What is your most terrible fantasy of revenge
Tarantino movie "Inglourious Basterds": Hollywood victory!
Hitler goes bust: "Inglourious Basterds", Quentin Tarantino's new film, ends the Second World War in a Parisian cinema.
"Kosher Porn"? Donowitz (Eli Roth) and Raine (Brad Pitt) on a Nazi hunt. Image: universal
A Wehrmacht officer kneels on the floor. He looks like you would imagine a model Nazi: angular skull, blue eyes, blond hair. Most of the soldiers in his troop are lying dead in the grass, some of them have been scalped, their skulls glow as red dots on a green background. The men of Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a Jewish-American command stationed in the German-occupied part of France, are spread around the officer. The year is 1944. Raine interrogates the German: "Where is the position of your people?" The Wehrmacht officer reveals nothing, not even when Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) steps out of the darkness of a cave and swings a baseball bat. Raine is happy: "When Donny starts, it's like going to the cinema for us." What follows looks like a duel in a western. The music is by Ennio Morricone, the montage delayed the meeting of Donowitz and the German with tension. When the time comes, Donowitz lives up to his nickname "Bear Jew". He literally beats the man to a lump; the camera looks instead of turning away discreetly.
In Cannes, at the press conference for Quentin Tarantino's new film "Inglourious Basterds", the actor who played the "Bear Jew" found catchy words. "For me, the film is kosher porn," said Roth, who has made a name for himself as a director of horror films ("Cabin Fever", "Hostel"). "Something I had fantasies about when I was a little kid." So is "Inglourious Basterds" a Jewish fantasy of revenge? A retrospective anti-fascist wish fulfillment in the guise of B-Pictures, carried out with a verve that none of the currently so popular history movies has shown? There is a lot to be said for it - not least the grandiose finale, in the course of which the close-up of a woman's head is first projected onto a burning screen, then in billows of smoke, while the voice of this woman says: "This is the face of Jewish vengeance." Erinyes are not only found in Greek mythology, they also haunt Parisian cinemas.
In turn, there are some that speak against recognizing only the fantasy of revenge in "Inglourious Basterds". Tarantino himself is sybillinic. "I can understand that you see it that way," he said in Cannes, "but I wouldn't necessarily put it under this category in the video library." Which is superficially due to the fact that Raine and his command only act in a few scenes as one would expect from a bloody revenge movie (in these scenes, of course, neither she nor the camera have any inhibitions). In the third part, the setting of the film, which is divided into five chapters, shifts from the battlefield to occupied Paris and there into a cinema, so that the genre mix - Tarantino initially crosses war films and westerns - is added to the social comedy. Films like "Quel maledetto treno blindato" (1978) by Enzo G. Castellari, Robert Aldrich's "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) or Monte Hellman's "Ride in the Whirlwind" (1965) were the inspiration, at the same time a certain Lubitsch touch can be felt do not deny it. Tarantino has always understood how to torpedo the forward thrust of genre films by letting the characters meditate on God and the world, Madonna and hamburgers, foot massages and race car films. This time it is conversations about G. W. Pabst, apple strudel and milk, Winnetou and King Kong, with which "Inglourious Basterds" digresses from the progress of the plot.
This plot, fragmented by insertions and flashbacks, consists in the fact that the Nazi elite want to attend the premiere of a Nazi propaganda film in Paris. Aldo Raine's men therefore had the opportunity to murder Hitler, Goebbels, Göring and Bormann in one fell swoop. Independently of one another, other characters in Tarantino's ensemble piece are pursuing the same plan: the Jewish-French cinema operator Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), whose family is killed by a troop of SS men in the first chapter of the film, and a cinephile British lieutenant named Hicox (Michael Fassbender), an expert on the German film of the 1920s.
Your greatest opponent is SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), in whom brutality and skill combine to form a stupendous mixture. He speaks fluently in French, English and, in a very enjoyable scene, also in Italian, which in turn puts Raine, who pretends to be an Italian stuntman in this situation, in dire straits. Landa urges the Basterds to repeat their false Italian names several times. One stretches his "Marghareti" a couple of times, the other lets out his "De Coco" like a declaration of war, while Raine doesn't even manage to utter anything that sounds even remotely Italian. His Southern English is so broad that it has been carried over to his physiognomy (if you don't want to miss the great multilingualism of the film, be sure to check out the original version - the dubbed version translates the English into German, which in at least two scenes have to do with the content Distortions).
"Inglourious Basterds" boldly intervenes in the course of history; the fictional film is not interested in what was, nor in what plausibly could have been. Nor does he long for the significance of the historical material in order to give himself relevance. Instead, he invents something that one wishes would have happened: a successful act of resistance that ends the war. Dani Levy's comedy "Mein Führer" had a similar intention two years ago (Sylvester Groth practically gives Goebbels in both films), but did not dare to play through the fantasy consistently. As expected, Tarantino is less shy. He is far removed from the authenticity of German filmmakers. Oliver Hirschbiegel and Bernd Eichinger refrained from depicting Hitler's suicide in "Der Untergang", allegedly because there was no direct witness and therefore no direct historical source. That rightly earned them the reproach of posthumously showing respect to Hitler himself.
Refreshingly, there is no sign of such respect at Tarantino. Hitler goes broken. In the shimmering unrealism of the B-picture, the powerlessness that one feels in view of the real course of the story is transformed into aggression and self-empowerment. "Inglourious Basterds" offers the space to act out these feelings. It's a liberating experience. To confront you from the outset with the arguments of reason - revenge turns those who take revenge into perpetrators - suppresses the feelings before they can articulate themselves.
However, Tarantino's film does not stop at this point. He is smart enough not to ignore the dialectical change that is inherent in the fantasy of revenge. It becomes clear that Donowitz becomes more and more like his opponent the more unrestrained he swings the baseball bat. "Inglourious Basterds" indulges in violence that seems correct because it has the right object: the Nazis. At the same time, however, the film lets the doubt seep into the enjoyment as to whether the enjoyment is okay.
If, for example, Hitler, who was consistently designed as a Kasperl by Martin Wuttke, laughs neighing because the shootings in the film "Pride of the Nation" turn him on, the question arises as to where the difference between the shooting in Nazi propaganda work (that by the Eli Roth was staged) and the neck slitting and scalping of the Basterds. And at the latest when almost 300 people are trapped in a burning cinema, when they panic push towards the door, completely different images are called up again. "Inglourious Basterds" is not so bigoted as to piss off his audience with violence and then make them feel guilty about it. Rather, the sensations coexist: doubt, joy, relief and liberation.
This ambivalence is joined by another - a joy in the thrills that fascism has in store. Anyone who has looked into relevant exploitation films such as "Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS" by Don Edmonds (1975) or "Love Camp 7" by Lee Frost (1969) has an idea of the cheap, sadistic thrills, of the unfortunate Amalgamation of lust and the fascist exercise of power, as articulated in the term "Sadiconazista". "Inglourious Basterds" does not copy this form of Nazi pulp, but lets it resonate.
In the context of the Berlin premiere of his film, Tarantino himself never tired of emphasizing how much he was impressed by Leni Riefenstahl's work and how much he enjoyed shooting in Babelsberg - on the premises where Goebbels also had production. That this fascination carries over to the film can be seen in the interest with which the director considers the character of Colonel Landa. This vicious guy quickly sidelines the person you want to see as the hero of the film, the leader of the Basterds. Landa, the SS man, is the real main character in the film, and what he does is crucial for the success of the plan for revenge. The bold, anti-fascist wish-fulfillment has a fascist stain with it; Landa mixes herself with her like a drop of poison - until the antidote is administered with the very last shot of "Inglourious Basterds".
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