Now I’ve Got To See It

Just finished this article on Salon about Inglorious Basterds, Quinten Tarrantino’s new movie. It has some really fascinating statements. About this movie:

Pitt and Roth’s characters “behave like butt-ugly sadists,” Wells writes, while the German soldier, despite cursing out his tormentors as “Jew dogs,” behaves like “a man of honor,” accepting a brutal and painful death rather than ratting out his comrades. In Sammel’s brief performance, Wells says, he depicts the German as “a man of intelligence and perception” with “a certain regular-Joe decency,” while Raine and Donowitz come off as unhinged horror-movie villains.

This is fascinating because it seems taboo to say. But yet. There are Jews who behaved horribly. And German’s who behaved decently. And both Jews and Germans who behaved like angels after behaving like monsters. We like to frame the Holocaust in these expressionistic black-and-white terms, but human beings are never black and white.

Hollywood scholar Neal Gabler to ask why Tarantino “conventionalizes Jews, puts them in the same revenge motif as everyone else.” Doesn’t that risk creating audience sympathy for their Nazi victims? (One should of course say “German victims”; it’s intellectually lazy and historically inaccurate to assume that German soldiers are all Nazis, but that level of ambiguity does not register in the Tarantino universe.)

How fascinating that anyone would assume that Jews could somehow avoid conventional revenge narratives. Why? Because there’s a certain threshold where revenge becomes acceptable? A really good read unrelated to the movie. I think it lays bare a lot of attitudes, and explains why for some people the phrase “never again” does not apply to say Rawanda or Srebernica.