Django Reinhardt was one of the most brilliant pioneers of European jazz and the father of Gypsy Swing. "Django" grippingly portrays one chapter in the musician's eventful life and is a poignant tale of survival. Constant danger, flight and the atrocities committed against his family could not make him stop playing.Written by
For a movie it means something to open the Berlinale 2017, and to be part of the Competition for the Golden Bear too. So I was expecting much but received much less
This movie was shown at the festive opening of the Berlinale 2017, a gathering that attracts lots of important guests from all over the world, as well as sponsors and local politicians who want to be included and photographed. As usual, the general public is left uninvited (I digress, this being a different matter altogether). I had to go to a repeat screening the day after. Because this movie was also selected for the Competition for the prestigious Golden Bear, in addition to being chosen for the opening, all this gives rise to expectations. It brings you in the mood for something novel or original or discovering new grounds. Alas, neither of this was the case.
Though the central plot of this film is my favorite theme "how will I act in similar circumstances?", nothing that I saw here could involve me, nor did it show something that I consider thought provoking. I had even trouble staying awake (may have other reasons). It was nice to watch how they have reconstructed the buildings and dresses of the WWII time, but that is something that belongs to the trade of a costume drama or historical documentary, and these two genres mostly fail to attract me (I know of a few exceptions, however). Remains an intriguing plot or interesting dramatic developments, but my hopes disappeared little by little and none of these promises became fulfilled.
It looks like the main protagonist Django stretches his luck much farther than anyone should be trusted to do. Maybe because his music moves hearts and conquers even the strongest opponents, Django's usual experience is that everyone falls for it, giving him the last word, that is until now. His refusal to cooperate with the Germans is a daring act, but I think he did it for artistic reasons and nothing else (the Germans had a list of musical genres and especially rhythms he was not allowed). I doubt there were fundamental principles involved, nor had he thought of the consequences for others in his environment, like his family, his colleagues and his fellow-gypsies. This film lets us see how irresponsible that was, and what a powerful enemy like the German army can do in order to get what they want. On the other hand, the Germans were not shown as pushy either, since they could have brought in several other means of persuasion. Due to all of the above, all main protagonists felt like cardboard characters, unclear what makes them do what they do.
Finally, on a more positive note: In a final scene we saw and heard the presentation of a musical piece, one for which we saw that he had sketchy ideas years earlier. It was May 1945 so after WWII, a piece for choir, organ and orchestra as per his original sketches. We saw it being directed (very loosely) by Django himself (so Django survived; is that a spoiler?). It was a sort of Requiem, but I don't remember the details. It sounded impressive, as church music sometimes does, and the fragment we heard was much longer than just a few measures. I like this sort of music better than the "jazzy" notes we heard in abundance in the earlier scenes, but I wonder whether the average viewer can stand this "classical" sort of music, and especially the organ for which most people have nasty memories, and they spontaneously dislike the instrument because of it.
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