Inglourious Basterds (2009) #SherylPuthur

Inglourious_Basterds_red_drawing

Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

Written By: Quentin Tarantino

Cast:

Brad Pitt – Lt Aldo Raine

Christoph Waltz – SD Standartenführer Hans Landa

Diane Kruger – Bridget von Hammersmark

Michael Fassbender – Lieutenant Archie Hicox

Daniel Brühl – Private First Class Fredrick Zoller

Eli Roth – Sergeant Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz

Til Schweiger – Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz

Julie Dreyfus – Francesca Mondino

August Diehl – Major Dieter Hellstrom

Mélanie Laurent – Shosanna Dreyfus

Sylvester Groth – Joseph Goebbels

Language: English                                                 Genre: War; Thriller; Drama

 

Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds takes liberties with spellings and with history. Yet, does it in such a convincing manner that you need to rack your brains to remember things did not pan out exactly that way. It doesn’t help that Tarantino also produced a related black and white film that is at the centre of this film.

The film follows a chapter-wise narrative similar to that in Kill Bill. It depicts the violence that characterised the Nazi regime and the kind of witch hunt that ensued to eliminate the Jews. The menace of the SS is personified in the character of Hans Landa (Chirstoph Waltz). What makes him most frightening, is his polished demeanour and his amoral sociopathic tendencies.

It goes to prove that the truly terrible aspect of any ideology-regime that functions on torture is that the people who might be its most feared supporters (for their immense capacity for brutality) might not actually believe the ideology, but use the regime as a space to let loose their violent impulses.

However, the film also talks of the counter violence that could have and did occur. The group that was central to it were dubbed the Basterds. They comprised of Jews avenging crimes against their people. They were led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) an American soldier of Apache Indian origin, who wanted his men to get him a ‘100 Nazi scalps’. Having scalps is a sign of bravery and also honour in the Native American culture. Nevertheless, it is a symbol of violence.

There is an important reference to rats in the film. Rats are important because on a ship when they start running away it means the ship is going to sink. Also rats scurry and hide so that they are not found out and killed. You realise when you watch the movie that there is a very thin line separating the rat from the righteous human who wants to kill it. For a time could come, when you could be considered a rat by someone else because of some preferences you have.

Tarantino as always presents violence with comic-horror. It takes away your revulsion for the violence or if not that, numbs you to the brutality on display – following a very Kubrick tradition. However, more than the violence on either side, it is that Tarantino presents the idea of history as a construct. The idea that history is written by the winner is known. Much of the history that we study has that bias. But how about reinterpreting history to serve some purpose?

Governments have done and still do modify history to present a better version of their country or the political parties they represent. This is dangerous because the children who learn this grow up with a skewed sense of the past and hence become easy targets of brainwashing.

Inglourious Basterds throws up a debate on history and how it is a construct, how far ideologies are truly followed and how the metaphor of the rat plays out from the first chapter to the last.

Beginners (2010) #SherylPuthur

Beginners

Directed By: Mike Mills

Written By: Mike Mills

Cast:

Ewan McGregor – Oliver Fields

Christopher Plummer – Hal Fields

Melanie Laurent – Anna Wallace

Goran Visnjic – Andy

Mary Page Keller – Georgia Fields

Kai Lennox – Eliot

China Shavers – Shauna

Cosmo – Arthur

Language: English              Genre: Romance; Slice of life; Comedy

Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) plays it safe as far as relationships go because he felt his parents’ marriage was dead (just like how his mother used to make him play dead as realistically as possible). But after becoming a widower, when his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) reveals that he is gay; things change. Hal is terminally ill, but gets himself a boyfriend Andy (Goran Visnjic) by advertising and joins various associations/ groups including a gay pride group.

The film goes back and forth in time and constantly compares life in the 1950s with the 2000s. Sort of like if life was a little strict then, people still tried because there were gay prides marches even then. However, now people have the freedom to love and yet they seem to be using this luxury to express a “sadness that our parents didn’t have time for”.

It explores the relationship between Oliver and Hal – who get closer with the honesty that characterises their new relationship; Hal and Andy – Andy who prefers older men after his father rejected him for being gay. Oliver and Anna (Melanie Laurent), a French actress he meets in a party and falls in love with. They realise they are similar in many ways including their fear of commitment.

It also explores the relationship that Oliver shares with Arthur (Cosmos), his Jack Russell – with whom he actually communicates. And how everyone, including Arthur, wants stability and commitment because Arthur keeps checking the status of Oliver’s relationship with Anna – ‘are we married yet?’

Even Oliver’s relationship with his mother Georgia (Mary Page Keller) is insightful. One can understand Oliver better because you realise both parents have had a hand in making him the person he is. They are both artistically inclined so he is a graphic artist. Oliver seems shy and introverted but he has a dramatic side to him that comes from his mother. Interestingly, both parents show this need to ‘come out’ and be honest. If Hal felt he had to be more than theoretically gay, Georgia felt she needed to be part of a grand narrative. Yet they are stifled by societal demands. Like Georgia who gets politely asked to leave the museum because of her socially unacceptable dramatic behaviour.

Hal tries to live as much as possible and tries to keep learning. Whereas Oliver tries to live vicariously by watching other lives or by trying to be part of something bigger, by writing graffiti that proclaim historical consciousness. So Oliver wants a grand story but settles for subversive ways of expressing it. It is probably about how he tries to bridge the gap between his realism and his desires – creating a meeting point between his parents’ personal ideologies.

The title is interesting because we are all beginners in love and we come armed with preconceived notions that do not necessarily turn out to be true. Also, we never see the title of the movie till the end of the film.

Highlights of the film for me, Christopher Plummer – there isn’t any self-consciousness or a half-joking approach in his portrayal of Hal Fields. He went on to receive the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role. The relationship between Oliver and Arthur is also truly adorable because Oliver treats him as a thinking entity.

The film is based on the true story of director Mike Mills’ father who came out of the closet after the death of his wife. It is a sensitively handled story of something that is deeply personal. A special mention, the cinematography – it has a staccato quality that does not jar and melds so beautifully with the narrative.