Tarantino, Nazis, and Movies That Can Kill You

Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” is one of most curious films of the last decade. It looks like a historical drama, but ends up rewriting history in ways no viewer could overlook: American Jews storm the Nazi high command and gun down Hitler and his cronies.

In this recent lecture at the Williams Club in New York, Christian Thorne, associate professor of English, examines some of the riddles that emerge from Tarantino’s approach. Why would a filmmaker edit history so that the Americans get to win a war that they actually won anyway? Why, in 2009, make a 1970s-style B-movie about 1944? And what can we say about a movie which shows people watching a movie and then, as its final act, kills them all? Will we make it through such a movie alive?

Professor Thorne writes regularly on topics ranging from zombie movies to eighteenth-century poetry to recent trends in Italian Marxism. His “Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment” (2009) was awarded the Thomas Wilson Prize for best first book by Harvard University Press.