BERLIN - For weeks, Germany's tabloids and culture pages have been preoccupied with Quentin Tarantino's film "Inglorious Bastards," slated to start filming next week in Germany.
While the tabloids are drooling over the movie's star, Brad Pitt, who is moving with his wife Angelina Jolie and their children to a villa close to Berlin ("The most beautiful couple in Wannsee," one headline declared), the serious media is focusing on another angle: Is Germany ready for a Tarantino-style treatment of World War II?
An early draft of the script leaked onto the Internet three months ago suggested the film would contain scenes of bloody vengeance exacted by Jews against Nazis. One campaign would be carried out by Jews in the U.S. Army intent on scalping Nazi soldiers on occupied French soil; another would be a Jewish refugee's revenge against the Nazi officer who murdered her parents.
Pitt is to play Jewish-American Lt. Aldo Raine, the leader of a revenge squad known as "The Bastards," who launch a killing spree in which they hang, torture, disembowel and scalp German soldiers and engrave Swastikas on their foreheads, according to the leaked draft.
The film is raising controversy in Germany, where the subjects of World War II and the Holocaust are usually restricted to historical discourse.
"This is pop culture meeting Nazi Germany and the Holocaust with unprecedented force," said the film critic of SuedDeutche Zeitung, Tobias Kniebe. "The effects of this collision are utterly unpredictable."
German film critics blasted last week's decision to grant the film money from the German Film Fund and another local fund, saying that Germany cannot finance a movie that uses Jewish-Nazi relations as entertainment, especially one by Tarantino.
The SuedDeutche Zeitung warned that the film may be no less explosive than the Hollywood film Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise, about German officers' abortive attempt to assassinate Hitler toward the end of WWII. The movie, filmed in Germany and scheduled to be released in spring 2009, has already drawn fire from German historians.
"All the German historians and critics who were left gasping for breath by Tom Cruise and his worthy attempts to produce a correct image of Stauffenberg will be so shocked by 'Inglorious Bastards' that they will savage it on the spot," writes Kneibe.
Tarantino's film is not supposed to mix history and fiction, but to offer the pure, hyper-violent entertainment that the American director of "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill" is known for.
"It is sort of a spaghetti western set in World War II," Tarantino told the German News Agency DPA. "I am not going to call it this, but if it had a subtitle for it, it would be called, 'Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France.'"
Films that treat the Holocaust period as pure entertainment could be destructive, says Alexander Kluge, a noted film director and author, who has been dealing with the Holocaust and its memory for more than 50 years.
He cites Swiss-Jewish director Dany Levy's comedy "Mein Fuehrer" as a case in point. This film raised a storm in Germany two years ago, when it portrayed for the first time a neurotic, empathy-evoking Hitler. "Such films can obscure the events' true significance," says Kluge.
Tarantino's film received a 300,000 euro grant from the state of Brandenburg, because it will be filmed in Potsdam's Babelsberg studios. Founded in 1911, this is the world's oldest major film studio. Films including Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" and "The Blue Angel" with Marlene Dietrich were filmed there in the 1920s and 1930s, as were numerous Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda films.
Tarantino's film is also expected to receive 20 percent of its budget from the German Film Fund because it is being filmed in Germany. It is scheduled to be released in June 2009.