“When you join my command, you take on debit. A debit you owe me personally. Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps. And all y'all will git me one hundred Nazi scalps, taken from the heads of one hundred dead Nazis. Or you will die tryin’.”
Most Underrated Character - Major Dieter Hellstrom
The first time I watched Inglourious Basterds, I was too smitten with Landa and Shosanna to notice dear old Dieter. I have since seen the error of my ways.
You need to watch this scene more than once to appreciate the depth of August Diehl’s performance. The first time I watched the movie, I obviously didn’t understand the significance of Hicox’s ‘3’ - but I knew what was coming on the second viewing, and Hellstrom’s expression suddenly made wonderful, delicious sense. Just look at it.
Hellstrom’s mood swings create an incredible tension - he pendulums from accusatory, to pleasant, to charming and gracious, and then finally to the scariest person in the movie bar Landa. And every single one of those expressions plays out wonderfully across his face.
As much as I love Michael Fassbender and Til Schweiger, this scene really belongs to August Diehl.
I like these two characters together. Purely with respect to how Shosanna treats Fredrick, I can’t help but feel for the guy. If they had met at any other moment in history, the dynamics between them would have made for an amazing romantic comedy. That said, I think I’ll let Tarantino himself explain why this scene is so poignant.
“All these people were trying to kill Zoller, but he’s just the one who won. And everything he’s doing, he’s doing with the best intentions. He’s screwing her up so bad it’s not even funny, but he doesn’t know that, and to me, at the end, there’s an almost Romeo and Juliet quality to their end. In a different time, things could have been different.”
A Couple (Real Or Not) That You Ship: Landa/Dreyfus/Zoller
I know I’m probably going to hell for this post - but let me make my case.
I think that a triangular relationship between these three would make for an amazing movie. Let me just be absolutely clear about one thing before anyone jumps down my throat - I don’t ship this from a Nazi/Jew perspective. I ship this because there are enough power relations here to fuel a small rocket.
Allow me to demonstrate my point by transporting this ship to an AU - let’s say a workplace. Landa is the charming but manipulative deputy-boss, Zoller is the up-and-coming star employee, and Shosanna just wants to mind her own business and get on with her own work.
The Inglourious Basterds dynamics are easily applicable here - Zoller is in love with Shosanna, and Landa is somewhat fascinated by her. She dislikes both of them but if her hand was forced, she would prefer Zoller. She gravitates towards him only to repel Landa - but Landa pulls rank over Zoller, and Zoller is a man who listens to orders.
The IB moment which triggered this ship was Landa’s arrival at the restaurant. When he asked to speak privately with Shosanna, two things happened - Zoller protested, and my mind started racing.
A Character You Relate To The Most: Fredrick Zoller
Obviously, I’m not the Third Reich’s wunderkid. However, there is one element of Fredrick Zoller’s personality to which I can kind of relate. I hope my next paragraph makes sense.
Zoller is disliked by the only person he wants to like him. Comparably, the people I like most in my life are often the most impossible people to please. I generally function very well in social situations and I like to think that I’m good company - but around two particular people, I can’t seem to do anything correctly.
I wonder if I like them precisely because they’re so difficult to please.
“Well, if this is it, old boy, I hope you don’t mind if I go out speaking the King’s. There’s a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good scotch. Seeing as how I may be rapping on the door momentarily…”
By all measures, Perrier LaPadite should have been a forgettable character. He barely says anything, appears in only one scene, and must share the screen with Hans Landa.
Despite these impediments, Denis Menochet does with body language and facial expressions what many actors struggle to do with an entire script. Just re-watch the first scene and focus on his face. The tension we feel as an audience is entirely his tension.
In a way, Perrier LaPadite is not memorable because he’s in the first scene - rather, the first scene is memorable because he’s in it.
This post might as well be one long keyboard smash of affection.
Because goshdarnit, Hans Landa makes me feel things. For me, watching Hans Landa is rather like eating dessert - it is a delicious experience, and something to be savored.
I want to bring him before the International Criminal Court but I also want to take him out to dinner. I want to hurt him but I also want to do him. I want him to suffer for his manipulative ways but I also want him to escape unscathed to Nantucket Island. Basically, I adore him as a character, but am always plagued by the very distinct feeling that I shouldn’t. I want to hate him. I really do. He is unhinged and murderous and duplicitous and opportunistic. But he’s handsome, and charming, and deviously clever, and commanding. Goddamn.
And that's precisely what makes Hans Landa such an incredible character. He plays with us - his audience - as masterfully as he plays with any of the other characters around him.