Battling Slavery: Fantasy and Actuality in Django Unchained and Lincoln

Django Unchained

If Quentin Tarantino had directed Lincoln, the film would have most likely ended with all the no voters in the House of Representatives being gunned down by Private Harold Green and Corporal Ira Clark, who appear at the beginning of the film. And this ending would have felt satisfying, if historically inaccurate.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained have much in common in terms of topic and setting. Yet they are poles apart in terms of style and tone. In the UK, the films have been released a week apart, in the all important awards season. Perhaps less of a coincidence but more significantly, the release of these two films sandwich President Obama’s inauguration. Although these movies have no overt link to the second term of America’s first mixed-race president, it nevertheless seems like the fruition of events that transpire in the two narratives.

In contrasting Django Unchained with Lincoln, it can be argued that Tarantino’s film represents the fantasy of the abolishment of slavery whilst  Spielberg’s picture represents the actuality. Although it would be impossible to ascertain just how accurate Lincoln is as a study of a long-dead figure, the vote to pass the thirteenth amendment in 1865 is more difficult to dispute. Django Unchained meanwhile deals in pure fiction, however entertaining this may be.


Ultimately, Django Unchained version of overcoming slavery feels more gratifying than Lincoln’s, than the actuality of events. The story of a black former slave who enacts revenge against the barbaric slave owners engenders more passion than the privileged politician seeking to right a wide-scale wrong. Django Unchained offers a catharsis; the kind of revenge that is only appropriate in a film as outlandish as Tarantino’s.

Quentin Tarantino offers us viewers a protagonist that we can get behind. It is not necessary to be able to relate to the race of Django; fighting back against slavery and injustice is something for all to admire. Rather it is Django’s position as an underdog that empowers the character in a way that Abraham Lincoln lacks. As the victim of prejudice and mistreatment, Django is a character we want to overcome the odds.

In Lincoln, the president’s connection with the issue of slavery is markedly different. His encounters with black people are limited to a conversation with soldiers at the beginning of the film and the presence of his butler (born a free man) and his wife’s maid Elizabeth Keckley. It is the personal relationship with the issue that is missing, in spite of Lincoln’s admirable intentions. Django meanwhile is something of a trailblazer, bucking the conventions of the time and aided by his white friend Dr Schultz. Whilst it is true that Django’s aim is not to end slavery (his vendetta is a personal one), in killing merciless slave owners he does free at least some of the enslaved.

Django Unchained

Lincoln uses his position as the most powerful individual in the white male political class to exact change. His crusade is a pivotal and historically one. There is something more satisfying, however, about a former slave eliminating those who trade in human life. Django is the protagonist we want to cheer along to his goal.

Lincoln and Django Unchained depict an era that seems as alien as it is unpalatable. A glance at this week’s events in Washington DC indicates how much things have changed since then. It was Lincoln who facilitated this change back in 1865. But how much more fun would it be if it had been Django?

Django Unchained is in cinemas now. Lincoln is released in UK cinemas on 25th January 2013.

Film Review: Django Unchained

Django UnchainedQuentin Tarantino does revenge motifs well, and Django Unchained is no exception. Tarantino’s spaghetti western is immense fun.

Former dentist Dr Schultz buys the freedom of a slave, Django, in order to help him complete a mission. As Django can identify the men Schultz is after, the former dentist trains him in the art of bounty hunting. Django meanwhile is determined to be reunited with his wife…

Like many westerns, the theme at the heart of Django Unchained is revenge. This is fulfilled by both the overarching narrative and the occupation of bounty hunter. The plot is uncomplicated, eschewing numerous strands to concentrate on character motivation and action set pieces.

Django Unchained is a fantasy of the oppressed. It is one that most can engage with. It will be difficult to find viewers who cannot get behind the protagonist. Slavery is universally abhorred, so the idea of a slave getting revenge on those that mistreat others was bound to be a winner.

The violence in Tarantino’s film is frequent and often over the top. Some of the brutality is difficult to stomach, but represents the seriousness of the issue, despite the film’s novelty wrapping. The outlandishness of the shoot outs bring the fun back in a wholly cathartic manner.

The music used in Django Unchained really sets the tone. There are several stylistic devices that mark it out as an unmistakable product of Quentin Tarantino. Dialogue is often quotable. Much has been made of the film’s use of racially charged language. Nevertheless, it appears entirely in keeping given the setting.

Jamie Foxx plays the title character straight, allowing the supporting cast to excel in terms of amusement or outlandishness. Christoph Waltz is excellent as Dr Schultz, while Samuel L. Jackson delivers a star turn as Stephen. Leonardo DiCaprio makes a memorable foe as Calvin Candie.

Django Unchained is a very enjoyable film. Tarantino has produced a striking addition to the genre.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of stuff this week; a new Oz The Great and Powerful poster, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters trailer, something from Stoker and more…

Trouble With the Curve

Starring Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, Trouble With the Curve is a drama about a baseball scout. After Clint Eastwood films received a mixed reception at best, it will be a relief to some that he is not directing this one. Trouble With the Curve is out in cinemas on 30th November 2012.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel and Gretel was always a disturbing fairy tale, so it is really no surprise that the filmmakers have chosen to go down the violent fantasy route with this cinematic adaptation. Starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters looks like a lot of fun. The film is released in the UK on 15th March 2013.

Oz The Great and Powerful

This week the first poster for Oz The Great and Powerful was released. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Disney’s last foray into Oz territory was the cult classic Return to Oz, so it will be interesting to see what this new film brings. Oz The Great and Powerful is due for release in March 2013.


This is not a trailer for Stoker, but a video that depicts the creation of the poster, along with clips from the film. I’m not entirely sure what Stoker is, but I am interested to find out more. Starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska, Stoker will be released on 1st March 2013.

A Good Day to Die Hard

John McClane is back for another adventure in A Good Day to Die Hard. The last instalment did not quite match the much-loved earlier trilogy, so it will be interesting to see how this one does. Bruce Willis returns as McClane on 14th February 2013.

Django Unchained

Above is the latest trailer for Django Unchained. The trailer has director Quentin Tarantino’s stamp all over it. Starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained is released in UK cinemas on 18th January 2013.

Trailer Round-Up

Trailers this week come in the form of Wreck-It Ralph, Django Unchained and The Great Gatsby. Additionally, I have included a music video from Rock of Ages, just because.

Wreck-It Ralph

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph appears to be Toy Story but for video games. The tropes of that hugely successfully franchise are apparent in the first trailer for Wreck-It Ralph, directed by Rich Moore. The film looks like it will satisfy a family audience, whilst also referencing video games heavily. Wreck-It Ralph is due for release in February 2013.

Django Unchained

The trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Django Unchained, was released this week. Tarantino has jumped from Nazis to slave owners, with Jamie Foxx playing a slave seeking vengeance and searching for his wife. Leonardo DiCaprio also stars in the film, alongside Tarantino-collaborator Christoph Waltz. Django Unchained will be released in the UK on 18 January 2013.

The Great Gatsby

 This trailer has been knocking about for a while, but I thought I would post it to make a Leonardo DiCaprio double bill. Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was never going to be traditional. The novel has many avid fans, and if they can take it as a reinterpretation of Fitzgerald’s classic rather than a straightforward adaptation, then it looks like a lot of fun. The Great Gatsby is due for release in 3D on 26th December 2012.

Rock of Ages

The film version of musical Rock of Ages is out on 13th June 2012. I am seeing it today, and I cannot wait. To get everyone in the mood for the film (well me at least), I thought I would post a music video from Rock of Ages, a cover of the Journey classic ‘Any Way You Want It’. Enjoy!