Inglorious Basterds Gets Violent

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Aug. 24 2009 10:26 AM

Inglorious Basterds Gets Violent

Willa Paskin Willa Paskin

Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.

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Dana, I have an Inglorious Basterd ’s question for you. I saw the movie over the weekend and I loved it-it’s not perfect, by any stretch, but, damn, it was fun-and, unlike you, it didn’t leave me feeling a bit queasy. In your review, your major critique of the film was that Quentin Tarantino, again and again, "unproblematically offers up sadistic voyeurism as a satisfying form of payback." Certainly, there are many scenes where this is the case (and if I wasn’t quietly sickened by the Nazi getting beaten to death with a baseball bat, I absolutely hid my eyes), but I thought there was at least one scene in which Tarantino served up his violence very problematically.

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I’m talking about the scene (slight spoiler alert!) that takes place towards the end of the movie when the German high command, including Hitler, Goebbels, Goring, and 350 of their closest friends, are watching a propaganda film about a "heroic" German sharp shooter picking off Allied soldiers. The Nazi crowd is having a blast, hooting, hollering, clapping and laughing every time the shooter takes down another easy target. Hitler-sweaty, chubby, deranged-is having the most fun of all. They’re disgusting.

Tarantino then cuts to two of the Basterds, our heroes, out in the hall, disguising themselves as waiters and strapping guns to their hands. They leave the restroom, walk down the hall, pause outside Hitler’s balcony, and, suddenly, leap, while punching, onto the two Nazis guarding the door, killing them instantly. It’s hugely badass. The audience I was with went wild.

And then Tarantino cuts back to the theater, where all the Germans are still hooping and hollering at what, to them, is some totally badass cinematic violence. There are the Nazis, all worked up and digging gratuitous death-and here are we, doing the exact same thing. So, here’s my question(s): Is that a meaningless cut? Or, rather, a judgment-free one? Or is it possible that Tarantino, the long-uncritical lover of beautiful, kinetic bloodspatter, finally has some critiques?

Image is a screenshot from the Inglourious Basterds trailer, courtesy of Universal Pictues.

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