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How Quentin Tarantino Creates a Masterclass in Suspense in ‘Inglourious Basterds’

Written by on March 17, 2017 


When naming our favorite scenes in the filmography of Quentin Tarantino, there was one that was an easy shoo-in: the opening scene if Inglourious Basterds. “The now-iconic scene is a perfect introduction — not only to Col. Hans Landa, but to Christoph Waltz, whose career up to this point had been relegated to German television. It alone may have netted Waltz his first Academy Award,” we said. “A French dairy farmer finds himself under interrogation from the exacting Landa, inquiring for the whereabouts of a Jewish family, who just so happen to be hiding beneath the very floorboards on which they stand.”

We added, “On the soundtrack, Ennio Morricone’s “L’incontro Con La Figlia,” a composition cribbed from Duccio Tessari’s The Return of Ringo, forebodingly wails, evoking a tone closer to a horror film than a war movie. It’s not long before Landa discovers the secret, ordering his foot soldiers to riddle the floor with machine gun bullets in an epic blast of blood and sawdust, a truly disturbing prologue to this spectacular film.”

In their latest video essay, Lessons from the Screenplay feels similarly, laying out the mechanics of what makes this nail-biting scene work so well. In conveying conflict, dissonance, and instability, Tarantino perfectly takes his time to set up this foundation, both through these characters — who, in a few moments, seem more fleshed-out than those in some feature-length films — and by delivering exposition in as subtle a way as imaginable. Check out the full video below, which also references No Country For Old Men and Alfred Hitchcock, along with comparing moments directly with Tarantino’s screenplay.

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