Tarantino's massacre of Nazis brings rave reviews in Germany
Is Germany prepared to see Jews scalping Nazis and massacring SS soldiers in 'Inglourious Basterds'?
BERLIN - Is Germany prepared to see Jews scalping Nazis, massacring SS soldiers and burning the Third Reich to ashes? Judging by the enthusiasm that greeted Quentin Tarantino's new movie "Inglourious Basterds" this weekend, the answer is an overwhelming yes.
The film is full of Tarantino's usual hyper-violence, annoyingly verbose, full of kitsch and provocations about the Nazis' persecution of Jews. Tarantino rewrote history, too - in his movie, the Jews set the pace and take revenge against the Germans.
The plot is one of revenge - the revenge of a Jewish girl whose family was murdered while hiding from the Nazis, and the revenge of the "Inglourious Basterds," a "dirty dozen" of American Jewish soldiers who capture and scalp German soldiers behind enemy lines, carving swastikas into the foreheads of those they let live as a scarlet letter.
The film has received negative reviews from many international critics - New Yorker film critic David Denby called Tarantino an "idiot de la cinematheque," and the Guardian called the movie especially stupid, among others. In Germany, however, both the critics and the audiences received the movie sympathetically.
"Catharsis! Oxygen! A wonderful futuristic-retro fantasy!" declared the liberal Der Tagesspiegel, while the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote, "Should you see Taratino's movie after all the fuss?" and answered emphatically, "Yes, definitely!"
The Germans are not used to seeing World War II, and particularly the Holocaust, addressed comically. Generally, films there present a straight version of history, such as the 2004 film "The Downfall," which portrays Hitler's last days in his bunker. Two years ago, Swiss Jewish director Dani Levy tried to create a comedy about Hitler, "My Fuhrer," but his film was so lacking in humor that it ended up creating a kind of strange empathy for the Nazi leader.
Tarantino's film is so untenable that it enables German viewers to enjoy scenes of violent revenge against the Nazis.
"This is an absolutely wonderful film," said one Berlin resident who saw the film Thursday. "To see the Nazis being massacred is a treat. It seems that Tarantino has done exactly what we fantasized about."
"The film was funny and enjoyable, but I didn't laugh wholeheartedly because I kept thinking that reality wasn't like that. In reality, no one took revenge on the Nazis and no one killed them, and especially not the Jews," said one student from Berlin. "I know what happened in the Holocaust ... there were moments when I laughed, but I felt guilty about laughing."
Eli Roth, an American actor and director who plays one of the Inglourious Basterds, told interviewers that as a Jewish child, he would have fantasies about killing Nazis. He described the movie as "kosher porno," and said that in Germany, he got the impression that Jews and Germans had a mutual interest in enjoying the film.
"It was great to see the Germans really hated the Nazis as much as Jews did," he said. "If anyone else has been burdened by this legacy, it's them."
"The audience in the theater laughed out loud, but their laughter stuck in their throats," wrote the film critic of the German magazine Tip, who likewise recommended the movie to his readers. The Die Welt film critic seemed to get to the heart of the matter: "Tarantino chases away the Nazi dybbuk and sends Hitler to hell," he wrote. "Historical precision is necessary, but fantasy helps us achieve a catharsis."