Friday, March 26, 2010

"Realistic to the point of being inhuman": Christoph Waltz is a Glourious Basterd, and so is Quentin Tarantino!

{ -->> significant spoilage may be contained in the following <<-- }

OK, we finally watched Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. It is a wonderful film, even glourious. I own very few movie DVD's, but two of them are Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and I am sure that before long Inglourious Basterds will join them (the one we watched was a rental).

To be brutally honest, I wanted the movie to be even better. My own subjective experience was that it peaks during the basement-rendezvous-gone-wrong scene (more specifically during the brilliant King Kong "joke" scene) and then, well, kind of falls apart. But if Quentin Tarantino were not such a genius it would be literally inconceivable to find fault with this film!

But there is one aspect of Inglourious Basterds that was absolutely perfect: Christoph Waltz's performance as Standartenführer Hans Landa of the Nazi SS. Waltz himself had this to say about Hans Landa, in an interview with Hunter Stephenson of
he is realistic to the point where it is bordering the inhuman, you know. He really looks at the various layers of reality, and he understands that there is not just one thing, the world is many things at the same time. And they might appear to contradict each other, but that does not mean that they necessarily do. And it’s a very interesting subject for conversation and discussion, and that’s naturally the ideal outcome of something like this.
I suspect that with the passage of time, Inglourious Basterds will age quite well. The period of history that Tarantino has taken on persists in defying all efforts to "explain" it. Were the Nazis inhuman monsters, or were they ordinary human beings who did horribly evil things? If they were monsters, where do such monsters come from? If they were ordinary human beings, how do ordinary human beings do such horribly evil things? And how many Nazis were like Hans Landa, who was "just doing his job", and, in this fictional version of history, turns against his Fuhrer and helps to win the war for the Allies?

But, in reality, it was the "Jewish Vengeance" of Shosanna Dreyfus that was "really" responsible for decapitating the the Third Reich. What is Tarantino saying with that? What does Landa represent? Some dark malevolently amoral aspect of western culture that not only managed to survive the destruction of Nazism intact, but insidiously receives credit for helping to rid the world of fascism? And why is this evil piece of shit so fascinating, so charming, so intelligent and cultured and "realistic"?

And think about it. Hans Landa really did bring down the Third Reich, but not because the Inglourious Basterds needed his cooperation to bring off their plan. It was Landa who allowed Shosanna to live, and it was Shosanna who really pulled off the real "Operation Kino" . . . .

The more I think about it, the more exquisitely multi-layered the King Kong reference reveals itself to be. Could anyone seriously argue that the Third Reich was any more morally depraved than the societies that involved themselves in, indeed, become stinking rich from, the African Slave Trade, not to mention (and there are references to this as well) the Genocide of the Native Americans. But in that case all of our metaphysical head-scratching over how those evil Nazis could be so evil is rather cluelessly un-self-aware, no?

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