On Thursday night, Quentin Tarantino went on Rachel Maddow to discuss his Oscar nominated film Inglourious Basterds. The film takes place in Nazi-occupied France during World War II and follows a group of Jewish-American soldiers who scalp and brutally kill Nazis. As Maddow points out, the story is "not just a revenge fantasy about World War II. It's a torture and terrorism fantasy" -- really, Tarantino is writing "the modern strategic history of al-Qaeda."
TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO BELOW
MADDOW: Here's one of the things that I think is so interesting about the film. And I'm surprised this isn't the mainstream way it's getting talked about. But it's not just a revenge fantasy about World War II. It's a torture and terrorism fantasy.
I mean, the whole idea behind what Brad Pitt and these soldiers are
doing is that they're not just killing Nazis. They're scalping them,
terrorizing them, humiliating them, doing them in a way that is
supposed to instill even more fear than just death.
TARANTINO: Definitely. You took it right out of my mouth. Yes. I
mean, basically what they're doing - you described it really, really
well. To put in even shorter nutshell, they're actually doing
literally the Apache resistance, but against the Nazis, against the
And that was one of the things - one of the reasons I wanted to do
something like that, other than for all the other reasons you said
before about - it's a revenge fantasy and this and that. We've never
seen it before. I was trying to do like a spaghetti western but using
World War II iconography.
So in my re-imagining of this whole thing, I kind of placed the Jews
as the Indians in this scenario. And that is part of the whole thing.
You know, when they say they ambush a German patrol of six guys and
then they scalp them, maybe even take their shoes off, so when they
are found there is even less dignity in the death - all these little
things that they do.
It isn't about the six guys. It's about the 106 Germans in Nazi
occupied France that are going to hear about it. And literally, one
of the ways the Apaches were able to fight both between the Spaniards
and the Mexicans and U.S. Cavalry, they were able to fight people of a
thousand people army with sometimes as little as 40 to 20 people
simply because you were so terrified to be captured by these guys,
that you would kill yourself or even kill women and children if they
were by you for fear.
MADDOW: So it's like a force multiplier that the psychological
warfare component of it makes you much more impressive than the six
guys you really are because of the tactics.
TARANTINO: That's it. To really just get them where they live. And
also, you've got them afraid of a group of people, of Jews, that they
feel they are stronger, who are weaker than them, who they're superior
So if you actually get them, then actually, the German Nazis afraid of
being captured by Jewish males. Well, then now, you've really done
MADDOW: You're also writing the modern strategic history of al-Qaeda.
TARANTINO: You are one of the few people that really bring that up.
TARANTINO: Now, I've seen people who have seen the movie like three
or four times and it never quite sinks into them. But that was never
something that I necessarily set out to do. I wasn't trying to make a
terrorist Iraq commentary with the film.
It was just what made sense for the characters to do at that time.
Yes they're strapping bombs on themselves.
TARANTINO: And they're walking into a theater crowded with evil
civilians and they are prepared to blow it up.
MADDOW: Yes. And it's American suicide bombers making us sort of
sympathize with the suicide bombers, which is -
TARANTINO: Yes. Even the character, Landa, the Jew hunter, the Nazi
character in the film - he even makes a reference to it. He goes your
mission - some would call it a terrorist plot -
TARANTINO: Is kaput.
MADDOW: And then, I mean, I don't know if this was - you're saying
that wasn't sort of the thinking behind it. But then, you get the
scene where Brad Pitt, as this heroic terrorist anti-Nazi fighter gets
a bag put over his head when he gets arrested by the Nazis. I'm just
flashing Guantanamo, Guantanamo, Guantanamo on the thing.
TARANTINO: It was funny. Again, I wasn't trying to necessarily make
a political point in there. It literally was just the next step in
the story as far as I was concerned.
However, once I did it, the irony was not lost on me at all. But you
know, that was one of the things that I actually thought that - it was
one of the things that when I was all done. Because I think there are
a lot of things like that - not about that issue, but there's a lot of
things in this movie that are not used to seeing in other World War II
I thought that was one of the aspects that would actually make the
movie not just seem like a World War II movie that it's like here and
you're looking at it in the eyes of the past.
I wanted the film sort of the way "Bonnie and Clyde" worked when it
came out. It was an old genre took place in the '30s, but it was
actually telling you something about the time today. And that was
what I was trying to do with this in this genre.
MADDOW: What you get - I mean, the movie is 100 percent catharsis.
You know, it's about the ultimate revenge fantasy. And horrible
things happen to the worst people and you cheer for stuff that you've
always dreamed would happen and it does really happen because you
rewrite the history.
That is all happening on this very surface level. But in order to
make it layered, you do have to have the heroic German guy and you do
have to have the vaguely terroristic Americans in that film.
TARANTINO: I mean, it would be easy to just set up a situation where
we just go oh, kill the Nazis, rah, rah. But I don't play it that
easy. Like for instance, on the interrogation scene that you just
saw, under any criteria of bravery in warfare, that German passes the
test under any criteria.
And, yes it would have been easy to make him a cringing coward and it
would have been more rah, rah, rah in the audience. It would be like
watching "Rocky." But you know, that's too easy for what I'm trying
MADDOW: Yes. Did you watch a bunch of German propaganda films and
like German movies from the '30s in all that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? It is
a movie about movies at its core. It trumps the core of the plot.
MADDOW: Did you watch a lot of the old German films in order to do this?
TARANTINO: Yes, yes. Both what they called the early Weimar films,
all right, which is - Goebbels has considered the Jewish German
intellectual cinema. I watched a lot of that and I watched a lot of
the actual German propaganda movies made at the time because I was
really excited about the idea that no one has ever actually dealt with
Goebbels as the studio head that he was.
MADDOW: And he made hundreds of films.
TARANTINO: Yes, 800 movies. For about eight years, he ran the German
film industry. And you know, we hear about movies like Jud Sass and
we hear about movies like "The Eternal Jew." We hear all about the
anti-Semitic ones. And if you thought that that was the only thing -
you would think that was the only kind of movies he made.
TARANTINO: There were actually very few of those. They made them to
make a couple points at different points in the war. But the majority
of the movies made under Goebbels were like musicals glockenspiel
musicals and romantic comedies and you know, stories of great older
men of German past.
In fact, the idea is if you were watching - the kind of the point
being was if you were a German citizen watching movies in the theaters
and the only - your only knowledge of the war was what you saw in the
movies, you wouldn't even know there was a war going on at all. As
far as you know, just life has never been better than under the
MADDOW: I will tell you just - the interest that you all flash of a
sex scene involving Goebbels and his interpreter, I (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
TARANTINO: Excellent. Excellent. That's a high compliment.
MADDOW: Thank you just for that and for the rest of it.
TARANTINO: Thank you.
MADDOW: I hope you win for this. This was at the Oscars. I really
enjoyed it and it's really nice to meet you.
TARANTINO: Oh, it's really nice to meet you. Thanks for having me on.