Inglourious Basterds (2009) by Quentin Tarantino

It is common for every script to have a flair unique to a writer’s style. However, most scripts while hosting a different voice, follow the same format. After all, scripts are meant to be blueprints that guide the cast and crew. Tarantino is no different, but he is also revered as a master filmmaker and it shows in his scripts.

He follows a format but as I read the script of ‘Inglorious Basterds’, I felt like he was telling the story in a way only he could. It is difficult to explain how but I shall try.

For instance, he sets up a card game in the film. Now if it were me, or any other writer, we’d have described what game it was, possibly even picked something serious such as poker, and then just highlighted the tensest moments. However, Tarantino goes about it the hard way. Choosing a game that he needs to spend half a page describing while doing so in a manner that is still entertaining. This is something a novelist would do and Tarantino does it to the same effect. You feel present there. Most scripts make you a witness to the action. Tarantino gets into such interesting details and chooses such moments to play out, that you feel as if you are aparticipant.

My favourite thing he does is recognise the reader. His films do it so it makes sense that the script would too. There are just one or two moments where the script recognises that we are reading along and winks at us. This feels refreshing—as if we are in on the joke with Tarantino. Now, this is not something most writers should do or even need to do. This is also not what makes Tarantino great. His ability to do these little acrobatic tricks is just a side effect of his excellent command over his film.

Inglorious Basterds is told at a comfortable pace but each scene, long or short, has its own mystery and tension. Over the 166 odd pages, you never feel that Tarantino is simply dragging a scene out because he wants to stay with the characters, but he makes us want to stay with the characters. He writes them so they are unique and charming, whether good or evil. He writes them so that they always have something to gain or lose in a scene. Thus, even though the film begins with a 10-minute long conversation over a cup of milk, or has another 10-minute long conversation in a bar with mostly drunken fools, we are always invested because within moments, characters may win or lose and the film will carry on. A simple way to put it would be that Tarantino’s characters, no matter the nature of the story, don’t have plot armour, making them more immediate than other films.

It should be noted though, that the script has many scenes that did not make it to the final film. The film cleverly leaves out dialogue that explains more than necessary. Everyone has heard about Tarantino’s phenomenal editor, the late Sally Menke. I believe she is key to this. She cuts down what is perhaps best left to the audience. This is not a criticism of Tarantino. The few instances where he does this are hardly grievous. It’s a testament to Menke’s editing for making a tight script even tighter.

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