Wednesday, September 23, 2009

World War 2: The movie: Inglourious Basterds

A little word up front to my readership that might not be interested in the usual game rambling that is the norm around here. This post deals mostly with popular culture AND LOTS OF SPOILERS.

It's impossible to ignore the impact the second world war had on the world we know today. It was also quite a long time ago. And indeed our first hand source of information is slowly drying up. Even so, Hitler and his Nazis are still very popular. Popular boogeymen that is. Given the time that has past since that gruesome event, the world has had time to acclimate to the hard, cold facts, and has learned to live with it. What humans are capable of. This new-found freedom has allowed us to get a little more creative with the whole notion of a world at war. Break up the protagonists of the war into cartoonish achetypes. And Nazis have become a literary archetype. Comparable to the undead or vampires. In which case Adolf Hitler becomes a modern day Count Dracula. Now, these archetypes are coming from their dark sub-cultural recesses, such as games and comics, into the mainstream.

I recently saw the new Tarantino Movie Inglourious Basterds. This movie is a stylish expression. If you'd compare this movie to the likes of Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers. The difference is immediately clear. This is a creative interpretation. And presents an interesting point of view.

Adolf Hitler, who looks nothing like his real life counterpart for good reason, in this movie has been portrayed as a deranged German Bonaparte wannabe, simple minded, psychotic and bent on the destruction of every Jew on the globe. He bursts in saliva spitting laughter when watching the movie National pride. The film (in a film) is basically about the typical rambo-esque spraying of bullets (from a bolt action rifle no less) and people hitting the floor. It's the heroic tale of a sniper sitting in a bell tower killing a cohort of allied soldiers in Italy. The allied stupidity shown through a brief conversation between an allied soldier and his commanding officer: "Commander, we must destroy that tower!" upon which the commander replies in stoic fashion "Not a chance.". Followed by the camera cutting to more allies getting shot or falling from windows. With his combat knife, our hero sniper carves a swastika with impressive shading into the floorboard of his bell tower as a reprise from the killing. This is, of course, hailed with loud cheering and applause from the Nazi Brass in the theater. It's a boneheaded piece of propaganda. A power trip. It's what we could call gun porn. Hitler exclaims to Goebbels "This is your best movie yet!". Goebbels is moved to tears by the complement. A condemnation perhaps on the director's behalf. Tarantino is comparing people who enjoy the gun porn movies to this caricature of Hitler. And I guess this would also count towards people who play first person shooter games as well. If they are played for the simple reason of shooting people and marvel at the carnage in sadistic enjoyment. It might also be a wake-up call to every person in the audience who was laughing at the fact that Nazis were getting brutally murdered or mutilated on screen. These said Nazis were in many cases presented as normal people with morals, principles and dreams. Like the sergeant that meets his demise at the hands of the so-called Jew Bear. The latter points at the Sergeant's Iron Cross and asks him "Did you get that for killing Jews?" at which he gets an honest reply "For courage". Implying that he did not fight this war to kill Jews, but rather to protect his homeland. And of course, it's rather absurd to believe that all German soldiers were psychopaths. The reply falls on deaf ears, it is not the version of reality a determined person on a quest for revenge wants to hear.

But for as many incompetent German officers the movie has, there are competent Nazis, you could call them villains if not for the fact the movie portraits them simply as officers on duty. These characters radiate an air of tension, their friendly face the impenetrable facade for the calculating detective inside. Such is the Gestapo Officer in the cellar meeting. And such is Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz, who is arguably the most enjoyable character in this story. And arguably the most impressive villain since Heath Ledger's Joker. The very opening part of the movie is as tense as the it gets. And is one among a series of unbearable, deafening, tense and discomforting moments. All of these come to a loud, abrupt and somewhat violent end. At first glance a likable character, bearing a big bright smile, speaking kind words in a multitude of languages. He is shrewd however, seems to know just about everything and acts with deadly precision. The war seems to be a game to him, played by rules and a mutual respect between prey and predator. This almost childlike trust in these rules are eventually his folly. His professional mercenary logic is quite sound however. Unfortunantly for him though, some characters carry a grudge that is rather unprofessional.

You might have noticed I'm glossing over the story and possible meaning of the Inglourious Basterds squad. But then, what's to say? These characters are rather simple and honest in many possible ways. They're out for revenge, and get it. Aldo Raine, the squad sergeant played by Brad Pitt is an uncomplicated ruffian. And it's amazing how many times the Basterds serve as comic relief. Most noticeably when they present themselves to be Italians. Perhaps the most interesting fact about the Basterds is that they are Jews killing Nazis, in it self this isn't anything special, but in the context of the film, and add to that the characters of Shosanna and Marcel, it leads to a remarkable reversal, namely that, from a Nazi's point of view, the ├╝bermensch is undone by the hands of the undermensch.

I did not feel good as I walked out of the movie theater. This piece of cinema is rough, like the screeching of a fork on a blackboard. And contradictionary as it might sound, I enjoyed it thoroughly. That's because I had a lot to think about. And because I could, this blog post exists.

1 comment:

SimoensS said...

I already said this on Twitter but I'll say it again, your best blog post so far imo !