Inglourious Basterds is a movie that is very confident in itself and its message. Quentin Tarantino, who has always teased us with his ideas on what film means to him, finally comes out and screams it to the world. It should come of no surprise that he does so in such an explosive, violent manner because as he has always shown, violence is a large part of life, and movies in particular.
I’m sure some will be confused or disagree with his approach to historic Truth but I felt it to be rather refreshing. Many in the film world are constantly distracted by historical inaccuracies in film and in his typical snide way, Tarantino decides to tell the story of World War II in the most inaccurate way possible. This is because he doesn’t want or need to play by the rules of writing history. For one, he never has, and in the end he is clearly saying, “what is history but great storytelling?” Therefore, let me tell you a great story. I believe he achieves that.
In addition, he wants us to examine cinema’s role as a documenter of history. Is Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will any less historic than Capra’s Why We Fight series? Both are propaganda, both are groundbreaking, but the events surrounding them have shaped how we think about each. Tarantino is challenging us to rethink the esteem we have for films of the past, for to him, their stories are the closest thing we have to real History, even if they contradict one another.
Inglourious Basterds is a movie about the filmmaker and his obligation, or lack of one, to history. Acting as an extension of Tarantino, the protagonist Emanuelle uses filmmaking to not only approach her own personal history, but the history of others as well. It is this medium that acts as her salvation, her way to both engage and wipe out the hurt she has endured. With this, Inglourious Basterds is a film that is meant to be overwhelmingly aware of itself, its role, and its meaning.
Ultimately, Inglourious Basterds’ excellence lies within its ability to challenge the art form its author admires so much: storytelling. While the film’s separate parts may not stand up to the crisp writing of Pulp Fiction, the technical mastery of the Kill Bill series, or the quirkiness of Reservoir Dogs, as a whole, it exceeds anything Tarantino has put out to date. As Aldo Raine speaks to us in the final line of the film and channels Tarantino’s ever-present ego, we are compelled to agree: this is his masterpiece.