Thursday, 17 March 2011

March Bloodstones: Shoshanna and Bridget von Hammersmark in Inglourious Basterds

Even if Tarantino does not make my heart sing, I feel it’d be a bit ridiculous for me to dedicate a month to brave women and not include at least one of his characters. For all his almost farcical gratuitousness I will always praise him for his sharp characters. For most, Landa emerges as the strongest attribute of Inglourious Basterds, and considering his many quotable lines – or Waltz’s performance – I wouldn’t say no. But he’s not who I remember first when I think of Tarantino’s World War II that wasn’t....
...neither is Mélanie Laurent’s Shoshanna, incidentally. For me, Inglourious Basterds begins and ends with the oft-forgotten Diane Kruger. Kruger appears, most noticeably, in the chapter 3 of the film I consider near-perfect (the film, not so much). I must confess that prior to BasterdsI had only the vaguest of notions as to who Kruger was and I’m most impressed at how effortlessly she exudes that sort of charm that takes years for the great ones, like Dietrich (who the role seems to be an obvious throwback to) to accrue. It’s that composedness in the face of constant unease that makes Bridget such an obvious candidate for courageous, and it’s – incidentally – what makes Shoshanna so interesting, too.
Laurent is occasionally exasperating for me with her expressions which occasionally seem to overly precise, or sometimes oddly vacant but I love Shoshanna in that strudel scene. There’s that uncanny feeling that Tarantino is too satisfied with his creations here – specifically Landa – but even then grandiose nature of it all doesn’t bog Laurent down there. It’s odd, that I find her Shoshanna most interesting when she does not demand our attention, almost menacingly as the scene draws to its close.
2009 was a fairly good year for supporting women for me. I think of my top three: Cotillard, Morton and Pike as one bloc, yet despite the fact that Moore and Cotillard (again) make up my top 5, others supporters like Mo’Nique, Mimi Kennedy, Penelope Cruz – but most of all Kruger, herself, always make me rethink my actual list of nominees. Tarantino is notorious for being ridiculous, but even when Inglourious Basterds seems to demand that absurdity Kruger maintains a composure that – unlike Shoshanna – doesn’t seem like more absurdity in the face of the already absurd. A fine example is the juxtaposition of the aloof Bridget with that wild shoot-out. When Shoshanna prepares for her end, her composure itself seems like some otherworldly incarnation of hysteria.
Yet, my occasional dissatisfaction with Laurent cannot mask the brilliance of the characters here. Both Shoshanna and Bridget meet their ends in moments that seem unworthy of their brilliance, although that – of course – is the way of Tarantino. The fact that that Shoshanna’s final act is more seismic than Bridget doesn’t undermine her courageousness. Conversely, Kruger’s superior performance doesn’t prevent Shoshanna from being a more interesting character to delve into. The film, perhaps, should feel more male-driven but there are two women at opposing ends. Both of them are, for the most part, well characterised, a sort of perfect encapsulation of female cinematic courageousness: Tarantino Style.
Shoshanna or Bridget? Diane or Mélanie? How courageous do you find Tarantino’s women in Inglourious Basterds?


Robert said...

Marvelous post. I've gone back and forth as to whose performance I like more, though I always end up settling on Laurent - it could be because I find Shoshana to be such an interesting character. Though, Hammersmark comes and goes so quickly that you must wonder about her motives and backstory, but I think Kruger totally embodies all of it.

Your point about both of their deaths being unworthy of their brilliance is such an interesting and fascinating comment that, while I never thought of it before myself, is so true!

Jose said...

I'm all about Shoshanna but kudos to Q-Tip for showing us that Diane Kruger could act.

Simon said...

Lovely post. Kruger and Laurent make such an interesting juxtaposition.

M. Hufstader said...

Interesting! I've got to say I'm one of those that kinda left Kruger in the dust with this one. However, you touched on something I didn't give her enough credit for--she does add a bit of seriousness and subtly to the performance that some of the other actors don't bother with (ironic, considering when I think of her I think of...silly action movies with Nic Cage). Plus, the Cinderella scene with Kruger and Landa? Pure brilliance.

Castor said...

Masterfully written post on both actresses/characters. Couldn't agree more on your assessment on both although I really enjoyed the movie as a whole.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

robert glad you liked it. the deaths are so disappointing, but i guess tarantino is going for that irony he so loves.

jose kudos indeed. you know he's one of those originals that gives ANY actor a fair chance.

simon ten points for using juxtaposition in a comment. :)

m. hufstader that final expression on her face always strikes me.

castor quentin sure does know his characters.

Anonymous said...

Team Bridget! Again, best performance sitting down since Jimmy Stewart. Her first scene, man.