Tarantino: Inglorious Basterds languages

AJBaker

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I really enjoyed the way language was a big part of this film. I loved how each character spoke their various native languages, or a different language, and how the approach to language was actually really realistic.


In the famous bar scene, there's a tense exchange involving three 'good guys' who are native German speakers, one British officer (Hicox) who speaks perfect German, and the bad guy SS officer who is a native German speaker.

The end of the scene (SPOILER ALERT) is when Hicox gives himself away by showing the number 3 the English way, rather than the European way. However, I would argue that the SS officer already knew he was lying, because the accent is such a giveaway.

The thing is, that Hicox indeed speaks perfect German, without any grammatical errors. However, the pronunciation is a bit too precise, and his sentences are a bit strange, almost like someone who learnt German from a book rather than from real people. He sounds like a German speaker, but something is just weird: some sounds are off, and he doesn't sound like he's actually from a specific German speaking place.


This is actually pretty normal for anyone learning another language, or even just another accent. Our ears are very much attuned to hearing subtle differences in accent, and it's EXTREMELY hard to fool someone.


Think about it: how well can you tell where someone is from within your country?
If you're from New York, do you hear how a Boston accent is different? Or if you're from New York, could an Englishman imitate your accent well enough to fool you into thinking he was from New York? Or would it always sound a bit 'off' no matter how hard he tried?

Many movies ignore this, and there have been scenes where characters can disguise themselves by speaking another language (Sean Connery's Bond pretending to be Japanese anyone? :lol:)


The cool thing in this Tarantino film is that they accurately show how hard this is. Hicox speaks perfect German and would actually have got away with it had he only spoken a few words like 'Hello' and 'Thank you', and avoided longer conversations. But by dressing down the drunken soldier with his loud and comically formal and long winded speech he gave himself away.
When the SS officer comes over, he can identify the origins of the other two officers ("I wasn't talking to you officer Frankfurt, nor to you, officer Munich"), and he calls Hicox "Officer homeless/without origins".

It's also funny that Hicox claims to be from the Swiss Alps (the Piz Palü) to explain his accent, but Swiss don't sound AT ALL like that (and why would a Swiss end up as a German officer anyway?).



To the other accents in the movie:
Hans Landa, the main villain, obviously speaks perfect German (with an Austrian accent), and his English is mostly flawless, but with a strong German accent, as any English speaker watching the film will have noticed. He's really fun to listen too: his speech is flawless, and in fact 'too good', using overly formal and complicated ways of saying things, but with a strong German accent.
When he speaks French or Italian, the effect is the same: overly formal, gramaticaly flawless, but with a strong accent.
In all three languages, he could easily have a conversation with anyone, but he wouldn't for a moment be taken for a native speaker of English, French or Italian.



The other accents worth mentioning are when Brad Pitt and his associates dress up in tuxedos and pretend to be Italian. I'm sure I'm not spoiling anything by pointing out that his American accent is HUGE, and wouldn't fool anyone, including non Italians.
 

Lou Tencodpees

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The opening scene was cinematography at it's best. By the time we got to the David Bowie soundtrack it was like Tarantino was signing a beautiful portrait with a big neon sharpie. JMO.
 
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beanluc

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My only contribution to this thread is the observation that, before this movie, I never once saw anyone ever count on their fingers starting with "one" on their thumb.

Ever since this movie, I never see anyone count "one" on a finger, everyone has switched to the thumb.

Every damn time I see it I want to say "You poser."
 

Mouth

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The way I count, a lone thumb sticking out is 10.

Index = 1
Add Middle = 2
Add Ring = 3
Add Pinky = 4
Add Thumb = 5
Thumb touching Index = 6
Thumb touching Middle = 7
Thumb touching Ring = 8
Thumb touching Pinky = 9
Thumb = 10
 

AJBaker

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Another fun choice Tarantino made:
The language chosen by each character makes sense within the movie. For example, at the beginning of the film when Landa is interviewing the farmer and switches from French to English: Landa claims to not speak French well enough, but that is patently wrong since his French up to that point was fantastic. As an audience member we might conclude that it's simply for the convenience of the English speaking target audience that he made the change.

But no! It's then revealed that the switch in language was a ruse to catch the Jews hiding under the floor, and therefore logical within the frame of the film!
 

Uncle Daddy

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My only contribution to this thread is the observation that, before this movie, I never once saw anyone ever count on their fingers starting with "one" on their thumb.

Ever since this movie, I never see anyone count "one" on a finger, everyone has switched to the thumb.

Every damn time I see it I want to say "You poser."

Chinese count to 10 on one hand. The other one is usually busy.
 

medownsouth

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Denis Ménochet's performance sucked me in to that movie, and Christoph Waltz's performance held my attention throughout. Great, great film. IMO QTs work just keeps getting better and better.
 

dlew919

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In my view the last great Tarantino film was Jackie brown. But inglorious basterds is probably there too I didn’t like the ending, but Tarantino can write marvellous scenes - I think of the one with the pistols under the table. Just wonderful. Distressing but well done.

The accents thing - spot on. Nicely observed!
 

985plowboy

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My only contribution to this thread is the observation that, before this movie, I never once saw anyone ever count on their fingers starting with "one" on their thumb.

Ever since this movie, I never see anyone count "one" on a finger, everyone has switched to the thumb.

Every damn time I see it I want to say "You poser."

At least It’s legit. I was stationed in Germany in the early’90’s and that’s the way those folks count. As far as folks around you, well…
 

985plowboy

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I have watched “the pipe scene” a couple dozen times.
I absolutely love it.
Second fave is the Col. Landa/cinema owner restaurant interview with the strudel and whipped cream.
 

AJBaker

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A really strange choice in terms of language is the scene in the restaurant with Goebbles and his translator. In a way, it's a very inefficient way of having dialog: everything is being said twice, and time is lost with people asking 'What did she say?' and things like that.

Such a strange choice, but I like it.
 




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