Die Welt Online - Nazis are scalped in Tarantino's world war
Unauthorized/unofficial translation of “In Tarantinos Weltkrieg werden Nazis skalpiert”, In: Welt Online <http://www.welt.de/kultur/article2558501/In-Tarantinos-Weltkrieg-werden-Nazis-skalpiert.html> by Hans-Georg Rodek, October 10, 2008.
Translation by Sebastian Haselbeck
In Tarantino's World War Nazis are scalped
Principal photography for Inglorious Bastards has started in the Sächsischen Schweiz. Quentin Tarantino is reinventing WW2 with Brad Pitt – and takes some artistic liberties with its end. Welt Online has the script and knows shocking things about the characters and their pretty bloody deeds.
First LA's underworld, then the universe of Japanese killer ninjas – and now the Third Reich. Quentin Tarantino apparently has special knowledge in many areas. Take a key scene in his new movie Inglorious Bastards, which started shooting last Thursday in the Saechsische Schweiz and will be in production till January; he then has another five months to finish the movie for Cannes.
It is the year 1944, and in nazi-occupied france, in a basement pub there are drunken german soldiers sitting on one table – and around another a US special forces platoon in nazi uniforms. Suddently there's a wild shoot-out because – as we find out later – the Americans gave themselves away: one of them ordered three shots of whiskey, by showing the barkeeper three fingers, from the middle, ring to the small finger. That's how you order in the States, in Germany you use your thumb, index and middle finger.
The Beginning of Pulp Fiction
The scene shows Tarantinos intimate knowledge of cultural differences – or at least his burning interest in popular – in this case drinking – culture. Philip Marlowe's motto was “cherchez la femme”, Tarantino's is “find the reference”. At the beginning of Pulp Fiction one of the thugs that are gonna be killed by Sam Jackson, asks for his killer's name. “my name is pitt, you ain't talking your ass out of this shit” is the reply, which is a rhyme on the one hand, a wink towards a pit into which the thug will be thrown and finally a reference towards Brad Pitt with which Tarantino would like to work. Now, 14 years later, it's happening.
In IB, Brad Pitt plays Lieutenant Aldo Raine, which sounds, when you murmur the last “n”, like Aldo Ray, who was a Hollywood actor of the 50s, muscular, rough voice. A macho. The script's Lt. Raine is just like that. A scar on his neck, burned like from a rope through a shoddy lynching attempt, and at the beginning he explains to his troops a mission, the basic idea of which is based on an italian war movie from the 70s: Inglorious Bastards, with Raimund Harmstorf. “We'll jump over france, and there we will do one thing. Kill nazis!”
In the style of a stock broker who fires up his team for a hostile takeover, Raine adds: “each and every man under my command owes me 100 nazi scalsp. And I want my scalps. You will all bring me one hundred nazi scalps, off the skulls of dead nazis... or you will die trying.”
The phonetic similarities of Ray and Raine might be accidental, but there's also a British General called Ed Fenech. That's not a British name, but a last name from Malta, famous for the gloriuos Edwige Fenech, popular in Europe in the 70s as a diva of the exploitation cinema, in which Tarantino is deeply rooted and which he constantly quotes and reforms. Now he has arrived in Europe, to pay homage to its pop cinema. His star Brad Pitt resides in a mansion next to the one of Winnetou producer Horst Wendlandt's widow, and Quentin Tarantino is at home in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg now, practially around the corner from Til Schweiger's home, who scored a small role, just like Hollywood does that with local stars, in countries it is making a big stop at. At least Tarantino honored Schweiger by arranging a screening in Babelsberg for him. The Basterds crew got to see “Knockin' on Heaven's Door” [Note from Seb: one of the greatest german movies of the 90s, unfortunately without an American DVD release. The Nicholson/Freemand movie “The Bucket List” is a remake of this movie.]
Obscure Names and their Meaning
Among the Basterds that are being recruited by Raine, are two German refugees, a Corporal Wilhelm Wicki (the German actor and director Bernhard Wiki played Oberst von Stauffenberg in the 1955 film “Es geschah am 20. Juli”) and a certain Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz (the mexican actor Hugo Stiglitz is in the business for 40 years now and has starred in over 200 Western, horror and action movies, “Tintorea”, the Spanish-language answer to Jaws among them).
Tarantino's most interesting (name-) creation is without a doubt the UFA star Bridget von Hammersmark, which sounds like Brigitte (probably Metropolis star Brigitte Helm), the teutonic “von” and Germany's popular export movie director in Hollywood, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. And with here Tarantino, who in his previous movies was satisfied with quoting movies in many many ways, a good step forward: not Brad Pitt, but cinema is the real protagonist in Inglorious Basterds, and cinema has a key role in the course of Tarantino's version of world history.
Von Hammersmark is the connecting element: on the one hand propaganda minister Joseph Goebbel's favorite, on the other hand a secret ally of the Basterds. She allows Tarantino to extend his affection for quotation into German cinema history. All the Tarantinoites in this country, who certainly know that Ving Rhames in Pulp Fiction quotes Walter Matthau in Charley Varrick word for word, but have never heard of Alfred Vohrer or Roland Klick, should throw ashes onto their heads in the face of german movie knowledge from this film freak from America.
Quotations from German Cinema
Not only does he manage to mention Winnetou, Edgar Wallace and Pola Negri in one movie, he also refers twice to the Bergfilm classics “Die weisse Hoelle vom Piz Palu” by Arnold Franck, with Leni Riefenstahl. Tarantino is a great admirer of the Bergfilm, this most German of all Genres, and had to decline an invitation with much regret to the Berlin premiere of Nordwand on October 23rd, the new Bergfilm drama with Benno Fuehrmann and Florian Lukas; Quentin has a night shoot on that day.
The most complex character among the Basterds is Fredrick Zoller, who falls in love with a jewish theater owner in Paris and is also a war hero in the Wehrmacht and an upcoming movie star. This Zoller has killed 250 enemies as a sniper in Russia (the reverse story of Jean Jacques Annauds “Enemy at the Gates”), rose to stardom and is now proud to play himself in Goebble's movie production “The Pride of the Nation”.
Here as well, and Tarantino knows that, cinema is only immitating real life: A 5 foot tall GI once stood on a burning tank and mowed down dozens of Germans by himself; the thanks for a grateful nation for Audie Murphy was a Hollywood career with dozens of starring roles.
And so Quentin Tarantino brings them all together at a table at Maxim's, the sniper movie star and Fraulein movie star / double agent, the Major of the Gestapo and Jew Hunter, who is proud of his nickname, the secretive Jewish girl, and the propaganda minister.
It must have put goose bumps on Tarantino's neck to have his Goebbels direct people on the Maxim's set in the Marlene Dietrich Hall at Babelsberg – on exactly the same spot where the real Goebbels once directed the German movie industry.
Sometimes the coat of history covers the same place twice, like the little forest in the french town of Compiegne, where 1918 the cease fire between Germany and the Victorious allies was signed, and 1940 that between France and the triumphant Nazi Germany.