Round Two: JDub on WHayes

Posted 12/04/2009 by JDub in Labels: , , , ,
WHayes' notion that "Inglorious Basterds" is a kind of new or fresh take on the war movies genre and especially on the WWII movies genre is certainly not without its merits. But I think that there are a few very important distinctions to be made here.

If I were asked to give a rough definition for what a film fitting into the "war movie" genre should include, I would say that it must depict soldiers in a wartime situation, and it must show these soldiers in at least one battle. Basterds depicts soldiers of a sort, but they're soldiers in a made-up squad, which operates in a way in which no military squad has been known to operate. And yes, these soldiers are depicted in battle, but these battles relate in no way to what was actually occurring in those times.

As far as Basterds fitting into the narrower "WWII movie" genre, I'm even less convinced. Aside from depicting Nazis in situations which could have actually happened, the film took place in the same era and location as WWII, but that's about all that can be said. No real WWII events were shown or even really discussed. The plot of the film was centered around fictitious characters in made-up situations and eventually led to Hitler meeting a totally fabricated manner.

Thus, I would say that while "Inglorious Basterds" does possess some of the features of the war movie and WWII movie genres, its made-up-ness prevents it from being able to participate in these modes.

WHayes calls this film a "welcome relief" from the over-played WWII movie genre, but I disagree with this assessment. I question whether Basterds fits into either of these genres well enough to assume this relieving role. This film, for me, represents an entirely different, or even entirely new, genre: one which takes a time and place in history as a point of departure for a totally new and unique work of fiction.

I can't decide if Basterds is deliberately pretending to fit into the WWII movie genre, or if it is simply evoking it for sake of differentation, but for me, the fact remains: this film is not the "welcome relief," the next advancement in the genre of WWII films WHayes suggests it is. It instead fits itself into a broader "historical fiction"-type mode, and there's certainly nothing fresh about that either. The film's freshness may instead stem from a hyper-comical imposition of Post Modern values and humor onto a very serious, and indeed somewhat sacred, text that is our culture's memory of World War II.

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