Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is the screenplay for the revenge war film of the same name. Moviegoers love Tarantino’s films for a multitude of reasons or they hate them for a multitude of reasons, but the screenplay provides a whole new insight into the filmmaker and his work.
Author David L. Robbins says in the forward, “The script remembers, too, the classic propaganda films of Leni Riefenstahl and Joseph Goebbels. It glimpses the faces of Hitler and Churchill and the interior of a wartime movie house in Paris, and zooms in on the horrors of close combat, the mania of vendetta. . . . Inglourious Basterds does not indulge in lampoonery or mere cobbling. It is reverently authentic as a war story, working the same tense, edge-of-the-seat magic as the best of the genre, book or movie. At the same time, it’s Tarantino, its own thing.”
There are two main storylines in the film — one deals with the death and ultimate revenge plot of Shosanna Dreyfus and the other follows the basterds through Germany as they take on the Nazis and bumble around during secret missions to win the war. In typical Tarantino fashion, the script bounces from each group and several moments in time, quilting together the larger arc of the story and conclusion of the war.
The script includes little tidbits about the characters that are never seen or talked about on screen. Readers will be amazed by the depth of detail Tarantino provides in stage direction, the description of the scene, and explanation.
“Lt. Aldo [played by Brad Pitt] has one defining physical characteristic, a ROPE BURN around his neck — as if, once upon a time, he survived a LYNCHING.” (Page 19)
“WE SEE all the pagentry below. Tons of SPECTATORS. Tons of guests dressed in Nazi uniforms, tuxedoes, and female finery, walking up the long red carpet (with a big swastika in the middle, naturally) leading into Shosanna’s cinema. The German brass band omm-pa-pa-ing away. German radio and film crews covering the event for the fatherland back home. And, of course, MANY GERMAN SOLDIERS providing security for this joyous Germanic occasion.” (Page 125)
Although the script does not depict the true conclusion of World War II, Tarantino illuminates the horrors of war and creates an atmosphere of the ridiculous in its revenge themes. Watching the film is fast-paced, hilarious at moments, and gruesome, but reading the script plunges readers into their own personal version of the events and enables them to sink their teeth into Tarantino’s witty and poignant dialogue. The basterds’ dialogue drips with disdain and self-righteousness, while Col. Hans Landa, or the Jew Hunter, uses language to demonstrate his superiority, even though his outward actions border on comedic.
Lt. Aldo: Well, Werner, if you heard of us, you probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin’ business. We in the killin’ Nazi business. And cousin, business is boomin’. (Page 28)
FEMALE SGT. BEETHOVEN and STIGLITZ bring their guns toward each other and FIRE. They BOTH TAKE and GIVE each other so many BULLETS it’s almost romantic when they collapse DEAD on the floor. (Page 108)
Overall, Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino is an excellent specimen of a screenplay from its detailed stage direction and description to its witty and insightful dialogue, it will capture readers imaginations just as the film did on screen. There are portions of the script that did not make it onto the big screen, but that’s to be expected with any film; there also are scenes in the movie that are not in the script. The beauty of a screenplay is that it is not a stationary work of art, but one that evolves from page to screen under the guidance of its maker.
This is my 9th book for the WWII Reading Challenge 2009. I can’t believe I’m still finding these on my shelves even now in December. There may have to be a time when we revisit this war.
Additionally, I would like to thank Hachette Group for sending me a free copy of Inglourious Basterds for review. Clicking on title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page, no purchase necessary.