Thomas McKenzie
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You Basterd, Why Are You Recommending That FIlm?

So my One Minute Review of Inglorious Basterds is up at the Rabbit Room, and lots of folks are talking about it. At least one person was disturbed that I would recommend a film from Quentin Tarantino, given the content of his other films.

I posted a lengthy reply to that challenge, as well as to a couple of questions. You can join the whole on-going discussion here. Or you can read this version of what I wrote, modified for this context.

First: I accept the challenge of making a one minute review that is literally one minute long. I just completed one for the Robert Rodriguez film "Shorts." You can find it here. I think of "One Minute" as more of a metaphor for frenetic brevity.

Next I'm going to make a statement about how I would like to relate to art. I would not criticize a film I have not seen. In order to speak intelligently about a specific film, book, painting, play, or any other piece of art, I feel I must engage it. One might say "I won't see that film because I hear it is terrible, or I don't like that kind of thing," and I think that is fine. For instance, I will not see "Halloween II" because I don't like horror movies as a general rule. They bother me, make me feel sick, and don't usually give me anything redemptive to think about. But I'm not going to launch into a specific criticism of that film unless I have seen it.

This goes to the characterization of Inglorious Basterds that I have seen here and other places, vis-a-vis "sex, drugs, foul language, and violence." This film has a single "sex moment" that has no nudity and lasts about one second. There are no drugs in this film, unless one is counting nicotine and alcohol. The language in this film is rated R, but foul language is not an issue I would hone in on for this one. After all, a great deal of this film isn't even in English. Is there violence in this film? Yes there is.

However, there is much less violence in this film than in, say, the book of Genesis. No wholesale slaughter of villages. No drowning of armies in the Red Sea. No butchering of recently circumcised men. No death of first born sons. Heck, no destruction of almost every living thing on the planet in a Great Flood even. If you don't like sex, violence, alcohol, or bad language I would recommend staying out of the Bible.

OK, "redemptive power of violence." I used that phrase in my review because this is the theme that the film is really bringing up. Can violence lead to healing? Does vengeance bring about positive change? Would it be better to have horrible violence inflected on our enemies and, therefore, bring a war to a swift conclusion?

The questions the film raises are similar to the ones raised in millions of other places. In many ways, this is like Dick Cheney's "we're going to the dark side" comments and the torture that followed. This is like the Karate Kid, in which vindication and redemption comes through kicking someone in the face really hard. This is like dropping the Bomb on Japan in 1945. This is like Israel's invasion of Gaza. If you have been wronged, is it morally good to "kill 'em all"?

The entire film asks these questions, but especially the climactic theater scene, as played against the scenes with the opposing leaders (no spoilers there, but those who have seen it know what I mean). Is that right? Is that good? Is that what we would rather have?

I think these are great questions for Christians to struggle with and discuss. And talking about these ideas as they appear in a film is less potentially destructive than talking about them in current politics or religion or in your family dynamic. This film gives us a point of conversation which allows us to look at our assumptions, our emotions, in a different way. And that is what art, at its best, does for us.

OK, those are some more of my thoughts. For some other thoughts from a good friend of mine and fellow pastor, let me recommend this link.