The Great Silence (Grande silenzio, Il) (1968)

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Released 30-Jun-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Alternate Ending
Theatrical Trailer
Web Links
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 101:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sergio Corbucci
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant
Klaus Kinski
Frank Wolff
Luigi Pistilli
Vonetta McGee
Mario Brega
Carlo D'Angelo
Marisa Merlini
Maria Mizar
Marisa Sally
Raf Baldassarre
Spartaco Conversi
Remo De Angelis
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Ennio Morricone


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.59:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    If you are familiar with Spaghetti Westerns you would know of Sergio Leone and his work with Clint Eastwood during the mid-1960s. It's hard to imagine now that once upon a time Clint Eastwood was a television actor, in his mid-thirties, who decided to go to Europe to work with Leone on A Fistful of Dollars so he could secure a lead role and a break in Hollywood films. Up until that time Eastwood was known only as a television actor on the series Rawhide. So what does Leone's work with Eastwood have to do with the film The Great Silence? Well, if you are familiar with the films A Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and Once Upon A Time In The West then you can see the references that director Sergio Corbucci makes in The Great Silence to those films.

    Sergio Corbucci was a friend of Sergio Leone and contemporary Italian director of Spaghetti Western films. Just as one can see the films of John Ford in The Good , The Bad And The Ugly and Once Upon A Time In The West, one can see familiar Leone motifs in Corbucci's work. These include dust coats, extreme close-ups of actors' faces, a blurring of characterisation between the protagonists and antagonists in the film (i.e. The good guys do bad things and the bad guys do good things), a prolonged sequence before action scenes, quick, fast-paced editing during the action scenes and lead characters who are mysterious and non-communicative. (In The Great Silence this feature is really emphasised because the main protagonist is called "Silence" and is mute.)

    However, there are significant themes that makes The Great Silence distinctive. Firstly, it is set during the great blizzard of late 1898, early 1899 when the southern states of the USA experienced a record cold snap. Some areas still have record low temperatures from that era. The only other western I can recall that is similar to this is Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs Miller. Secondly, it is revisionist western. This means that the film has a protagonist who is an anti-hero. One sees this in Leone's The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and soon Hollywood would adopt this style as can be seen in films such as The Wild Bunch, Little Big Man and the aforementioned McCabe and Mrs Miller. Thirdly, The Great Silence can be seen to be a forerunner to what film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum labelled as a sub-genre to the revisionist western, the acid western. These westerns are revisionist, contain realististic violence as was standard for spaghetti westerns, and have a counter-culture theme. Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man best represents this genre, Johnny Depp's character, William Blake, travels west not to ultimately experience liberation, but rather death. Sergio Corbucci was a noted communist and The Great Silence can be viewed in a larger context as a metaphor for the failed social revolutions of the late 1960s in places such as France and the USA.

    Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Silence, a mute who cannot talk due to his throat being cut by bounty hunters when he witnessed the death of his parents as a boy. This is similar to the character of Harmonica in Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West who has similar motivations to chase down the villain Frank who murders Harmonica's brother as a boy. At the beginning of the film Silence guns down five bounty hunters. Similarly, Harmonica guns down three of Frank's men at the beginning of Once Upon A Time In The West. It has been often stated (through various references) that Jean-Louis Trintignant only agreed to do the film if he didn't have to learn lines. I will go out on a limb here and hypothesise that this was not the case, the reason that Silence is mute in the film is because Corbucci wanted to symbolise revolution only been possible through action, not words. Trintignant was a great casting choice for this film as he had just completed some great work in Lelouch's A Man and a Woman, Rohmer's My Night At Maud's and in 1969 would star in Bertolucci's The Conformist and Gavras' Z. Klaus Kinski plays the main bounty hunter, Loco (or Tigrero on the original Italian soundtrack) who is hell-bent on collecting outlaws for reward, whether they are genuine or simply outcast Mormons who are starving and forced to take food to survive in the extreme cold. He is chillingly brutal throughout the film, but in a cold and calculating way. Kinski would go on to do famous roles for Werner Herzog in the 1970s. He was known as an intense, intemperate man who was borderline crazy, the role of Loco really suited him.

    Another important theme of the film is the clash between the values of the Old West and the New West of the early 20th Century. This is mentioned in dialogue in the film by the Governor of the region who is keen to grant an amnesty to outlaws as soon as practically possible. The delay in the amnesty explains why the bounty hunters are so desperate to collect their bounties. Again, Once Upon A Time In The West has a similar premise where characters in the film represent the conflicting values of the Old West with the New West era of the early 1900s.

    The Great Silence is a masterpiece of the Spaghetti Western genre. This is Corbucci's greatest work, alongside his other famous Spaghetti Western, Django. The symbolism of injured hands is evident in Django also, this represents Corbucci's view that revolution is not possible via the actions of one man. One should view Django and read fellow MichaelD reviewer Daniel B's review of that film prior to watching this film (as I did) as it will 'acclimatise' you with Sergio Corbucci's style.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer for The Great Silence is exceptional for a film of it's age, there are very few artefacts.

    The aspect ratio of the film is 1:59:1 widescreen. This contrasts with the the theatrical ratio of 1:66:1. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

    The film is quite sharp for a film of it's era. The film is 101 minutes long and is presented on a single layer dvd so there is a little grain evident during the night scenes at the end of the movie.

    The film was shot in Eastmancolor, so colours are not brilliantly bright as in Technicolor films, yet it is not dull either.

    There are two or three instances of slight telecine wobble. Film Artefacts occur at 10:40, 28:34 and 75:13. The film was deliberately overexposed at around the 87 minute mark. This was deliberate creative decision to hide the shaving foam at night and avoid continuity errors as the snow wasn't on the ground during those scenes.

    There is one subtitle track in English. This conforms with the main Italian soundtrack, the dubbed English soundtrack has different dialogue to the subtitling.

    There is no RSDL change as the film is presented on a single layer DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The Great Silence has two main soundtracks, Italian and English. Like other Italian films of the era, audio was post-synchronised and not recorded live.

    Both audio tracks are Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks encoded at 192 kbps.

    Dialogue and audio synchronisation varies according to which track is played, the English soundtrack contains entirely different dialogue to the Italian one. I believe this was done to match lip movement better, different words were used in the English during incidental scenes where dialogue wasn't crucial to the plot.

    Music is by Ennio Morricone who uses acoustic string sections to much more effect than in his score for The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. The score for The Great Silence is again thematically similar to Once Upon A Time In The West which was released in the same year (1968) and was also done by Morricone.

    There is no surround channel usage as both soundtracks are essentially mono

    The Subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Alternate Ending - 1:53

This alternate ending was apparently done for screening in North Africa and Asia. It contrasts with the classic ending of the film that we have now. I'm glad that this ending did not end up getting Italian and English dubbing as it would have been out-of-place with the rest of the film, especially with the re-introduction of the sheriff (played by Frank Wolff).

Theatrical Trailer - 3:37

The theatrical trailer contains little dialogue, in line with the theme of the film and is in English. Exactly what does Jean-Louis Trintignant mouth at the end of the trailer? We don't hear the words, but I don't recall viewing a scene where he mouths words in the film!

Web Links

This is a website link to the distributor Force Video who have now become Beyond Home Entertainment.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Great Silence has been released Region-Free in the USA and the United Kingdom. The UK version is identical to the Australian version. The US release contains an introduction to the film by Alex Cox but drops the original Italian soundtrack.

    In Region 2 the film has been released in Germany, France and Japan. The German version has an interview with Klaus Kinski, the Japanese version has no extras and The French release would represent the best version available if it didn't crop the transfer from 1:66:1 to 1:85:1. The French release is the only one available that is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions, and it contains some great extras such as some audio commentaries for the beginning and end of the film and a documentary, but it contains no English subtitling.

    Because the French release is not 'English-friendly', Region 4 fans of Spaghetti Westerns can remain content with the Region 4 Australian release.

Summary

    The Great Silence is ranked 4th behind Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Once Upon A Time In The West and A Few Dollars More on the Spaghetti Western database site's Essential Top 20. It is not as widely-known as Leone's aforementioned works, maybe because of the main actors who were not as widely-known in The USA at the time as the actors that Leone used. Nevertheless, The Great Silence stands out as a original and unique example of the Spaghetti Western genre.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 019), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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