Updated: August 23, 2021 10:20:04 am
It is not everyday that influential filmmaker Quentin Tarantino makes a fantastical film, in his own inimitable style of course. No prizes for guessing that I am talking about the 2009 movie starring a plethora of talented names, mainly from American and European cinema — Inglourious Basterds. Yes, the celebrated film is entirely a figment of Tarantino’s imagination, in which Hitler is killed by the film’s charismatic heroine. Now, that is one daring leap of fantasy for the filmmaker. It is a story where a heroine avenges her past and rescues her future, mostly on her own, all the while plotting the death of Adolf Hitler. If that doesn’t qualify as a fable of epic proportions, then what does?
Inglourious Basterds is written like a novel, divided into chapters, which allows you to go through the story at your own pace. Tarantino subverts the genre of films based on Second World War completely through this feature. There is murder, mayhem and escape in Inglourious Basterds but no war, certainly. All the battles are fought in silences, inside the heads of our main characters, or they are played out in completely hilarious, eccentric, non-serious fashion. Be it Brad Pitt’s Lieutenant Aldo Raine, the ‘Jew Hunter’ Colonel Landa (a brilliant Christoph Waltz), or the lovely and enigmatic Shosanna (Melanie Laurent). No one behaves the way you would expect them to, another Tarantinoesque feature.
In fact, the whole vein of the film has been created in that manner. Inglourious Basterds is supposed to be a war movie about taking down Hitler, but what you get instead are these little laugh-out-loud moments that have been peppered all over the script generously. For instance, Pitt’s character’s disguise as an Italian stuntman is quite comical. Waltz’s Landa, as long as he is there on screen, is making you either laugh or squirm. A shout-out to the multilingual Austrian actor, who was stunning in the film. His excellent performance as the commanding and ominous Landa won him his first Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category. In fact, casting a perfect Landa was crucial to Tarantino, who had earlier mentioned that had he not found Waltz, he would have given up the project.
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During The Moment podcast, the director had revealed that he changed his rehearsal tactic once he got to know how talented Waltz actually was; “I got together with Christoph before we got to the big script reading with the cast. I told him, ‘I’m not doing this to be perverse game playing…everybody is so curious about who is playing Hans Landa. I don’t want you to be bad at the script reading, but I want you to hold a lot back. I do not want them to think that they are getting a glimpse of who you are really going to be. On a scale of one to 10, be a six. Be good enough, just good enough. I do not want you to be in a competition with anybody, and if you are in competition then lose. I don’t want them to know what you have or for them to have a handle on Landa.”
One of my favourite sequences in the film is the longish strudel scene featuring Christoph Waltz and Melanie Laurent. That seven-minute dialogue-heavy act is one of the USPs of the movie, at least as far as I am concerned. Colonel Hans Landa and Shosanna are facing each other after many years since the former destroyed her childhood by taking away her loved ones from her. Shosanna is scared that Landa might find out about her true identity if they keep at the conversation for too long. Through this part, we come to know the inner strength of our heroine, and Landa’s menacing, overwhelming presence. Qualities of both the leading characters’ parts are revealed in this bit. It is this kind of writing, acting and direction that makes a Tarantino film stand out in the crowd. Bottomline: Inglourious Basterds is gripping, funny and extremely entertaining. Brownie points for the wonderful soundtrack.
You can watch the film on Netflix.
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