Tarantino 'Unchained,' Part 2: On the N-Word
In the second of a Q&A series, he talks critics and Django's depiction of slavery with Henry Louis Gates Jr.
But there is this section [in the film]. And the deeper you get in Mississippi, the more you get into it. And you have to really see the pain. And to me it was really illustrated by the Mandingo fight [in which two slaves fight to the death], and the dog scene, and I even had another scene in the script that kind of was my Schindler's List scene, where once they actually get to Candieland and the Mandingo fighters that they bought are lined up and Billy Crash [Walton Goggins] kills a couple of them just to inspire the other ones.
And Candie even had a line. He goes, "You know, we only keep about three fighters of every five we buy, but those three fighters tend to be very lucky." That sequence in particular really played like a Holocaust movie. Ultimately I didn't need it ... The dog scene and the Mandingo fight scene did it.
HLG: And putting Broomhilda in the hotbox [a punishment for runaway slaves], which is a horrible scene.
QT: Especially because whenever you've seen her [before that scene], you've only seen her in flashbacks or you've only seen her as a figment of Django's imagination. So the first time you meet her in the here and now, s--t's even worse than you thought. Her situation is even worse than you thought.
So what you're talking about, the way your class and people in general have so put slavery at an arm's distance that ... just the information is enough for them -- it's just intellectual. They just want to keep it intellectual. These are the facts, and that's it. And I don't even stare at the facts that much.
HLG: Why do you think we've had to distance ourselves from the pain as we have -- which makes your representation shocking?
QT: I don't know the answer to that question because I don't feel that way. I can't understand why anybody would feel that way. I think America is one of the only countries that has not been forced, sometimes by the rest of the world, to look their own past sins completely in the face. And it's only by looking them in the face that you can possibly work past them. And it's not a case where the Turks don't want to acknowledge the Armenian holocaust, but the Armenians do. Nobody wants to acknowledge it here.
HLG: Well, however you want to depict the horrors of slavery, slavery itself was 10,000 times worse.
QT: That almost became our slogan. It's like, look, the stuff that we show is really harsh, and it's supposed to be harsh, but it was [actually] a lot worse.
Previously: Tarantino 'Unchained,' Part 1: 'Django' Trilogy?
Coming up in part 3: Tarantino explains Django's character arc and why his film isn't your typical "white savior" story.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Root.