The Great Silence

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This article is about the 1968 film. For the absence of evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, see Fermi paradox.
The Great Silence
Il Grande Silenzio Poster.png
Italian theatrical poster
Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Produced by Attilio Riccio
Written by Vittoriano Petrilli
Mario Amendola
Bruno Corbucci
Sergio Corbucci
English Version:
John Davis Hart
Lewis E. Ciannelli
Story by Sergio Corbucci
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant
Klaus Kinski
Frank Wolff
Luigi Pistilli
Mario Brega
Marisa Merlini
Vonetta McGee
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Silvano Ippoliti
Edited by Amedeo Salfa
Adelphia Compagnia Cinematografica
Les Films Corona
Distributed by 20th Century Fox (Italy)
Fantoma Films (US)
Release dates
  • 19 November 1968 (1968-11-19)
Running time
105 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian

The Great Silence (Italian: Il grande silenzio), or The Big Silence, is a 1968 Italian revisionist Spaghetti Western film.

The movie features a score by Ennio Morricone and stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as Silence, a mute gunfighter with a grudge against bounty hunters, assisting a group of outlawed Mormons and a woman trying to avenge her husband (a murdered outlaw). They are set against a group of ruthless bounty hunters, led by Loco (Klaus Kinski).

It is regarded[according to whom?] as one of the best westerns ever made,[citation needed] and is acknowledged as Corbucci's masterpiece. Unlike most conventional spaghetti Westerns, The Great Silence takes place in the snow-filled landscapes of Utah during the Great Blizzard of 1899.


Winter 1898. The rough weather brings hunger and privation to the small village of Snowhill in Utah. In order to survive, the poor people start to steal and rob. Therefore they become outlaws and have to hide in the mountains, because of the bounty rewarded on them. While people are suffering, the village becomes a paradise for bounty hunters, who can hardly be opposed by the poor, who are labelled as outlaws.

When Pauline's husband falls prey to the unscrupulous bounty hunter Loco (Klaus Kinski), she hires a mute gunfighter, Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant), to kill Loco. Since Silence as a child had to watch his parents being killed by bounty hunters, he tramps through the country chasing those who are killing people for money under the cloak of the law. In order to not violate the law and be added to the blacklist of the bounty hunters, he provokes them to pull out their weapon first. Then he has a reason to act in "self-defense" and shoot them.

But Loco does not let himself be provoked. Not until after he lures the new sheriff – who had been given the impossible task by the governor to re-establish order in the region and to grant amnesty to those starving in the mountains – to his death, does Loco face up to the final fight with Silence.


The film is famous for its bleak ending, a bloody scene in which the sympathetic characters are gunned down by the greedy bounty hunters, "all according to the law," as Loco comments. The director was forced to shoot an alternate ending for the North African and Asian markets.

The Fantoma DVD features the alternative "happy" ending without sound. The comic sheriff played by Frank Wolff returns from the "dead" (after having been trapped in a frozen lake by Loco) to save the day.[2]



Jean-Louis Trintignant only agreed to play in a spaghetti western under the condition that he did not have to learn any lines for the role. That's why the main character conveniently became a mute in the story.[3]


Location shooting took place in the Italian Dolomites, around the ski resorts of Cortina d'Ampezzo (Veneto) and San Cassiano in Badia (South Tyrol). It was also shot at Bracciano Lake, near Manziana in Lazio and the Elios town set in Rome was used for several of the Snow Hill scenes (including two nights sequences and the build-up to the final duel).

The scenes were shot at night so that the fake "snow" looked more convincing; shaving foam was used to give the street a snowbound look. For the daylight scenes, the Elios set was swathed in fog, to disguise the fact that the surrounding countryside had no snow.


Jean-Louis Trintignant is famous for the films A Man and a Woman, Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist, Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman, Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red and Michael Haneke's Amour.

Silence's distinctive rapid-firing pistol is a Mauser C96, which started being manufactured in 1896. That Mauser pistol reappeared in Clint Eastwood's Joe Kidd (1972), while the snowbound setting was used in Pale Rider (1985) and briefly in Unforgiven (1992); in the early Seventies there was even a rumor that Eastwood was going to remake The Great Silence.

The only words Silence utters are as a boy, played in flashback by child actor Loris Loddi (from The Hills Run Red, 1966). As his mother is shot, he cries out, "Mamma! Mamma!", though the English dubbed voice is reused from the final scene of Corbucci's earlier film Johnny Oro (1966).


Currently a musical project by the Finnish Progressive Music Association is running, which encourages bands and musical artists to musically interpret the film.[4] The Hungarian progressive rock band Yesterdays wrote a 20-minute long epic called Suite Pauline based on the main character's story (this song is also featured on the Spaghetti Epic 3 CD). Anima Morte also recorded a version of the main theme for the Cani Arrabbiati - Opening themes tribute compilation.

The music by Ennio Morricone was later sampled by Thievery Corporation. The grindcore band Cripple Bastards released an album with the same title.



  1. ^ "Il Grande Silenzo". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved November 11, 2012. 
  2. ^ "DVD review at". Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  3. ^ "The Great Silence review at". Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  4. ^ The Spaghetti Epic 3

External links[edit]