Plot: What’s it about?
I have been following the work of Film Movement ever since they released three Takeshi Kitano films and the cult classic The Quiet Earth on Blu-ray. This is an interesting film label that chooses to release very few films in a year and has a subscription service for fans of the label. While they are very picky in what they release, they make sure that the transfers look fantastic for their releases. I have been pleased with the releases I have purchased from them and when I saw that they had released The Great Silence by Django director Sergio Corbucci, I decided I needed to get a copy of the film. I am so glad that I finally made this purchase, as it is easily one of the best discoveries I made in the last year.
A lone rider (Jean-Louis Trintignant) crosses the frozen plain of Utah with an expansive range of mountains behind him. An ambush awaits him. He draws and shoots four bounty hunters before they can get a bead on him. A fifth offers to surrender. The rider, named Silence, shoots off the man’s thumbs to force him out of the life. Some men from over the hilltop kill the bounty hunter, mistaking him as still having the ability to shoot. The men give a letter to Silence and he rides off. The men are bandits that all have bounties on their heads. They hope that the new governor will pardon them all soon as they only stole to feed their families. In the meantime, they fear that they will die from the cold or of starvation on the outskirts of town. Two of the bandits break off from the camp to turn themselves in to the authorities. They hope to go to jail until their eventual pardon. Upon returning home, one of the men asks his mother if the lawyer has come. Sitting in the room are two bounty hunters – Charlie and Loco (Klaus Kinski.) The bounty hunters kill the young man in front of his mother before he can turn himself in. When another bandit returns home to his wife Pauline (Vonetta McGee,) Loco callously murders the man and tells her to leave his body for him to retrieve it for the reward shortly. Pauline swears revenge and soon enlists the help of Silence to take down the bounty killers. Silence has two defining factors: his mechanical German gun, and his wound to his throat that leaves him mute. He has a strategy of only killing in self defense which keeps him on the right side of the law. Silence will soon face Loco and many others.
Let me start by saying that this is one of the most stunningly beautiful films that I have ever seen. This film is drop-dead gorgeous. The snowy landscapes of this film are some of the greatest ever put to celluloid. To film this movie can not have been an easy task, but it is just plain amazing to watch on the big screen. Very few films venture into this territory, with films like The Hateful Eight, Wind River, and The Revenant coming to mind. I was hypnotized by the sheer rugged beauty of the film. Interestingly, the film juxtaposes the beauty of nature with the harshness and cruelty of the actions of the characters. This film takes no prisoners in its depictions of hard realities. It is violent and bloody and as unsentimental a film as I have seen in a long time. For some, this will be too much and will not leave them a fan of the film. For myself, I was amazed at every turn by the film.
Jean-Louis Trintignant has been one of my favorite actors since I watched the Dino Risi directed film Il Sorpasso. Later that year, I discovered Bertolucci’s The Conformist and it blew me away. He gives an exceptional performance as the mute gunslinger Silence. Klaus Kinski is fantastic as the diabolical capitalistic Loco (or Tigrero in the native Italian language.) Kinski gives a performance that is as menacing as it is laid back. Both actors are effortlessly cool in the film. I would also say that it is one of the best nemesis pairings that Italian cinema could ever dream up. A German versus a Frenchman in a Spaghetti western set in Utah and filmed in the Italian Dolomites. Miraculously it works.
The film benefits from numerous factors. The script itself is tightly written without any fat. The cinematography by Silvano Ippoliti is majestic. Then there is the score by Ennio Morricone. Ennio has been one of my favorite composers for as long as I can remember. When he finally won the Oscar for his score for The Hateful Eight, it brought a tear to my eye. His score here is very strong. It fits the scenery perfectly and ranks amongst some of his finest work.
Overall, don’t miss the opportunity to catch this film. It is one of my favorite discoveries in a long time.
Video: How’s it look?
Film Movement have provided a brand new 1080p HD transfer that was remastered specifically for this release in 2018 using an MPEG-4 AVC encode. The film is presented in an 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The results are pretty extraordinary. The film has some flickering towards the end, some print damage, and at times some heavy grain, but with a film this remarkably beautiful, it is nitpicking to point out the minor flaws. Fans should be overjoyed. It looks beautiful.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The Great Silence has been given a great sounding LPCM 2.0 track. This stereo track features the amazing score by Ennio Morricone. It is safe to say the film has never sounded better. Occasionally I detected some hiss, but this was a pretty minor issue. Great stuff.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Cox on Corbucci – director and author of the book 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director’s Take on the Spaghetti Western, Alex Cox discusses his takeaways from The Great Silence, one of his favorite films.
- Western, Italian Style (1968) – this interesting documentary includes interviews with Sergio Corbucci and Jean-Louis Trintignant during the filming of The Great Silence. This was meant to be a brief overview of the appeal of Spaghetti Westerns and despite being goofy, it has some great material.
- Original Theatrical Trailer – original theatrical trailer for The Great Silence. In Italian, with imposed English subtitles.
- Restoration Trailer – new 2018 theatrical rerelease trailer for The Great Silence. In Italian, with imposed English subtitles.
- Two Alternate Endings – These alternate endings are mandatory viewing. Make sure to watch these both.
- Alternate Ending One – with optional commentary by director/author Alex Cox.
- Alternate Ending Two
- Trailer Gallery – a collection of trailers for the following Film Movement releases.
The Bottom Line
The Great Silence is one of the best Westerns I have ever seen. It’s truly unique and gorgeous to look at. The great score by Ennio Morricone goes great while watching Jean-Louis Trintignant and Klaus Kinski on screen in two great roles. This is one of my favorite films I have watched in the last year. Film Movement have provided a great transfer and two enjoyable supplements. The two alternate endings are required viewing for fans of the film. This one really deserves to be in your collection!