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The Middle Ages in the Modern WorldTwenty-first century perspectives$
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Bettina Bildhauer and Chris Jones

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266144

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266144.001.0001

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Visuality, Violence and the Return of the Middle Ages: Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as an Adaptation of the Nibelungen Story

Visuality, Violence and the Return of the Middle Ages: Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as an Adaptation of the Nibelungen Story

Chapter:
(p.254) 13 Visuality, Violence and the Return of the Middle Ages: Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as an Adaptation of the Nibelungen Story
Source:
The Middle Ages in the Modern World
Author(s):

Bettina Bildhauer

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266144.003.0014

This chapter argues for the first time that Quentin Tarantino based his film Inglourious Basterds in part on the medieval tale of the Nibelungs, as mediated chiefly through Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen. Inglourious Basterds can therefore be fruitfully read as an instance of medievalism, perpetuating as well as re-evaluating the widespread association of the Middle Ages with violence. An awareness of this intertext allows a nuanced interpretation of Inglourious Basterds’ stance on the power as well as manipulability of visual signs, always seen in the context of their materiality. Tarantino’s adaptation also allows fresh perspectives on the medieval Song of the Nibelungs, especially on its depiction of violent revenge. These in turn throw into relief Tarantino’s interpellation of the viewer through violence and other techniques to prevent the passive spectator position that popular culture is often accused of demanding. The film succeeds in subtly altering the conventions of cinematic representations of premodernity, and in re-appropriating a tainted national origin myth for an international audience.

Keywords:   medievalism, film, Quentin Tarantino, Song of the Nibelungs, Inglourious Basterds, violence, visuality

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