Saturday, August 29, 2009

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS: Get some more.

Tarantino and Roth finally put their propensity for violence to good use. I know there are many who will decry this movie for the baseball-bat clubbings, the scalping of the SS soldiers, and the finger-in-the-bullet wound routine. But these acts of violence are acts of vengeance, against the most brutal regime ever to terrorize the earth. What's interesting is that the Holocaust is not mentioned by name, implied rather than stated. There are no pictures of concentration camps, no skeletal figures, nothing to show the mass genocide of the Jews by the Nazis. This is crucial to understanding this movie.

There are those who would say that a movie such as this is the wrong way to think about WWII, and are in favor of taking the "moral high road." There are even people who would say that we should even forgive Hitler for his atrocities.

Those people are dead wrong.

It's a weird morality that rewards evil with forgiveness. It's a weird morality that would say it's OK to depict the plight of the Jews in order to garner sympathy, but not to show the perpetrators of their suffering getting theirs. They say that justice, not vengeance, is the way to go. When we see the depiction of Jews suffering in concentration camps, or in line to the ovens, that act of pathos is used to invoke pity, sympathy, and empathy. That is the New Testament way, the Christian way of seeing things. We are asked to identify with the victims, to "feel their pain." But, then, what are we supposed to do with that feeling? Anymore, we are asked to identify with the suffering of the Nazis, as well. Because, like, you know, they are people, too...

But not here. That would not be the Tarantino way. Instead, as in his other films, the heroes, those "Inglourious Basterds", go "Old Testament" on those Nazi asses...

How can the Jews not have justice without vengeance? What a strange dichotomy...one that Inglourious Basterds recognizes. We get a few scenes of sympathetic Nazis, one with a newborn son, the other a lovestruck war hero. We are tempted to identify with them, sympathize with them, even hope that there is hope for them...go ahead...I dare you...On the other hand, we don't get the standard of today's heroism where the hero is shown in therapy over his actions, racked with guilt over the loss of his humanity. Is this simply a cartoony return to the "John Wayne" style of filmaking? Or a suggestion of the lack of introspection on the part of the Basterds? In the hands of Alan Moore, "Aldo the Apache" would be simply a psychopath, like Rorschach, Watchmen's leftist take on Steve Ditko's Randian-styled hero, The Question. But it should be noted that the backwoods, half-redneck, half-Injun Aldo, despite his poor grammatical skills, is uncorrupted by modern academic pseudo-psychological destruction of man's mind, or untainted by religious guilt, which is very important, given that he's leading a band of Jewish soldiers. This reason for this is not explained, so I will simply speculate, based on my own frustration of hearing about the Holocaust when I was younger, frustrated that the Jews didn't do MORE to fight back. I never understood passivity of that nature, but knowing what I do know about religion and philosophy and academia, I see this as saying that if your beliefs, your ideas, your religion prevent you from fighting back, from claiming your right to exist on this planet, the only thing can save you, at that point, is that "instinct" that comes from the so-called "selfish gene..."

There are those who would say that the price of vengeance is the moral corruption of the one seeking revenge. There are rules, to be sure, and without a proper philosophy and morality, there is the danger of becoming the very thing you hate. But the real danger is allowing the evil to continue. So let's just say, without giving anything away, that I was quite satisfied with the outcome of a certain necessary evil of dealing with the devil...

But back to the main point: the fact that the movie doesn't mention the Holocaust. Because we've all been made quite aware of the Holocaust, there's no need to depict it on the screen anymore, right?. Matter of fact, it would border on sadistic/masochistic to continue doing so, right? For all the complaints of violence in Tarantino's films, you have to acknowledge the hypocrisy of continue to show the suffering of the victims while crying over acts of vengeance, or decrying the mutilation of the Nazis...right? "Never again"....right?

The best part of the movie for me, in comparison to the other "heroic" movies of an otherwise dismal summer-blockbuster season, was the explosion scene. In those other movies, the setup did not justify the payoff. But here, the explosions are not simply "Michael Bay" blowups, it's an integral part of the plot. So it was revealing to hear those in the audience who cheered at the end, a few who, I'm sure, were Jewish. But the most revealing part, for me, was AFTER the movie; overhearing a couple walking away in shock, the guy commented that he was disturbed that the audience cheered at the end.

I'm guessing he wasn't Jewish. Or, maybe I'm wrong, and he has never heard of the Holocaust...

Inglourious Basterds. Get some.

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