Broomhilda and gets Django to give up. This is the magic flight part of the hero's journey, this is where the hero has to try and escape with the ultimate boon. Of course with Django's wife being caught he gives up to save his wife but he gets punished and sent away to a mine to work. On the way to the mine Django talks to the slavers who are taking him, he uses a bounty poster that the Dr. told him to keep after killing his first bounty to convince the slavers that he is not a slave but a bounty hunter. The slavers ask the other slaves they got from Candyland if Django's story matches up and it does so they go to release him. After letting Django go he turns around and kills the slavers. This is the rescue from without part of the hero's journey which is where something or someone help the hero at a point to be able to cross the return threshold which in Django's case is his bounty poster.

Figure 4 - Django's wife Broomhila, Mr Candy and Stephen.

The last three points of the hero's journey: crossing the return threshold, master of two worlds and freedom to live all happen in one scene at the end. Crossing the return threshold for Django is once he gets back to Candyland and starts to kill the people that have wronged him throughout his journey. The master of two worlds is where the hero is both a master in his normal world and his hero state, for Django this is being both a bounty hunter and slave. The freedom to live is straight forward, it is when the hero comes out of the hero and is free from his adventure, for Django this is when he blows up the main house on the Candyland plantation and rides off with his wife. 

Figure 1 - Django Unchained poster

Figure 2 - Django and Dr Schultz

Figure 3 - Shooting practice

Figure 4 - Django's wife Broomhila, Mr Candy and Stephen

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