That Quentin Tarantino is one of the most renowned and revered filmmakers living today is beyond contention. His films have impacted pop culture in a massive way. And this is primarily because the director is himself so passionate about cinema. He borrows, steals and remakes films from the past in his own indelible way.
Out of the nine films Tarantino has made, Kill Bill Volume 1 and Inglourious Basterds take the top slots as far as I am concerned. But we are here to talk about Inglourious Basterds. A specific sequence from the film, to be precise. Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz in his breakout performance) and Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) are seated at a table in a restaurant. Landa wants to discuss a few details with the latter regarding some security arrangements. However, Shosanna has ‘reservations’ about the whole affair, especially considering how Landa had earlier tried to kill her.
It is a longish act, spanning some odd seven minutes. But it is worth every second. Of course, it is wordy; there’s a lot of dialogues interspersed with a few tense shots of Shosanna as well as a cool and ominous-looking Landa. This is an important scene as it is the first time the two characters are facing each other post their debacle years ago. While Shosanna remembers every detail of that ‘great escape’, Landa, on the other hand, does not immediately recall her face.
Little actions made by both Landa and Shosanna tell us a lot about them. Landa is the ultimate patriarch, who does not wait for the lady to order her own food, but goes on to place an order on her behalf — a delightful-looking strudel. And when she proceeds to eat it, Landa stops her, asking her to wait for the cream. He makes condescending, racist remarks about her companion at work. However, what makes Landa such an arresting villain is that he does all of this with a quiet, threatening air. He doesn’t need to raise his voice and fire a shot to make himself heard.
And what do we learn about Shosanna? That she is a courageous woman. But being brave doesn’t necessarily mean being unafraid. Shosanna is scared out of her wits. She is, after all, facing the man who had murdered her loved ones. She is facing a bonafide Nazi. She is facing a despicable but powerful man. The little gasp that nearly escapes her when she is introduced to Landa at the table, when he informs her that he wants to talk to her about something other than the security, the soft sobbing she later delves into post their meet — every little detail states that we are dealing with an ordinary woman with an extraordinary spirit.
However, there is one thing that I hold against the sequence — I want to have a strudel every time after I am done watching it.