St. Thomas Goes to the Movies: Inglorious Basterds
Warning Major Spoilers Ahead!!!!!!!!
I will confess to loving Quentin Tarantino. A lot of people do, I know, but my love came late, long after the Pulp Ficiton phenomena. I avoided him because of my allergy of all things “ultra hip”. But, finally, one day, a friend talked me into seeing Kill Bill Vol. 2 at the theater. I went, more to hang with my friend than anything and found myself hooked on QT. I went out and rented Kill Bill 1 and ended up buying both movies.
The reason I like Kill Bill is not because of the reasons that people might expect. Sure, I loved the how beautifully shot the movie was, the dialogue, and characters. But what drew me into QT’s world is what is going on beneath the surface. In Kill Bill, what was advertised as an old fashioned revenge flick was actually a commentary on the purity of certain ideas, in this case, the superiority of creating life (The Bride being a mom) verses cold blooded murder (The Bride as Black Mamba).
And, that’s exactly what happens with Inglorious Basterds. A person would think this movie will be about American Jewish soldiers going on a revenge killing spree against German soldiers before D-Day. And, there is certainly some of that, especially when the “Bear Jew” makes his first appearance with a weapon Albert Pujols would be proud of (a baseball bat).
The movie is actually about more, much more. There are more than one theme winding it’s way through the story. Shosanna, a Jewish girl who has her whole family murdered in front of her, is what makes the movie. We found out that she has fled to Paris and now runs a movie theater. Through a series of incidents, her theater hosts a premeire of the latest films from Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propoganda master.
Melanie Laurent is just awesome as Shoshanna. She goes from sweet innocent to coldblooded revenge in a heart beat. And, she does it so well, you hardly notice. She plots to blow up the theater with all of the German High command inside.
Just so I don’t give too much away, I’m going to skip to the film’s final scence, which has been haunting my dreams lately. Soshanna’s revenge comes through lighting the theater on fire. While her lover does this, she spliced a film of herself to play while the theater burns down. The resulting scene is just amazing as the film continues to run as the screen goes up in flames. We can hear her mocking laughter as we see her face in the smoke. We hear the chilling words, “This is the Spirit of Jewish revenge”.
What is creepily good about this is that the smoke glows with light from the movie projector. I don’t know if QT did this on purpose, but I couldn’t help reflect on the Shekinah glory. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a reference to the presence of God in the Hebrew Bible which was represented with a glowing cloud. It always appeared in the midst of the temple during worship. Intrestingly, the Hebrew word has a feminine ending, which some rabbis have suggested means the Shekinah represents God’s feminine aspects.
But, what really grabs you through the whole movie is how QT entertains you while making you question exactly why you are entertained. I insist to friends that QT’s films are actually anti-violence because he shows violence as it really is, not some hopped up, glorified version of it. This point is struck home as we see Hitler in the movie theater (this movie is an alternate history, by the way) laughing his butt off at the Americans soldiers being shot down. It makes you question why you laughed when the “Bear Jew” beat the Skubulos out of a Nazi colonel.
See, this is what good art really does. It holds a mirror up to your face and says “look”. This is what QT does on a consistent basis in all of his movies. And man does he make it LOOK good. Every shot carefully planned, very angle measured to bring in more of the story. Even more, QT can build tension like no one else through long conversations where you are waiting for the skubulos to go down.
I always judge a movie on the how it affects me days after. For example, There Will be Blood haunted me for a week and it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. Inglorious is going four days and I want to see it again. I don’t buy many movies any more. But, this one will be on my Christmas list, guranteed.
Go see this movie.