I’m beginning to get the point. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me four times, well, I must be an idiot. Inglourious Basterds wasn’t all that bad, but I have an internal tension while watching his films. I’ll expound that tension for you now.
Let me start with what I love about Quentin Tarantino. First, he is a masterful story-teller. Not only does he come up with a really interesting concept for a movie (a woman avenges her “death” by hunting down the five super assassins responsible, a group of Jewish Americans terrorize the nazis behind enemy lines), he lays out the plot in such a gripping way. Pulp Fiction was a groundbreaking method of moviemaking. The movie isn’t in chronological order which leaves you putting the pieces together long after the film is over. Also, there are several layers to the plot so that it is never a straight-forward action film. All the other tools (the cinematography, the fight scenes, ambitious efforts) add an esthetic element that leaves you wowed.
A second point of favor in Tarantino’s films, which I’ll counterbalance later, but for now, his movies have a moral point. In Kill Bill Vol. 2, one of the super assassins meditates on his own guilt and how he deserves to be killed. Taking a step back in the film, Tarantino seems to be saying evil deeds deserve revenge. Yet, when we take revenge, it keeps a cycle of revenge going. Revenge is a dirty business which we need to be wary of entering. In Inglourious Basterds, the moral point seems to be similar. Revenge makes you ugly. In this movie, the nazis seem to be more human than the Americans. They have more restraint to do evil than those that want to exact revenge on them. It was reading some reviews with this point and the fact that it’s up for an academy award for best picture that made me want to see it.
But, here is my tension, I’m not sure we come away with the moral point from his films, nor am I sure that we’re supposed to. The film pushes you to root for the Avenger. The violence they perform in getting their revenge doesn’t seem to be presented as monstrous (which when you stop to think about it, it is incredibly so) no as regrettable, but as cool. The violence is so stylized in how it is shot with beautifully choreographed killings. And, each of the avengers have a machismo about them that one can’t help but think they are cool. The style contradicts the way you should be morally responding to what is being depicted. The moral gets eaten up by the style.
There is certainly objectionable content in his films, but that’s not my problem. The Bible has shocking violence at times. But, how that violence is depicted matters a lot to me. Does the movie lead you to feel the way about violence that God does? Does it lead you to view with sobriety and sadness? Does it lead you to view it as dangerous to your own soul? Does it lead you to want to avoid it if at all possible? I grew up in the Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger movie era where one man guns down whole armies with a lot of machismo and humor. These movies had a desensitizing affect on my perception of violence in a way that I was unaware of. I found myself laughing as someone’s head was shot off or as I saw someone explode. A movie that changed the way I saw war films was Saving Private Ryan. War was no longer something cool. I saw it as it truly is, horrific. Now, I’m not a pacifist, but I am shocked at how many movies want to desensitize to the horrors of war, murder, torture, and much more.
This desensitizing effect towards violence seems to be a part of every Tarantino movie. Perhaps, this isn’t your experience, but only my own. For me, it’s not a matter of avoiding movies with bad things in them and only stick to the G-rated Disney section. But, how is immorality being depicted? How are you being moved by what you see? Are you wanting the wrong thing to happen in a film? As I watch movies, I’m challenged by the call of 1 Corinthians 13:6, that love does not rejoice in wrongdoing. There are some movies we shouldn’t see.
I would love to hear your own reaction to the film as well.