"In the best fiction, plot is not a series of surprises but an increasingly moving series of recognitions, or moments of understanding."
- John Gardner
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Today Andrew Klavan reports his response to the movie Inglorious Basterds. It would be a misstatement to say he wasn't impressed. He was impressed, in the sense that repulsion is an impression.
But for Tarantino, no matter how talented, to address the issues inherent in the event as pure fodder for storytelling, to think his squirrelly man-on-man torture fantasies or his video geek understanding of life provide an adequate moral response to that level of history – I don’t know, man – it just felt to me like he was molding toy soldiers out of the ashes of the dead. Even real Jews torturing real German soldiers would not provide a profound or even interesting resolution, but this stuff?
I can't think offhand of any Tarantino movie I've watched, so I'm speculating when I wonder if the director would even be able to comprehend the words Klavan is using. As I understand it, Tarantino makes meta-movies, movies about movies, movies that mirror not the real world, but the kind of world you'd have come to know if you'd spent your life tied to a seat in a movie theater. I suppose that makes him kin to all the contemporary fantasy writers whose inspiration comes, not from myth or history, but from reading a lot of Tolkien and Rowling. The work may be brilliant in its way. It may be scintillating in its dialogue and groundbreaking in its technique, but it's also hollow and weightless. It's pure refined sugar—food without nutritional content.
I'm not saying there's no place for such work. But it's a different thing; a new thing in the world. It should be kept on a separate shelf from material that rises out of human experience and the wisdom our fathers.