Recently, I had the occasion to speak with Quentin Tarantino (will be posting the interview soon) and I told him that my three favorite scenes in Inglourious Basterds both involved Landa and the way he toys with people.¬†¬† In all three scenes, he starts off charming but by the end becomes sinister. To me, this is a running theme in Tarantino’s work: personality extremes.
1. Shosanna’s Escape. The opening scene of Inglourious Basterds has to be one of the best pieces of filmmaking all year. The light, the setting, the suspense – you never forget the first time you saw the film to discover that there were Jews hiding underneath the floor boards. Watching it a few times since, it only makes the scene more interesting. Landa’s business is to smoke a ridiculous looking pipe and request a glass of “delicious milk.” What I love about Tarantino’s Landa is that the uniform says it all. Landa doesn’t have do anything except be utterly charming and he is still terrifying. The Nazis had the same kind of power over people that, say, a school shooter has: the fear is so immediate that it results in paralysis.
2. The second meeting with Shosana where once again milk is brought into the equation. This time it’s the business with the strudel. He is again charming and menacing.¬† Shosanna holds it together long enough to make it through the “interview” but she’s emotionally gutted by the end, terrified beyond belief, knowing she came that close to being either shot on the spot, or sent to the camps. Of course, there is one more scene which offered up another possible fate for her.
3. The scene that seals the deal for Christoph Waltz and his Oscar is the strangulation scene. To watch this man finally and completely come apart shows what kind of range this actor has. This is a personal killing, not one required by the regime. First he finds the shoe, and then the napkin with her kiss and her autograph. When he matches the shoe with the foot — asking her to put her lovely leg on his lap and then carefully removing her high heel and replacing it with the lost shoe — he is whatever the opposite of Prince Charming would be.