Hello, readers. It’s raining here in northwestern Georgia, and I am recovering from my wisdom teeth being removed. So since I am just sitting around, I started flipping through cable. Well, one of my favorite movies, Inglorious Basterds, just happened to be on TNT. Now some of you who know TNT would probably be wary of trying to watch a movie on that station. We all know the jokes about the amount of commercials making a two-hour movie more like 5 hours, but I love this movie so why not.
Anyway, this movie is a great example of how alternate history can be so much fun to watch. For those of you who need a refresher, Inglorious Basterds was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, came out in 2009, and offers an alternate look on how World War II could have ended. There are two storylines in this movie. One storyline follows Shosanna, a young French Jew who escapes the massacre of her family at the hands of Hans Landa, a Nazi “Jew Hunter,” who lives in Paris under a new identity as a cinema owner. She crosses paths with a German war hero, Frederick Zoller, the subject of Joseph Goebbels’ newest propaganda feature. The Nazis have chosen her cinema as the site for the big premier of the film where only the German/Nazi elite can attend. Zoller has a crush on Shosanna, who is being watched by Hans Landa, who has been put in charge of security for the event. Shosanna and her protectionist/ lover, Marcel, decided to exact revenge on the Nazis by trapping them inside during the premier and burning down the cinema. Storyline two follows a group of American Jewish soldiers called the Basterds who are led by Tennessean Aldo Raine. Their mission is to systematically hunt down and kill Nazi soldiers in France, collecting scalps along the way. Survivors of their ambushes are left with a swastika carved into their forehead so that everyone knows they were Nazis. The Basterds, mostly the German-speaking ones, join up with a German actress/ British double agent, Bridget von Hammersmark and a British solider to blow up this important film premier. They meet in a basement bar, where all hell breaks loose, as the German Basterds and the British solider are killed when their cover is blown. Aldo and the remaining Basterds are now responsible for carrying out the mission of killing the Nazi higher-ups because it is now revealed that Hitler will also be attending the premier! The two storylines intersect as Hans Landa investigates the bar shootings and the night of the premier arrives. Shosanna does not know the Basterds exist, The Basterds do not know Shosanna exists. The movie reaches its climax as both plans go into effect at the same time killing Hitler, other Nazis, and many of our heroes. Hans Landa switches sides in order to end his part in the war and Aldo Raine is ordered to bring Landa over to the Allied forces. Hans does not escape his fate with the Basterds though as they carve a swastika into his forehead. A lot happens in this movie so excuse me if it all sounds a little jumbled.
Anyway, the reason this movie is so much fun to me is it makes me wish it was real history. When I first watched this movie, I left the theater wanting the war to end earlier, for Hitler to suffer the way he did in the film, and for a group like the Basterds to really exist. Alternate history does that. It sometimes draws on what people wished had really happened in history instead of the truth. Tarantino does a great job with that. I have to say he seems to know his World War II history because the events in the movie are very believable. Hans Landa could have very well have been a real Nazi that students read about when studying that time period. Also Tarantino’s use of real historical figures is great. They are either speaking characters or just pointed out with what looks like handwritten titles. I love this movie. Oh, and the tension at the beginning of the movie!! Geez!!!
Tarantino has another alternate history film coming out this winter, Django Unchained, which I am sure will hold up an uncomfortable mirror to the Southern U.S. as it looks at the 1860’s in a spaghetti western type flick. Cannot wait. I will definitely be talking about it on here.