Sunday, 29 April 2012

Intertextual references in Inglourious Basterds.

The beginning of the first chapter exterior shots are similar to The Sound of Music.

The title of the first Chapter points out the main reference of Sergio Leone's 1968 western, Once Upon a Time in the West in the first scene as it is titled Once Upon a Time, in Nazi-occupied France. The interior of the house was designed to look similar to the town setting in Once Upon a Time in the West. The western reference is also backed up with the soundtrack by Ennion Morriconne who composed the music for a lot of Sergio Leone's films. There is a bricolage with Beethoven's  Fur Elise mixed with spaghetti western music to turn it from calm classical music into something that is sinister and builds the tension signifying on coming action. The plot is also similar because in both films a family is massacred in this scene.

Colonel Landa is seen smoking a calabash pipe which is typically used in portrayals of Sherlock Holmes (possible a reference to the fact that Landa's character has solved the case of the hiding family and is a "detective" for the Nazis) either way it looks out of place in this period of history. 

The second chapter, Inglourious Basterds references the 1960s American war film, The Dirty Dozen both in the plot and the scenary. 

It is also similar in plot with recruits being given a mission to assassinate Nazis. In Inglourious Basterds Jewish soldiers are being recruited rather than convicted murderers like in The Dirty Dozen. The setting for the introduction of the assassins is in a similar looking courtyard.

The simulacrum and hyper-reality of the group is represented in the fake sounding Tennessee accent of Brad Pitt and the extreme characters with excessive violence from the Basterds and the angry, sulky character representing Hitler. The characters are exaggerated to make it obvious to the audience that it is not a true representation of what happened. Most period drama films will try to be as historically accurate as possible ensuring that everything from uniform, props, cars and location are close to the correct date and context that the film is set because they want the audience to be convinced that it is a real portrayal of events especially if they state that it is based on true events. Tarantino however does everything to ignore this typical convention, made obvious to the audience that it is fictional by stating the different Chapters at the start of every scene. 

Throughout the film the majority of the time the characters' speak their native language. This might be to point out the ridiculousness of typical "realistic" war films which often have German soldiers of all ranks speaking fluent English with a heavy accent throughout the film saying the odd phrases in German (Valkyrie for example which is entirely German characters speaking English for the whole) However it could be an attempt to portray some realism in the hyper-real story. Large blockbusters are not expected it be in any other language than English because it requires more attention from the audience - reading the subtitles and watching the action - which some people don't like doing which is why foreign language films have a smaller audience. Inglourious Basterds though is not totally in one language so can not be classed as a foreign language film. The first scene where Colonel Landa and Monsieur LaPedite switch from French to English contradicts the realism of having the characters' speak their own language as it doesn't flow which points out the audience the ridiculousness of typical war films that are entirely in English.  

In the 3rd scene there is a self-referencing aspect where the action cuts to a voice-over explaining the character of Hugo Stiglitz. The font is a Tarantino style drop shadow in yellow and black like other of his works e.g. Jackie Brown title. The voice-over is explained by Samuel L Jackson who starred in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. This is an example of hyper-reality within the film because the narrator who has nothing to do with the action is explaining more about the story - like in a book where the author sets the scene, introduces the characters then develops the action. As well as being self-referencing it is another example of how Tarantino is aware that is not "real" and is letting the audience know.

Another self-referencing aspect is the way Tarantino uses his trademark camera angles in the movie - the point of view shot looking up at the victim's attackers which is used in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill and Deathproof. 

A strong theme throughout the film is cinema, Tarantino uses eclecticism by referencing different genres of film. After referencing spaghetti westerns in the first scenes, he makes reference to German cinema both from the Weimar era and Third Reich in the rest of the film. In Chapter 3, he references the famous Austrian filmmaker, Georg Pabst, by showing the title of his film "The White Hell of Pitz Palu" on the front of the cinema. Both in French and in German. Which is also referenced later with the cover story for Bridget's broken leg. Aldo Raine says "He's gonna wrap it up in a cast, and you gotta good how I broke my leg mountain climbing story. That's German, ain't it? Y'all like climbing mountains."

Third Reich propaganda films are referenced through Frederick's storyline who has starred in a film "Nation's Pride" a film made by Goebbels, propaganda minister during the Nazi regime. Although there was no actual film made at the time called Nation's Pride it is similar to Third Reich films which focused on how the Nazis were winning the war. Tarantino also made a 6 minute film called "Nation's Pride" that can be seen on in full DVD extras and is premiered in Shoshanna's cinema in the last chapter. It was made to look like a Nazi propaganda film which is another example of creating hyper-reality.

Georg Pabst is again referenced in the scene where Lt Hicox is briefed with Operation Kino. The Lt. was a film critic before the war having written books on Germany cinema of the 20's and Georg Pabst. Bridget Von Hammersmark was a German film star of the 30s and is a character in Operation Kino as a spy. There is a reference to G.W. Pabst again in the card game at the pub as she is seen with his name on her card. Also the cover story of Hicox's bad German accent is linked to Pabst's film Piz Palu as he says that he is from a German-speaking area of Switzerland and that some of his family was in the film.

In the final chapter where Shoshanna stands at the window before the premier there is a poster in the background for the film "Fraulein Doktor" starring Bridget Von Hammersmarck. 

There is a Cinderella reference, as Colonel Landa finds out that she was at the tavern because she left her shoe which he then identifies as hers by making her try it on. Twisting the romantic take from the fairytale into a sinister way of discovering her identity.

There is a huge level of detail and interlinking the same references in the various scenes which aren't necessarily picked up on the first time around. This level of detail of references to old filmmakers and film stars suggests Tarantino wants to appeal to a more niche audience of film buffs as well as a mainstream audience. The majority might not recognise specific references to certain filmmakers and films however could easily identify German cinema and references to Nazi propaganda that is more universally known. This is an example of flattening high and low culture by bringing in niche references along with pop culture such as spaghetti Westerns and his own work. Tarantino does this to create his own version of history, changing the end of the war by having Hitler and the rest of the high command killed in a cinema. As he is a director and big film buff interested in a wide range of film genres, he creates a film inspired film with a plot based around a film premier. The final action scene is set in a cinema where the audience are trapped and killed. This might be another hint at the hyper-reality of films in general - the audience "experience" films in the cinema but they do not actually experience the action which they do in at the end of this film - where the screen is set on fire and theatre blown up burning down the cinema. Tarantino also rejects typical conventions and expectations in the narrative by having Shoshanna and Frederick die by each other's hand, which is unexpected as Shoshanna is seen as the main heroine of the story. This is an example of Lyotard's micro-narrative theory which says narratives can be unpredictable and go anyway.

The film ends with another "boot" shot from Landa's point of view with Raine's last line "This might just be my masterpiece" a self-satisfied line which makes it clear that Tarantino is pleased with the film which took about 10 years to develop.

Some critics hate Tarantino's style of self-referencing and niche references because it requires the audience to know the references in order to understand it, also Tarantino's style of self-referencing throughout his work could link to Jameson's criticism of postmodernism being trapped in circular references. Some critics also didn't like the structure of the film which cuts from scenes, making flashbacks within flash-forwards, and although cut into Chapters, does not link together till the end. An example of how he ignores boundaries of past and present and a linear narrative structure. Other's who feel the need to have and keep to genre structure argued that the mashing together of genres and styles was not successful. Peter Bradshaw for The Guardian in this review complained that scenes were over-stretched, and that it "failed as a conventional war film, as genre spoof, as trash and as pulp... and can not be classed as kosher revenge porn because it's not seriousness enough. David Cox calls it "a comedy but not one that provokes many laughs."

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