Thesis: Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds an Analysis

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[. . .] For instance, in the scene where the Basterds are interrogating a small group of Nazi soldiers in order to find where they are stationed, Tarantino makes use of high-angled to "look down" on the captured Nazis, creating the illusion that they are inferior to their captors, which are shot using low-angled shots as though their captives are looking up at them. In this scene, Tarantino also positions the Basterds at different heights, all looking down at their captives, thus making it appear as though there is a gladiator-like battle taking place at the center of the scene. Likewise, in the final scenes of the film, where Donnie Donowitz and Omar Ulmer are shooting the trapped Nazis in the movie theatre, Tarantino employs high and low-angled shots, not only to establish the dominance of the Basterds, but also to mimic their perspective as they were shooting down into the film's audience from the cinema's balconies.

Throughout his directorial career, Tarantino has developed a series of trademarks that are evident in the mise-en-scene of his films. These trademarks include his "trunk" shots in which characters appear to look down on someone that is unable to escape and the captive looks up at them; a long shot; and a Mexican standoff, a situation in which there is a risk of everyone dying because everyone has a weapon pointed at each other. The "trunk" shot is shown on two occasions, both of which involve Lt. Aldo Raine and one other Basterd looking down on one of their Nazi captives -- SS Pvt. Butz and SS Col. Landa -- as they carve, then admire, the swastikas carved into their captives' foreheads to forever remind the people they may encounter of their involvement in the war. Tarantino incorporates a long shot into Inglourious Basterds in the scene where Shosanna has finished getting ready for the premiere of Nation's Pride at her movie theatre. In this scene, the camera focuses on Shosanna as she enters the theatre's lobby and begins to descend down the lobby stairs and then terminates at Von Hammersmark and her Basterd dates as they converse with SS Col. Landa. This long shot helps to combine Shosanna's and the Basterds' narratives and allows the viewer to see the exact moment their individual narratives intersect.

One of the most distinct trademarks Tarantino employs in his films is the use of anachronistic music, which in any other film, would most likely detract from the narrative, but in Tarantino's case, serves to enhance it. As Inglourious Basterds can be considered to be a contemporary take on a spaghetti western, Tarantino uses music by Ennio Morricone to set the tone of the film. Morricone's music not only establishes the film as a modern spaghetti western, but it also highlights the various plot twists and turns that occur throughout the film. Moreover, music by David Bowie and Billy Preston help to enhance the tone of the film and propel the narrative forward, especially during two key scenes. Preston's "Slaughter" is played during Hugo Stiglitz's introduction, in which Tarantino explains how Stiglitz came to be one of the Basterds (Inglourious Basterds). This song is symbolic of how Stiglitz became a Basterd since he earned their respect and attracted their attention by slaughtering Nazi officials on his own. Likewise, Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" is played as Shosanna readies herself for the premiere of Nation's Pride, during which she will burn down the theatre and kill many Nazi officers (Inglourious Basterds). The use of this type of contemporary music helps to reinforce Tarantino's narrative and demonstrates that the past and the present can be combined to create a successful film.

Despite these various postmodern approaches to a World War II-centric narrative, one of the central issues in the film -- and during the war -- was race, religion, and ethnicity. Ultimately, Shosanna and the Basters are able to fulfill their quests as Shosanna and several members of the Basterds sacrifice themselves to kill Hitler and countless high-ranking Nazi officers, and the Basterds capture SS Col. Landa and bring him to justice. Shosanna, and her family, were persecuted because they were/are Jewish, and thus, considered to pose a danger to German society ("Chronology of Jewish Persecution: 1933"). While Shosanna, and other Jewish people, are directly targeted by the Nazis, as she is both Jewish and living in Nazi-occupied France, the Basterds also emphasize the racial and religious tensions between Jews and Germans through the men that make up the regiment. The men enlisted to be part of the Basterds are either of Jewish descent and/or have a deep hatred of them, like Hugo Stiglitz and Lt. Aldo Raine. Racism in the film can be seen to a limited extent when Shosanna is asked to dismiss her boyfriend, and the theatre's projectionist, because he is black and the Nazis would be more comfortable if she were to run the projector during the premiere of Nation's Pride.

Because the film relies heavily on the viewers' understanding of history, Tarantino is able to manipulate historical events to produce a cathartic effect. He allows people to witness the fulfillment of personal fantasies to destroy an evil regime and end the countless atrocities of World War II. The cathartic effect aroused by Tarantino arises from his characters' abilities to effectively stand up to Hitler and the Third Reich, and take matters into their own hands. No longer are high-ranking Nazi officials such as Hitler, Goebbels, and Goering able to get away with murder and then die on their own terms via suicide, but rather, that power is transferred to the people that were affected by their decisions and commands. Thus, an overarching theme of justice emerges, coupled with a message that these atrocities need to be remembered. Additionally, by visibly mutilating SS Pvt. Butz and SS Col. Landa, Tarantino, he prohibits those that took part in the atrocities from ever forgetting what they did and prevents them from hiding who they were/are from the public.

Ultimately, Tarantino successfully creates a world where justice is carried out by the individuals who deserve it most and good triumphs over evil. Despite the historic and artistic liberties Tarantino took, he was able to create an emotionally arousing film that explores issues of race, religion, and ethnicity without overwhelming the audience with the historical injustices and atrocities that took place. Tarantino relies on the audience's understanding of his art and of history to promote his vision, and masterfully uses mise-en-scene, cinematography, and sound to allow the audience to understand what he wants them to experience.

Works Cited

"Chronology of Jewish Persecution: 1933." Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 18 May 2013.

Inglourious Basterds. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. United States: The Weinstein Company,

2009. DVD.

"Inglourious Basterds Trivia." Internet Movie Database. Web. 9 May 2011.

Powers, Kevin. "Script for Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds an Analysis."  Essaytown.com.  May 21, 2013.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/tarantino-inglourious-basterds-analysis/7439520.