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The Glorification of Violence and Basterdisation of War

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Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: glorious or plain gruesome?

A review by Penny K

inglorious_basterds_roth_pitt_photoInglourious Basterds earned $38 million in its first weekend in the United States. Understandably so; the combination of Quentin Tarantino, hype and World War II makes for a must-watch. Tarantino has called his film a “spaghetti western but with World War II iconography”. It is risky in terms of theme and presentation.

I’m no fan of violent movies, which by default, has made me very wary of Tarantino films – Inglourious Basterds is the first of his films that I’ve watched. It’s a travesty, I know.

Inglourious Basterds tells the tale of two plots to assassinate Hitler, Dr. Joseph Goebbels and other Nazi villains. One plan is helmed by a French Jew cinema proprietress, Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), and the other by a group of anti-Nazi American Jew soldiers led by Aldo “Apache” Raine (Brad Pitt) called the “Basterds”.

Tarantino recreates the world of a Nazi occupied France to a cartoonish degree. From pastoral green pastures where dairy farmers and their beautiful milkmaid daughters roam to the romance of the French cinema proprietress by a young and hopelessly charmed Nazi war hero, Tarantino gives the Inglourious Basterds the fictional touch that it needs in order to pass this film off as more than an atrocious misrepresentation of World War II.

Inglorious-Basterds-Trailer-quentin-tarantino-4427495-1280-533Noteworthy is Tarantino’s interesting use of mise en scene. The film’s framing is deliberate; Tarantino insists you focus on the cream that goes onto the strudel. The unseen Narrator, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, who explains the notoriety of Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) and the flammability of nitrate film is another unique part of the Tarantino film experience.

At the film’s closing, I questioned how I managed to look past its violence and sadism. It was disturbing how it was acceptable that the Basterds were enacting on the Nazis the kind of violence that was unacceptable when enacted on the Jews (though it must be said Nazi violence towards the Jews can not be paralleled). Something about the film’s fictional setting lulls its audience into a sense of acceptance, even where it comes to bloodshed and killing.

mv5bmti1mjiwmdeynv5bml5banbnxkftztcwodi0otk2mg-_v1-_sx600_sy400_What made Inglorious Basterds tick is Hans “The Jew Hunter” Landa (Christoph Waltz). Tarantino has said that this might be the greatest character he’s ever written and admits that Waltz played the role to a tee. Landa, a German detective, is charming and witty, but downright coldblooded. Waltz’s theatrical performance of the role made him more frightening than the film’s version of Hitler, who seemed incompetent beyond frothing at the mouth.

Brad Pitt as the leader of the Basterds was unconvincing. There’s something about being the father of six kids – three of which are adopted –  in real life that makes it hard to identify Pitt as a Southerner in the 1940s who could’ve easily fathered six kids of his own.

Honourable mentions go to the performance of Melanie Laurent as the vengeful Shoshanna Dreyfus and even Denis Menochet as the terrified French dairy farmer at the film’s opening.

391,http_a323.yahoofs.com_ymg_moviesau__64_moviesau-525181191-1249347719If you’re expecting a film that engages with its audience, Inglourious Basterds will disappoint. It’s a film that’s meant to be watched from a distance but enjoy the thrill ride that Tarantino’s imagination takes you on. Fiction is the name of this film’s game. Besides, it’s hard to ignore the ludicrous elements such as Bavarian type music that sounds straight out of an ad for Oktoberfest that further drive the point home that this is not to be taken too seriously. Toss moral dilemma out the window and suspend belief as you watch blood spurting from bullet wounds and torn scalps and Jews butchering Nazis.

Summing Up:

Oh. It started to get rather lengthy near the end.
Yup! Melanie Laurent as Shoshanna Dreyfus and Christophe Waltz as Hans Lander – clearly the best of the bunch.
Verbatim: “You probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin’ business; we in the killin’ Nazi business. And cousin, Business is a-boomin’.” – Lt. Aldo Raine

*All images are used for the purpose of publicity. Penny's Daybook does not own them. 

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