In Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino mixes elements of many genres into his historical action film. The first scene begins with the text “Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France…” establishing itself as a fairytale of sorts which can explain the historical inaccuracies in the end of the film. This genre is also alluded to when Hanz Landa uses Von Hammersmark’s shoe to prove her identity in a Cinderella style. It is also morbidly reference in the killing of Hitler and the death of the Nazi higher ups in that the audience feels avenged and can forgive the inaccuracies as fantasy. The text, chapters, and music also reference “Once upon a time in the West” and other spaghetti Westerns. The style in which this introductory scene is shot also reflects these films with its long shots, mounting tension, and climax in violence.
When we are introduced to the titular “Basterds,” as they have come to be known, Sergent Hugo Stiglitz is singled out as somewhat of a super hero of the Nazi killing world. His name comes on screen in an old school cop show font including action music and we then see the highlights of his life up until this point as an origin story of sorts.
Shosanna’s revenge plot in the dark, dusty cinema is reminiscent of film noir with Shosanna was the femme fatale. Her forbidden love story with Marcel and her seductive yet mysterious outfit for the premiere add to this allusion.
Last but not least, Tarantino works humor into the horrifying events of World War II and The Holocaust while building tension and showing the stakes of what the characters are doing. Christopher Waltz’s Landa doesn’t need to be loud or large to be terrifying. His interrogation tactic is to feign good intentions while ultimately threatening the ‘suspect’ with something terrible. His menacing questions or conniving plots are broken up by great comedic dialogue or staging such as during the interrogation on the dairy farm when Landa pulls out a comically large and shaped pipe or his exclamation of “That’s a bingo!” during his negotiations with Aldo Raine. Brad Pitt’s southern accent for Raine also brakes up the violence as a comic relief many times in the film.