Tarantino takes some cues from Richard Wagner | Music | DW | 25.01.2013
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Tarantino takes some cues from Richard Wagner

What does "The Ring of the Nibelung" have to do with Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti western "Django Unchained?" In the anniversary year of 2013, Wagner is everywhere - even in Tarantino's latest film.

In a sense, Richard Wagner's music was made for the big screen. And films like "Apocalypse Now" by Francis Ford Coppola or Lars von Triers' "Melancholia" prove it - letting Wagner's music unfold with its full emotional force. Admittedly, the German cmoposer's work doesn't always have such a prominent place in films.

But when it comes to American cult hero Quentin Tarantino, it seems as though Wagner managed to sneak into the director's head unbeknownst and have some fun. Without even suspecting it, the director wrote the screenplay for his new and already prize-winning film "Django Unchained" with a number of similarities to Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle. It was Tarantino's friend and actor Christoph Waltz that pointed the parallels out to the director. Waltz's love of opera is well-known, and the actor immediately thought of the central motifs in "Djano Unchained" - money and revenge - in light of the Nibelung saga.

So Tarantino made his way to an opera in Los Angeles, letting the music speak for itself. The "Pulp Fiction" director took in a performance of "The Rhine Gold." And though it's just one part of the "Ring" cycle, it left its mark. The wife of Tarantino's film hero Django is named Broomhilda and can even speak some German. Viewers learn that her foreign language skills are thanks to having worked as a slave for German farmers in the American South. In order to save her, Django - one might call him her Siegfried - goes through the fire and starts a bloody revenge campaign.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candle in Django Unchained, directed by Quentin Tarantino (Photo:The Weinstein Company, Andrew Cooper, SMPSP, File/AP/dapd)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candle in "Django Unchained"

Quentin Tarantino's film, as Christoph Waltz said in a recent interview, is "definitely to be understood as a Gesamtkunstwerk - a total work of art - perhaps of the post-modern sort." And that's why the American film director might just be suited to stage a production in Bayreuth, the mecca of Wagner's musical dramas, Waltz said. It's a nice idea, in a way - letting the director create images to go along with Wagner's music. But how would the Wagner sisters now running the festival react to it? That, too, might turn bloody.

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