By John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service
“Inglourious Basterds" is a provocative World War II fantasy requiring careful
moral assessment from viewers well-educated in Catholic teaching and able to
withstand its occasional episodes of graphic bloodletting. In between those
incidents, writer-director Quentin Tarentino weaves a suspenseful, though
somewhat lurid, alternate history of a tragic epoch.
Brad Pitt stars in a scene from the movie "Inglourious Basterds."
The opening scenes introduce us to Col.
Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a keenly intelligent Nazi officer completely
dedicated to his work of hunting down Jewish families in the countryside of
recently occupied France.
After interrogating and threatening the Catholic farmer who has been concealing
them on his isolated property, Landa has his men slaughter the fugitive Dreyfus
family, though daughter Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) manages to escape.
In an initially unrelated story line,
following the U.S.
entry into the conflict, hard-bitten Southerner Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt)
organizes a group of Jewish-American commandoes for a ruthless behind-the-lines
campaign designed to terrify ordinary German soldiers. Their methods include
beating uncooperative prisoners to death with a baseball bat, scalping corpses
and carving a swastika into the forehead of anyone they choose to leave alive.
1944 finds Shosanna in Paris, passing as a gentile cinema owner.
When a German war film is slated to have its gala premiere at her theater, she
sets in motion a plot to assassinate Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels
(Sylvester Groth) and the other key party leaders who plan to attend.
Unbeknownst to Shosanna, Raine and his
followers are conspiring to accomplish the same thing through collaboration
with a German film star turned Allied agent, Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane
Kruger).Transferred to Paris
to supervise security in the capital as the Allies close in, Landa is in a
position to threaten both schemes.
As the direct perpetrators of an inhuman
tyranny, Goebbels and his ilk would have made fair targets, since they bore
personal guilt for the regime's bloody crimes, and their lives were obstacles
to the restoration of the common good.
But the American band's systematic
brutality toward low-ranking enemy soldiers, especially prisoners, is far less
easily justified, and can only be accepted within a genre far removed from
reality and on the supposition that all Teutonic combatants were, to some
degree at least, Holocaust enablers.
The film (from Weinstein/Universal) contains strong violent content,
including torture and mutilation, complex moral issues, a few uses of
profanity, and much rough and some crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification
is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would
find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted;
under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office
for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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