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QT’s lead Nazi on Nazis in film

I recently attended the press junket for Inglourious Basterds. My main reason for being there was an interview with Tarantino, which was great and will be up on the site soon.

For now though, I’d like to share with you this segment of my interview with Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who gives a wonderfully creepy performance as Colonel Hans Landa – the pivotal Nazi character nick-named “The Jew Hunter”. It was a “roundtable” interview, meaning several journalists sit in and ask questions. It was all very run-of-the-mill (“What was it like working with Tarantino?” etc etc) for ten minutes or so (I struggled to get a word in edge-ways), until someone asked the question below. It appears Waltz has given a lot of thought to Nazis in film – I was fascinated to hear his thoughts.

Christopher Waltz (Col. Hans Landa) stars in Quentin Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.

We are aware that Nazi films, like Downfall, are all historically correct. Inglourious Basterds clearly isn’t. Is it ok to laugh about the Nazis? What do you think the reaction will be in Germany and Austria?

“I have a slightly different approach to this issue, because I detest these movies that try to make us believe that they are telling the truth. I find it ludicrous, but not laughable, unfortunately. I think it’s hypocritical to say ‘we want to tell, especially a young audience, how Hitler really was as a person’. First of all I’d like to know why?

Second I’d like to know why young audiences need to know how Hitler was as a real person, because how does it help them in their lives? Is that really dealing with the subject in a responsible manner? I could go on for a year and a half about why this is the irresponsible approach to turn it into a backdrop for a sh**** movie that’s boring in the first place. It’s neither this nor that because the approach is boring; what are we meant to derive from it? What message does it give us? That Nazi’s were actually people? ‘This is how it really was, you must not forget’? We know! It’s supposed to appease our conscience; it’s the politically correct rubbish – the overlooking of the criteria that helps us to deal with the subject. We are only the second of third generation after the disaster, the biggest disaster in the history of humanity, and we’re using it to think, ‘we are all good, we are all right because we know that they were wrong’, but how does that help us to get an idea about the course of history? It doesn’t.

But look what Quentin does; he rips it open and all of a sudden you gain a completely new perspective. The question ‘what if?’ isn’t irresponsible, it actually triggers a process within you and you think ‘yes, what if? What can I contribute so that the process and the consciousness of this disaster actually turns in to something that helps me, and helps us all to avoid it in the future. It gives us an active understanding and an active way of dealing with the subject, and doesn’t turn the process in to a consumable product so that we find ourselves saying, ‘good, let’s go and have dinner because we don’t have to deal with this any further’.

And that’s why I love Quentin’s work, because he does it again and again and now he’s done it with this part of history. Laughing is a release reaction, that’s why the sound of laughter is explosive; it relieves tension, and the tension in this story is so immense that you need to laugh in order to stand it, in order to endure it to the end. Sorry, I get very passionate about this!”

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