I'm a fair-weather fan of Quentin Tarantino—I only like him when he's good, which is only sporadically. Two movies of his I've liked all the way through, Jackie Brown and Inglorious Basterds. Everything else has good bits and pieces, undone by Tarantino's habits of snorting from other people's movies (without laying claim, ala Mike Meyers), and for his hipster excesses that have remained unabated because he had such acclaim so early and so fast (and some of his zombie supporters, who don't know any better, and some critics, who should, just continue to fan the flames, so he's become an insufferable egomaniac). I mean, I think the man owes me four hours of my life back after suffering through Kill Bill (Vols. I and II) just to have it end with a lecture about Superman. Really?? The truth is the emperor has no clothes
He says he's retiring after his next movie, but I rarely believe Tarantino's self-generated press. I go into his movies hoping for the best, and expecting the worst, and sometimes he delivers both in equal measure.
Django Unchained, for instance. A 70's styled Western full of anachronism and eye-rolling blood-lust, that is so drastically inconsistent, you don't know whether to laugh or be pissed off—I think that's often the reaction Tarantino wants. For some reason, QT won the Oscar for Best Screenplay with this mess (over Tony Kushner's epic Lincoln) in which he creates an extraordinary character (in the form of Dr. King Schultz) only to have him undone by deliberately breaking his own rules.
But there are moments: like this one, early on (before we get to Candieland—no, really) in which Schultz explains to his new partner in bounty-hunting, Django Freeman, freed slave, the story of Brunhilda (or "Broomhilda," as Tarantino writes it in the script—isn't that a comic-strip?*) who bears the name of Django's wife, sold separately at auction as punishment by a past slaver (Bruce Dern).
In this, QT sets up the story and presents it, as if on stage, in a natural proscenium arch in the shape of a mountain, and in the telling of the tale Schultz realizes (maybe a little late) how important it is to his audience. This is a nice little scene, and although Django... is ultimately lousy, this part's great.
The Set-Up: Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) buys a chained slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) to help him locate two criminals called The Brittle Brothers in order to claim the bounty on their heads. The two unlikely allies have settled the score and stopped the pursuit of the local yokels aiming to ambush them. This business finished, the two stop to eat and talk.
ME CUT EXT - PICNIC IN COUNTRY MEADOW - PRETTY DAY
The two men sit on a blanket with a nice picnic spread spread out.
Django eats a cucumber sandwich with the crust cut off, and drinks a cup of tea.
DJANGO How did you know Broomhilda's first masters were German?
Broomhilda is a German name. If they named her,...
it stands to reason they'd be German.
DJANGO Lotsa gals where you from named Broomhilda?
Dr.SCHULTZ No, not so much. Broomhilda is the name of a character in one of the most...
...popular of all the German legends.
DJANGO Really? There's a story 'bout Broomhilda?
Dr.SCHULTZ Yes there is.
DJANGO Do you know it?
Dr.SCHULTZ Every German knows that story.
Dr.SCHULTZ Would you like me to tell you?
Django nods his head, yes.Dr.SCHULTZ Well Broomhilda was a princess.
Dr.SCHULTZ She was the daughter of Wotan...the god of all gods.Anyway, her father is really mad at her.
DJANGO What she do.?
Dr.SCHULTZ I don't exactly remember.**
I think she disobeys him in some way.
He pantomimes a explosion.
DJANGO Broomhilda's on a mountain?
Dr.SCHULTZ It's a German legend, there's always going to be a mountain in there...
...somewhere. So, he puts her on top of the mountain and he puts a fire breathing...
...dragon there to guard the mountain. And. then he surrounds her in circle of hellfire.
And there Broomhilda shall remain...
...unless a hero arises brave enough to save her.
DJANGO Does a fella arise?
From now on as Dr.Schultz talks, he's beginning to realize something he wasn't aware of when the conversation started.
Dr.SCHULTZ Yes Django...
...as a matter he does. A fella named, Sigfried.
DJANGO Does Sigfried save her?
...and quite spectacularly, so.
He scales the mountain, because he's not afraid of it.
(CON'T) He walks through hellfire...
...because Broomhilda's worth. it.
After that last line of dialogue... .the two men just let a moment pass as they nibble on their sandwiches.
DJANGO I know how he feels.
Dr.SCHULTZ I think I'm just starting to realize that.
He pours Django and himself some more tea out of a fancy tea pot, as he thinks about what he's going to say next.
Words by Quentin Tarantino
Pictures by Robert Richardson and Quentin Tarantino
Django Unchained is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay Home Video.
* Yeah, it is. http://www.gocomics.com/broomhilda
** Yeah, and that depends on which version of the story you're telling. In any version Brunhilda is a valkyrie, not a princess. In the Norse version (where it's Odin playing her father), she is punished for not picking Odin's favorite king when charged with deciding who should win a fight. In Wagner's version, which is far afield of the actual German version, Brunhilda spirits away the wife of Wotan's bastard child Siegmund, and hides his sword, after Wotan changes his mind about keeping Siegmund safe (after pressure from the angry cheated-on wife).
Now, Wagner began writing this in 1848, 10 years before the date Django Unchained is set in, but it wasn't performed until 1876, 18 years after the time of the movie. Schultz couldn't have known this version. But, like dynamite (patented in 1867) and sunglasses (20th century), Tarantino can't be bothered by too much research if he's seen it done in other movies.