As fun and entertaining as they can be, the western genre can get very dark and unforgiving, and that is certainly the case with Sergio Corbucci’s masterpiece The Great Silence. A western classic that might have been forgotten at the time, but gradually built-up a noticeable reputation as one of the best in the genre, subverting many of the conventions in a western and will shock you with its unforgiving nature and powerful themes. Taking place within the snowy landscapes of Utah prior to the Great Blizzard of 1899, the film follows the mute gunslinger known only as Silence, who is fighting in the defense of both a band of outlaws and a vengeful young widow against a gang of merciless bounty killers led by the ruthless and cunning Loco, as well as the corrupt banker Henry Pollicut who shares a past with Silence.
The setting is just one huge snow-filled landscape and Corbucci utilizes it to its fullest, crafting an atmosphere that’s chillingly haunting, bleak and foreboding, which perfectly suits the film’s dark tone and heavily influences the characters’ needs for survival in such a harsh world. This feeling sticks with you from beginning to end and might stick with you long after the it’s finished, and it’s refreshing to have a western set during this weather period as opposed to the desert plains commonly seen in most westerns. Subverting the typical conventions of the genre is key to the film’s lasting longevity, even down to its subject matter. Known for his left-wing views, either as the main subject or used as subtext in his films, Corbucci wanted his story to be an allegory for how corruption can be found in different forms of capitalism. This is shown through Pollicut’s schemes as a banker but also shown through the greedily sadistic Loco and his gang of bounty hunters, who all use the bounties to profit themselves and fuel their needs for violence all while acting under the law. Whereas westerns typically portray bounty hunters as anti-heroes and glorifies them, this film demonizes them in a big way.
Another aspect that works effectively well is Ennio Morricone’s haunting yet powerful score, which is, hands down, the best score he has ever composed, full of weight and power and it’s no wonder Quentin Tarantino wanted to bring him back one final time for his western The Hateful Eight. In terms of performances, both Jean-Louis Trintignant and Klaus Kinski make a big impact in their respective opposing roles as Silence and Loco with each actor bringing a layer of subtlety and depth to their portrayals of the characters. In regards to the infamous, unexpected ending, it’s easily the film’s most memorable sequence and acts as the perfect culmination of its subversive elements.
Rightfully considered one of the best westerns ever made, The Great Silence is every bit as good as its growing reputation made it out to be, acting as Sergio Corbucci greatest achievement in his filmography. With the Blu-Ray release limited to 3000 copies, now is the perfect time to check this phenomenal western out.
The Great Silence is now available to buy on Blu-Ray.