I had the pleasure of watching America’s number one movie “Inglourious Basterds” this morning and I was not disappointed. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, who borrowed the name and skeletal storyline from the 1981 army film starring Fred Williamson,’Inglourious..’ has just saved us from another less than stellar summer movie lineup.
The movie starts in the first year of the German occupation of France, Shosanna Dreyfus (a Jewish refugee played by Melanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema.
Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (played by a jestful and very Southern Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish American soldiers to hunt down kill and scalp Nazi soldiers. Later known to their enemy as “the basterds,” Raine’s squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of the Third Reich. Fates converge under a cinema marquis, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own
I love Tarantino because it seems like he doesn’t give a crap about stomping all over society’s neat little ideas of the way things HAVE to be to make a movie his own way. I loved this movie and not because everybody else does but because of the questions it brings to the forefront.
I was confused and curious about the audience (and my own) reaction to this film. Albeit we are watching the enemy die, the way we’d whoop and cheer as these men (Hitler’s by products) are murdered in the most vicious of ways was questionable. It’s amazing how quickly we play judge and jury so that we can excuse ourselves of sympathy in the right situation.
For example: You may not believe in the death penalty but with if some maniac murders your loved one? You do not condone senseless violence but if it’s that jackass Perez Hilton then he probably deserved it. In the case of this movie the ‘basterds’ are seeking revenge for their people who were brutally murdered by brutally murdering other people. Yet because of circumstance they get our moral seal of approval.
‘Basterds…’ is filled with cinematic trickery, forcing you out of your neat little life and urging you to relieve yourself of human responsibility. Hitler was evil, there’s no denying that. I’ve seen pictures of those young German soldiers, some barely big enough to handle their guns. The ever present kill or be killed factor that they had to deal with would have forced even the best man to do unthinkable acts. ‘Basterds..’ inadvertently asks you to celebrate the malicious torture deaths of these soldiers while internally excusing yourself of moral responsibility. In the end 10O% of those guys were evil incarnate and they deserved it, right? Tarantino has made a movie of transcendence and redemption, where the tables are turned and we become the audience that is willing to cheer for a bloodbath, the more torturous the better.
As an advocate of hypocrisy I will admit to soft cheering and laughing it up at those soldier’s deathly expense but when it was all said and done, I feel a little internal shame for wishing that the ‘Basterds’ had killed more people. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that I witnessed superior film making and screenwriting today. It takes a unique filmmaker to take one of the most major events in history and turn it on it’s ass. Only a ballsy man with a foot fetish and great taste in music could’ve compiled such an entertaining and thought provoking semi factual fiction war dramedy. Thanks Tarantino for continuously pushing the cinematic envelope.