Eli Roth on Inglorious Basterds

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Anne Brodie Aug 20, 2009

M O N S T E R S  A N D  C R I T I C S

Filmmaker and actor Eli Roth made a big impression on the horror world with his edgy outings Cabin Fever and Hostel. But he deals with real world horror in Quentin Tarantino’s WWII outing Inglourious Basterds. They worked together previously on Grindhouse but Basterds looks takes a look at a factual pit of hell – the Holocaust.

Roth plays a sergeant under Brad Pitt’s command in a motley crew of foot soldiers who call themselves The Inglourious Basterds. Roth plays the Jew Bear, a ‘huge and obnoxious” baseball bat wielding Boston Jew who beats his Nazi prey. His men scalp them, their goal – 100 scalps a day each. They spread terror throughout Nazi-occupied Europe and inspire others to stand up against the invaders.

Eli Roth – “We had scalping class. My character used a baseball bat. I’m the sergeant and in charge of them collecting scalps. I’m from Boston so it’s not too far from who I am! Quentin said to the guys in scalping class that whoever does the best job gets close-ups doing it. You can over scalp and scalp too fast and it’s a very delicate art to scalp it properly and make it look good.”

AB – The way Tarantino has shot the film, despite its brutal content, it’s a kind of feel-good movie that would warm the hearts of millions around the world.

ER – “The fictionalised story actually taps into something so real which is the human wish fulfilment of going back in time and sacrificing something to save thousands in this case millions of Jews. Like after 9/11 how I fantasised that I was on those planes and killing the hijackers. Something really, really real. It’s brilliant. It takes an artist like Quentin Tarantino to do it.”

AB – It’s like what they were attempting in Hogan’s Heroes, but didn’t accomplish.

ER –“I grew up in a very Jewish neighbourhood and no one watched, it was offensive, the Nazis were too funny. The whole idea of doing that was not funny in the Jewish neighbourhood. If you were born in Germany we would all be dead. My relatives were murdered in the holocaust. They couldn’t find it entertaining. I liked the Dirty Dozen, watching grenades drop on all those Nazis. Quentin is making a movie that takes the subject every seriously but it’s an entertaining film.”

AB – How would you compare horror and Holocaust films?

ER – “To me they are two different things. The Holocaust is the most horrific thing in human history and it happened so recently. These were normal, average citizens doing it; it was the culmination of thousands of years of anti-Semitism. You can trace it back to Martin Luther and his paper “The Jews and Their Lies”. And after WWII in Canada, there’s that book “None”, based on that quote “None is too many” when they asked (a politician) how many Jewish refugees we should let in from the camps. Nobody wanted the Jews after the Holocaust.

This is what we’ve been fighting our whole lives. If you let it fester they will wipe you out. It’s something we are very vigilant making sure it never happens again. That’s the real horror. So when I make a horror movie, it’s just a story, nothing to do with it.”

“Anti-Semitism is everywhere. That’s why I invited QT over to my Passover Seder because we were talking about the psychology and hypothetical situations. He said ‘Would a Jew ever forgive the Nazis? Or give absolution?” I told him these were Catholic concepts; I didn’t even know what absolution means. Come to my Seder and see how the Jews were slaves in Egypt and we always talk about the Holocaust and the world today. Humans and citizens of the planet have to be conscious to do our part to make sure to stop it never happens again.”

Further detials on Inglourious Basterds.

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