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A Movie Under The Microscope: Inglourious Basterds - Film Analysis

Through the whole history, human beings have had the role of witnesses to the outnumber occurrences which made the history of the earth. Throughout the passage of the history, there were life changing inventions, remarkable discoveries, slavery, liberating independence, climate change and of course one of the most important phenomenon in the entire history, wars.

Since the invention of the cinema until now, man has made a lot of movies and this specific incident, war, was one of the many sort of genres that has been used by directors to showcase the various characteristics of conflict or hostility.

War movies have been around for a long while. They have a wide range of viewpoints. Each movie has somewhat unique view, depending on what the director wants the audience to get out of the movie. Some target the significance of how dreadful and tragic war was, while others were utilized to inspire their nation to support their troops. There are films however that go directly to the point of war and demonstrate the majority of the extreme battle, the torment and suffering the warriors did over their nation and the brutality of what countries did to prisoners in concentration camps. People could see what was going on at the war, and acknowledge what their soldiers were experiencing. These movies were utilized for the most part as an enrollment use, and as make the people angry towards the enemy, recommending that heroic nation involvement would bring home triumph. We could see ourselves that the war demands on the nerves of the troopers as well as to the people who needed to remain at home. In addition to the fact that films liked these inspire people to join the military, yet made the general population who remained at home become mindful of the how frightening and crucial the war was.

The war film genre includes films about warfare, including naval, air or land battles. Movies in this classification may concentrate on the fights, prisoners of war, military preparing, life during wartime or profound quality and helpful issues of fighting. This genre generally incorporates works of fiction, works based on historical facts and occasionally works based on alternate-history fiction.

Films that have historical inaccuracies, even if they do no teach proper history, they allow the audience to explore the world of the past. Aaron Barlow[1] writes, "Instead of hold up a mirror to the world, they let us explore it, using "what if . . ." as a means for learning about ourselves". These allow the audience to think like and understand those of the past, not merely know what happened to them. They allow the audience to explore, and scholars agree in the usefulness of that.

Inglourious Basterds, also allows the audience to see cultural aspects of life during World War II, particularly propaganda. The film contains its own German World War II propaganda film inside of the movie itself: Stolz der Nation (A Nation’s Pride[2]).

Stolz der Nation shows how important propaganda, and particularly propaganda war films were during this time, especially in Germany and America. Almost all of the characters in the film treat the inside film as a serious matter, as people would gather together to watch these films and then proceed to discuss them as a normal aspect of everyday life. Boswell[3] agrees with Barlow saying, "In its gaudy Hollywood adoption of Nazi paradigms, Inglourious Basterds reflects critically on the historical uses of cinema and the cinematic uses of history". Furthermore, Boswell comments on how the film depicted the cinema draped in swastikas and Nazi propaganda, thus reflecting the decor of public places at the time.

Inglourious Basterds is a war movie written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The movie is an alternate version of the World War II.

The movie tries to represent a story about assassination of the Nazi Germany’ leader, including two separated plots. The first plotted by Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), a young French Jew movie theatre owner and the other by Jewish American soldiers as known as Basterds led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt). Meanwhile Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) aka Jew Hunter, who is an SS Colonel keeps hunting down Aldo’s soldiers.

Inglorious Basterds consists of 5 chapters. Chapters 1 and 3 follow a specific story and chapters 2 and 4 follow another storyline. And both of these pairs of chapters end up in the final one, and they make the film's ending.

Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds involves a Jewish revenge dream that is told through a counterfactual history of events in World War II.

However, this story pursues a totally unexpected plot in comparison to what we are as of now familiar with. Inside these conditions, spectators currently question the thoughts and arguments that are regularly connected with World War II. We accept that Inglourious Basterds is a Jewish retribution dream that powers us to reconsider our past understandings by disrupting the viewers feeling of content and nature in the historical backdrop of World War II.

There is a discussion over the exactness of war movies and whether these should concentrate more on telling the truth or enlivening it a bit. For sure, the war movies have been changed during the time particularly those representing the World War II and the aftermath.

What he did is to give WWII a different ending; one that everybody but the Nazis wishes was the truth. His ending involves a Jewish girl who grew up to revenge the death of her entire family. This girl does the unimaginable and gets to kill Hitler at her modest cinema. The odds of this plot being part of true history are remote. Nonetheless, it pleases the viewer who at this point, as Tarantino, wants to much fairer end than the real death of Hitler. Tarantino is clearly inviting us to move away from traditional World War II films that all they did was to glorify such war. Then there is the mixed of reality and fantasy that Tarantino achieves to harmoniously re-construct World War II events.

The story begins from when France is just conquered by Nazis. Colonel Landa goes to a dairy farm where he believes still some Jews are living there secretly which turns out to be true. Colonel Landa and his colleagues after a long conversation that makes the presence of the Jews obvious, start to kill a few Jews who are left alive there, calmly. Just Shosanna can save her life and escape from that hell to a forest. Beside that in my opinion Christoph Waltz reserved the academy Oscar for himself for the best actor to put it beside his Cannes award, he also portrayed and created a character who doesn’t look like a Nazi. In fact, he doesn’t look like anyone in the world. I saw a sarcastic devil in the movie with offbeat laughs.

Christopher Waltz's impressive play in the role of Colonel Landa brings numerous awards to him. In the face of some characters (French farmer, Shosanna, Raine, and so on), he coolly arranges the most beautiful preludes to complete his last words and actions, as well as his anonymous characters and makes his audience to be in a suspense and end up struggling with unpredictable action to shock them.

Tarantino’s characterization of Landa, and Nazis in general, gives the audience a villain that is easy to hate. The revenge-centric plot of the film, which culminates in a vengeful group of Jews successfully assassinating Hitler, rewrites history to give the audience the revenge and cathartic conclusion it desires.

When the protagonist wins, it essentially serves to stroke the egos of those who empathize with the protagonist – which will typically be the entire audience in the case of a Holocaust film due to cultural trauma. Landa is easy to hate through his caricatured evilness and lack of redeeming qualities, but the clear-cut case of good and evil is also achieved by removing the intricacies of the conflict.

On the other hand, the hero, is Brad Pitt portraying Lieutenant Aldo Raine. The leader of the Basterds. Their carnage massacre, put them on a spotlight even for Nazi officers and Hitler. Aldo Raine, looks like a big caricature who talks like northern boys and he wants from each member of his group to skin the scalp of one hundred Nazis and bring them to him. This group survived decades among the German people in France, too busy killing the Nazis.

Tarantino tries to keep his rebellious and offbeat visions also in a film that we can assume as a war film. The result is a film which is different from every other film that has been made about WWII.

It’s obvious, for Tarantino as a filmmaker, how banal and superficial is to be just loyal to the truth and in contrary how prominent it is to keep the personal taste and vision. Whereas Tarantino himself, considers “Inglorious Basterds” as a spaghetti western that happens during the World War II.

All that said, maybe we should take a look at Tarantino’s Postmodernic elements. According to Vivian Sobchack, what do these (real) postmodern history films do to the past is including some or all of the following[4]: (1) Tell the past self-reflexively, in terms of how it has meaning for the filmmaker historian. (2) Recount it from a multiplicity of viewpoints. (3) Eschew tradition al narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end or, following Jean-Luc Godard, insist these three elements need not necessarily be in that order. (4) Forsake normal story development, or tell stories but refuse to take the telling seriously. (5) Approach the past with humor, parody, absurdist, surrealist, dadaesque, and other irreverent attitudes. (6) Intermix contradictory elements: past and present, drama and documentary, and indulge in creative anachronism. (7) Accept, even glory in, their own selectivity, partialism, partisanship, and rhetorical character. (8) Refuse to focus or sum up the meaning of past events, but rather make sense of them in a partial and open-ended, rather than totalized, manner. (9) Alter and invent incident and character. (10) Utilize fragmentary and/or poetic knowledge. (11) Never forget that the present is the site of all past representation and knowing.

Such films are serious about describing and understanding, in however unusual a form, the beliefs, ideas, experiences, events, movements, and moments of the past. Because they accept the notion that the weight of the past has somehow helped to shape (us in) the present, even if they are not certain about how to assess that weight. Because even though they refuse to think in terms of linear cause and effect or to accept the idea that chronology is necessarily useful, and even though they insist that past material is always personal, partial, political, problematic, it is still possible to see them fulfilling traditional tasks of history and telling histories.

As the legendary John Ford once said: “A good picture, is long on action and short on dialogue”[5]. But if we search through the history of cinema, we can find out that John Ford’s quote has a lot of counterexamples until today. Certainly we all can remember a certain number of brilliant dialogue-centered movies. But it doesn’t reduce the importance of western creator’s quote. Tarantino though, as always, shows us how passionate he is about both dialogue and action.

In his movies there is no getaway from the endless conversations between the characters. Sometimes it comes to mind that maybe these dialogues don’t follow any goal in the movie. (Like the opening of the “Reservoir Dogs”) and sometimes they seem absurd (Notable dialogues between Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction”) BUT, this is just the superficial aspect of the movie. In exemplary Tarantino’s movies, behind these so-called absurd dialogues, is concealing a bigger secret, a great message that leads us through the whole philosophy of the film.

Inglourious Basterds, as a film which is made however in the war genre, is included with these dialogues more than action that we expect from a war movie and maybe it is in contrast with the nature of this genre but it completely matches with the norms and characteristics that we carry in mind from Tarantino’s movies.

What Quentin Tarantino wanted to represent through this film is an incorrect overgeneralization. Inglourious Basterds represents realistic Jewish life during Nazi reign and the steady dread they confronted. This oppression was personal, intimate and friendly yet brutal altercations invoked through self-defense and hatred. This film outlines this inside abuse and oppression through plans, interrogation, threats, and unexpected violence. This is beautifully conveyed through the opening scene.

This is a key presentation into the idea of the interior war delineated all through Inglorious Basterds and the way where these fights heightened.

Explosions and assassination’s plans sit slowly down in the story and Tarantino’s scenario. In fact, it talks more about war than showing it. And its peaks and climaxes are in the scenes where the spectator can feel the blood and hatred from speeches and behavior of the characters, in particular, Colonel Landa, Shosanna and Bridget. It is clear that Tarantino created his own characters that are beyond the reach of life and have a humorous attitude, of course, without exaggeration.

The action sequences of the movie are less than they should be, considering the 160-minutes runtime. Instead of that, the movie is full of babbling characters. In contrast to “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”, which the strength was the scenario (and now maybe we can also point out the importance of the presence of Roger Avary as the collaborator), Inglourious Basterds’ evasion is just Tarantionian- scenes that unfortunately are not enough in the movie. And because of that, the movie gets boring even in the middle of tensions and hilarious dialogues. At some points it seems an amateur director is making an alternate version of Tarantino’s movies.

Violence beside humor, this delicious mixture, has made the movie more confusing and disturbed instead of giving birth to a polyphonic film.

The film Inglourious Basterds shows Nazi's ordinarily accepted "Jewish oppression" as steady plans and sudden violence inside from the two sides. Another scene that shows this abuse as an inside war again includes the Jew Hunter and his cordial interrogation leading to brutal murder. This time Jewish, American, and German spies' look to sneak into a film debut with respect to a Nazi's war accomplishment and blow up the Nazi high command in its entirety and end the war. This is a good example of the Jewish dream and their hatred released. The Jew Hunter is portrayed as always on the hunt and clever and cordial, working off of earlier scenes evidence he continues to interrogate these spies and to the spectators expose their alibi with ease and his amusement. The Jew Hunter is very polite yet vicious and frightening and displays this again through a silent brutal strangling of one of the spies.

In his new work, Tarantino portrays the reckless picture of World War II. As a matter of fact, this film should be considered a mixture of different styles, which Tarantino is intertwined with his skill. Throughout the film, from the first to the end, it is designed in such a way that the spectator happens to be guessing and continually happening unpredictably.

I mentioned the tension in the opening chapter, yet there are a ton of tense scenes all through the movie, a few scenes later suffer from the typical Tarantino over-dialoged style and go on excessively long. Blended in the middle of the drama and violence were funny moments and humorous scenes that don’t drain you out of the motion picture.

Tarantino, as the director, just plays an impartial role about the applied violence in this historical occurrence. Violence and unconventional deaths of Nazis by American-Jewish soldiers are bolder and shown much more than Nazis’ villainy. The director, ignores narrating tacky and repetitive story of Nazi’s crimes that the spectator has watched dozens of time in the history of cinema and simultaneously tries to depict a brand new story of WWII.

The movie challenges the usual sympathy of the audience and in various scenes plays with this kind of identification. Sometimes we feel pity for the German soldiers who get their scalp skillfully skinned or get their head exploded with the baseball bat by Jews. Meanwhile like the first scenes of the movie in which the Jew family are trapped in the basement of the farmhouse and get slaughtered by Nazis, it excites the hatred in the eyes of the spectator.

Tarantino’s techniques on undulating audience’s judgement on the both sides of the war, and also their partiality for victims and even devil characters, work exactly like former movies of him. Basically it claims that the violence is the hidden aspect of human being’s nature. Weather being a Jew or a Nazi, at the end it is more important that who has the power in the hand.

As time goes on, history has a method for getting misshaped from its most honest structure. Time makes people float away from precision and become keen on what they want to remember.

One of the most despicable events in history, the Holocaust, can be portray in very different ways. As Jaroslaw Suchoples[6]’ researches, some filmmakers and writers chose to illustrate “the persecution, isolation and unspeakable suffering of Jewish men, women and children in ghettos, freight cars, concentration camps and death camps”. On the other hand, “amazing stories of survival against all odds and inspiring tales help by Gentiles and Jews” are narrated too.

Of course, everybody knows the end of the story; the Nazis are snatched and arrested, the Allies are taking back the world, and Hitler apparently suicides in his underground shelter.

Most of the films made around the Second World War have tried to stay loyal to the principles and what really happened, and to draw up the historical realities while creating imaginary characters.

Often a film's worth goes beyond what it explicitly discusses, as a films' narrative's nuances and subtleties can communicate more value to the audience than what his clearly stated. This is especially pertinent in historically inaccurate films.

Tarantino has changed some of the subject and attitude. Hitler sees no harm in conspiracy and survives. Tarantino has changed the place and the people who are designing Hitler's assassination and portrayed this effort in a place that probably never was used in the real world for such a job. The site is a movie theater, and those who want to kill him are a handful of artists or people drowned in the form of artists and Aldo Raine’s soldiers and in these companies, soldiers from different countries, such as Germany, France, the United States and Britain, are seen. All the details are explained and we see a lot of weapons that are supposed to be used for operation. However, in this long film, we do not even see a scene that directly depicts a part of the Second World War and a corner of the Nazi encounter with the Allies.

This time, the alteration of the world and humans’ fate, will be deposited in the cinema.

Every director of a war movie gets to decide how he will portray his enemy. Whether want the audience to hate the enemy, feel sympathy for them, or laugh at them, it is all up to how they are depicted. Inglorious Basterds does not just choose one type of common enemy, they allow each one to have their own personalities and evoke their own emotions on the audience. Taratino starts off with Landa, who is the maniacal genius who every loves and hates at the same time. You cannot appreciate the cunning that Landa brings to the film, but you hate him for it at the same time. You always want to good guys to win, so you have to root for the villain to slip up, but it seems that Landa never will. Other Nazis in the movie are not looked on so favorably. The 3 Germans that the “Basterds” have captured are shown as brave at first for sticking up to the “Basterds”, but then becomes weak in the eyes of the viewers, as they have to succumb to the fury that the “Basterds” bring upon them. Opposite of Landa, these Germans are far inferior to their enemies, and will even sell out to save themselves. Another scene that represents the Nazi in a different way is the scene in the pub. There are German soldiers celebrating the birth of one of their sons. At first, they are being drunken and disorderly, which can be seen as a general stereotype of the Germans in general. This is the scene in which the “Basterds” plant fake officers in with the Germans, clearly indicating the average German is feeble minded and can easily be tricked. Then an actual German officer comes in, and he is not so easily fooled. He picks up on a slight slip up from the imposter, then putting a gun to him. All hell breaks loose and most everyone is killed, besides the one soldier who was celebrating the birth of his son. The dialogue between this soldier and the “Basterds” leader, Aldo Raines, gives the German of feel of humanity. He just wants to survive so he can see his newborn son. The audience is almost left rooting for him, because all he wants to do is see his son. It does not work out the way he wants, but it still gives the viewers an insight to the softer and more human side that is the everyday German soldier. Even though they are Nazis, they are normal men like the Americans fighting opposite to them.

This director teaches us that even beyond secret looks, artificial smiles, and mysterious whispers, he could reach out to the target, transferring the drama and suspending it. The effects of these sequences are even greater than those found in larger scenes with more dangerous soldiers. In the Tarantino’s story, the audience doesn’t need to hear the sound of a machine guns to feel the suspense and danger.

Inglourious Basterds doesn’t have the common Protagonist-Antagonist character as we expect from a war movie at its basis. However, the main characters, the most important ones in the movie change their positions many times as we pass through the time. When the lieutenant Aldo Raine, played by Brad Pitt, and his soldiers are busy killing Germen, it is assumed that Nazis are people caught in the grip of a savage American group and being slaughtered. In the opposite when Lt. Aldo and his soldiers are captive by Nazis, it encourages the audience’s sense of pity for the Americans. And after all, when Aldo draws the broken cross on the forehead of Hans Landa, portrayed by Christoph Waltz, it makes the audience to have another idea about his former sympathy for Americans.

References to previous movies of the history of cinema, with special music such as Western, epic, gangster-style and even the use of classical music, tells Tarantino's interest in these works and how obsessed he is with the music. He looks like a greedy boy who wants to taste every flavor of the ice cream.

Even the use of the pianotic-warning-rhythm in the first sequence of the movie and the creation of suspense in the created atmosphere is the same as in the Kubrick’s “Eyes wide shut”. It warns the spectator about something important that is about to happen but not soon.

Originally, Tarantino wanted to have a cooperation with Ennio Morricone to compose the soundtrack. However, Morricone was busy composing soundtracks for Giuseppe Tornatore’s Baaria. Anyway Tarantino used almost eight tracks composed by Morricone, finally.

If truth be told, these references do not just refer to the director's fascination, but confiscates the music for the benefit of the subject, and uses his cinematic expression for his very personal and unique purposes.

Movies can cause the group of spectators to reflect upon history in manners that a documentary would not compel them to do. While the audience will in general consider history as static, story based movies allow the them to see the characters as people who have emotions, expectations, and thoughts. Since the audience approaches narrative-based movies uniquely in contrast to documentaries, this sort of motion pictures allow the spectators to think about history in various ways.

Narrative based, historically inaccurate films can help the audience feel the emotions of the people of the past. Barlow believes that Inglourious Basterds becomes useful because it conveys such emotions of the past. Though Tarantino emphasizes that Inglourious Basterds is ridiculous fiction, Barlow thinks that the film conveys the anger the and the frustrations felt by Jewish people during World War II, especially through the characters of Shosanna Drefus and the American soldiers, or the "Inglorious basterds"

The final scene, at the movie theatre, when the portray of Hitler gets tear apart by outnumbered bullets, is somehow Tarantino’s tribute to the memory of all people around the world who was suffered and sacrificed and those who are still traumatized from this hateful face in the history. Though later, dictators like Stalin, Saddam, Khomeini and etc. snatched over him and as we can see. Unfortunately, it seems it goes on and on until the last day on the earth. And for me, the question remains: How much the torn apart picture of the dictator of the crime has reduced the amount of human beings’ common abhorrence?

In Inglourious Basterds, Shosanna achieves her vengeance by killing an entire movie theatre, who came to see a Nazi propaganda film, filled with Nazis, Nazi supporters, and even Adolf Hitler. This is the ultimate catharsis that Jewish people, like Eli Roth, would have wanted to see from the Holocaust. The film reshapes history to show what it wanted to, what the people of World War II wanted to see. According to Matthew Boswell, "Shoshana becomes a vengeful spirt for the murdered Jewish people... standing as a metaphor for the way that film refashions history: rather than being used to preserve and document the past as it was, the cinematic archive offers combustible material that is directed towards changing it"

The rhythm of the film is slower compared to the director's previous works, but the effects of the events, especially at the end of the important and main sequences are more rapid and more influential. Dialogues have a promising role and contribute to the rise of climax and conflict, not in the form of just reciting sentences and lines, but in the content of the conversations.

If we look at the war between the two sides of the war, it would be possible to judge the crimes and killings of both sides equally.

Americans who are already famous for scalping the Indians of their land, in the war against the Nazis use the same way to express their hatred and anger. The vengeance of 60 years ago from the Germans, which has been said in various movies and other works of art, turns into a vivid revenge, narrated by Tarantino.

In a scene, the director takes revenge from our judgement and puts everything in contrary. Lieutenant Aldo Raine is forced to put on his tuxedo for an evening ceremony and roles like a decent Italian version of Marx Bros.

The common feature of the film's characters is the peace of mind and confidence that prevails in their behavior before committing any crime or joy afterwards. The peak of this manifestation can be seen in the "Pulp Fiction" of Tarantino's earlier work.

Shosanna, the one who ran into the jungle, turns to be a curvy girl with red lipsticks and red dress at the final. Tarantino’s photographer is obsessed with close-ups of high heels, shoes, lips, curves, faces and bodies’ details. He seems to be inspired by works of Jack Vettriano[7], especially by “Love Story”[8]. And of course the 35mm deep and magnificent colors provide a touch of pleasure to the viewer.

Publicizing and trailers aside, the genuine story here is about Shosanna. She is delightful and a legend of the Reich has turned out to be captivated with her. Obviously, considering that her family was slaughtered by Nazis she is not influenced by his charm at all. Taking everything in account, she is forced to show a Nazi propaganda film (The Triumph of the Will) in her movie theatre and she plots a plan to exploit that and finally her plan dovetail hardly.

Inglourious Basterds is fun, entertaining and pleasant, but still it doesn’t allow you to identify the characters and kills the empathy at very first levels. The director just gives you the permission to take a look at the characters from distance and that’s the main reason why the movie cannot engage the spectator emotionally.


[1] Aaron Barlow is a Cultural Studies scholar. He is a Professor of English at New York City College of Technology. [2] Stolz der Nation (en: Pride of the Nation) is a fictional Nazi propaganda film that appears in Inglorious Basterds. This "film-within-the film" was directed by Eli Roth who also plays Sgt. Donny Donowitz (and his brother), one of The Basterds. The film's star is Fredrick Zoller, a German war hero (played by Daniel Brühl), the director is called Alois von Eichberg. [3] MATTHEW BOSWELL Research Fellow in Memory Studies within the Department of English at the University of Salford. [4] Sobchack, Vivian. The Persistence of History. Abingdon: Routledge, 1996. [5] Kozloff, Sarah. Los Angeles: University of California, 2000. [6] Jarosław Edward Suchoples is a Polish historian and the author of scientific publications on Finland, the Baltic Sea region, issues related to the history of World War I and II, and cultures of remembrance about these conflicts. [7] Jack Vettriano is a Scotish painter, best known for his best-selling painting “The Singing Butler” [8] Love Story is a noir painting of a woman in red, smoking a cigarette. 1951.

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