Great Silence, The / Il grande silenzio (1968)

5.0 out of 5

Brilliant and daring are just two words one could use to describe the snow caked landscape of Sergio Corbucci's merciless western picture. Truly one of the most brazen movies ever regardless of genre style, it wholeheartedly abandons cinematic conventions and burns the good guy/bad guy rule book to a cinder. Even if a stronger actor were selected for the lead role, it's doubtless this enterprise would have been anything other than co-star, Kinski's show. He dominates the movie even when he isn't onscreen. While he's silent from start to finish, Jean Louis Trintignant manages to convey sorrow and tragedy in his intermittently emotive face.

Yet this is just one indication that Corbucci is turning genre conventions upside down which he does on more than one occasion here. There's also an interracial sex scene backed by one of the most solemn scores from Ennio Morricone. The plot itself is simplicity, masked by Corbucci's marvelous eye for gloomy atmosphere and Grand Guignol theatrics. A mysterious gunfighter named Silence pursues a gang of bounty hunters who abuse the law to mask their preference for mass murder. The Great Silence is a rare picture where knowing how it ends still does not prepare the viewer for what they will see.

Easily one of the most downbeat and depressing movies of all time, its sheer defiance of popular western heritage demands classic status. Rarely has their been an oater of this type that can illicit such a visceral audience response. While not popular in many places, Corbucci's most vehement western seemingly inspired an equally bloody and violent Japanese television series entitled The Mute Samurai in 1974. While the film may leave the viewer in stunned silence when it's over, there's much to shout about regarding this Sergio Corbucci masterpiece.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics