Things got pretty awkward during "Django Unchained" director Quentin Tarantino's recent chat with NPR when the subject of the movie's brutality and tough historical subject matter animus came up once and again (and again and again).
Interviewer Terry Gross, of "Fresh Air", pressed Tarantino about his choice to use "two just abhorrent chapters of history" for cinematic backdrops — "Django" and his 2009 Nazi adventure drama "Inglourious Basterds" — along with inquiries about where his line for cinematic violence would be drawn to avoid hitting a "point of revulsion."
Let's just say her opinions on the movie weren't exactly subtle.
Tarantino explained his choice to write the flicks as, simply, "I actually thought they would be good movies."
"I like the idea of telling these stories and taking stories that oftentimes if played out in the way that they're normally played out just end up becoming soul-deadening because you're just watching victimization all the time," he said, adding that with his big adventure-esque interpretation, "you get a chance to put a spin on it, and actually take a slave character, give a heroic journey, make him give his payback and actually show this journey and give it the sort of folkloric tale that it deserves, grand opera stage it deserves."
With regard to the film's violent fight scenes, Tarantino broke it down into two categories - the violence of slavery and the "fun," "cool" and "enjoyable" brand of violence in revenge.
"Frankly, what happened during slavery times is a thousand times worse than what I show. So, if I was to show a thousand times worse to me that wouldn't be exploitative - that would just be how it is," he declared in response to the suggestion that his brand of on-screen violence might broach immorality. "I wasn't trying to do a 'Schindler's List' you are there under the barbed wire of Auschwitz kind of movie. I wanted the film to be more entertaining than that. Like I said, I wanted it to be an exciting adventure movie."
Tarantino did admit that earlier cuts of the movie brought out an undesired reaction from early audiences who have a lower "tolerance for viscera" than himself, but he stuck to his guns about the final cut's good, bad and ugly because it left audiences cheering for his protagonist's moment of dishing out comeuppance.
As for what's too far for him, he said, "The only thing that I've ever watched in a movie that I wished I'd never seen is real-life animal death or real-life insect death in a movie. That's absolutely, positively where I draw the line ... Movies are about make-believe ... I don't think there's any place in a movie for real death."
So, now you know.
For what it's worth, Gross wasn't the only one who came off a little curt during the talk. Tarantino himself got a little short when the subject of pronouncing "Django" came up. "I thought everyone would know how to say the name 'Django.' Even if it wasn't from the spaghetti westerns, at least from Django Reinhardt you would know how to say it ... Frankly, I considered it an intelligence test. If you say D-jango you're definitely going down in my book." Well, shoot.