Director Quentin Tarantino says he wants his movies to make people laugh at material that's not usually funny.
Director Quentin Tarantino says he wants his movies to make people laugh at material that's not usually funny. Evan Agostini/AP
Writer and director Quentin Tarantino has said his new movie, Inglourious Basterds, is not your daddy's World War II picture.
In the film, a squad of Jewish-American soldiers is let loose to cause havoc in German-occupied France in the 1940s. The film quickly takes you into a parallel universe of outrageous violence and a plot to kill Adolf Hitler. The characters switch between English, German, French and Italian.
"There have been certain contrivances, especially when it comes to language, where people are supposed to be speaking German, but they're speaking English ... and I just think that's a contrivance we've put up with for too long," Tarantino tells Steve Inskeep. "I think that day is over. ... When movies take place in Nazi Germany and they're all speaking in English, in particular almost Shakespearean English, you'd think the Third Reich started at the Old Vic."
It is this attention to dialogue that is reflected in Tarantino's films. Throughout Inglourious Basterds, there are extraordinarily long scenes of dialogue that are incredibly tense. Tarantino says much of it is written when he's sitting alone, and the conversations spout from his head.
"Basically, I just get the characters talking to each other, and then they do it," he says. "They really write the scene. I'm more like a court reporter jotting it down.
"The whole trick is to get them talking to each other, and then when I'm done writing the scene, then Quentin the writer comes in and just kind of cleans it up just a little bit."
The dialogue is not only long and tense, it also drips with dark humor — in between the killings.
"It's just the way I write," Tarantino says. "There's a comedy aspect to everything I've ever done. I stop short of calling them comedies because there's actually serious stuff in the films. ... But that doesn't mean we can't have a good time. ...
"Part of my method of doing stuff is to make people laugh at stuff that's not normally funny."