You’d think war would be referenced with sobriety. The fact is, people love to joke about it. Take Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, about a two-sided manhunt for one (entirely fictional) Nazi officer. Full of jokes to make the audience laugh at unfunny topics, (Wikipedia) the movie’s value lies in its satirical view of one of humanity’s biggest tragedies.
Arguably, the film does a wonderful job trivializing WWII. As film critic Meir Schnitzer wrote, “Basterds relies on the cancellation of history.” Schnitzel insists that Tarantino “[deletes] morality” to make another offensive “kosher porn,” where history is overturned so the Jewish win.
I must, however, disagree completely. I just don’t see this movie as a “cancellation” of Jewish struggle.
The movie is known for Lt. Raine’s band of Nazi-hunting Jewish-American soldiers, but to me, the core of Basterds is the suicidal revenge plan a wronged Jewish woman, Shosanna, hatches against SS Colonel Hans Landa. This movie is about a Jewish struggle. Only, I must concede, perhaps not in the way Schnitzer expects.
As Holocaust studies professor Anthony Polonsky stated, “kosher porn” is the new “perception of Jewish strength.” Shosanna’s whole family was massacred and she lives in hiding. By burning down a theatre, killing hundreds of Nazis and herself, she helps Raine capture Landa. She is, technically, our hero. Shosanna’s victory is completely fictional, but in it resonates the Holocaust victims’ resilience.
Somewhat. Schnitzer is correct: Tarantino “[deletes] morality,” but only to create a world with no heroes. Revenge destroyed everyone. Our hero went up in flames. The Basterds still took pleasure in brutality. These heroes are not “good.” In the Jewish community, “to seek revenge by murder [is] to lower yourself” (Neroulias). Shosanna was no better than Landa. What heroes?
But it cannot be denied that, as Shosanna burned the Nazis and our Nazi hunters carved a swastika into Landa’s forehead, the Jews won.
Basterds is an amoral film with qualities of “kosher porn.” In this, Tarantino follows Schnitzer’s criticism. But as Polonsky states, it’s about revenge. In creating the morally ambiguous world of war, Tarantino captured the emotions of, without making another movie about, WWII: Jewish anguish and anger, romanticism of violence, and skewed Allied ideas of heroism. In no way is Tarantino glorifying Jewish victory– he is taking war through a comedic lens where everyone is “inglourious” because nothing destructive in war, heroic or otherwise, deserves glory.
The easiest way to look at war is to distance ourselves and make it a game. A comedy. Unreal. This is how war permeates our world. In today’s age, war is less about accuracy and more about glamorized movies. We pretend that soldiers are favorite toys and victim are worlds away.
I know war the way a child knows an army when he is given a set of plastic men: I don’t, and most people are the same. Instead, I root for killers and cheer when the jokes come rolling.
Of course, this is simply a difference in interpretations. Myself, a child in the age noted for its disconnectedness with reality, and Schnitzer, a child of Holocaust survivors, live different lives. Perhaps Schnitzer can see people when I only see green plastic toys.
“Inglourious Basterds.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2015.
Neroulias, Nicole. “‘Inglourious Basterds’ Latest in Jewish Vengeance Film Genre.” USA Today, 25 Aug. 2009. Web. 03 Oct. 2015.
Schnitzer, Meir. “Practice Evil with Evil.” Rev. of Inglourious Basterds. Maariv 16 Sept. 2009: n. pag. Web. 3 Oct. 2015.