Inglorious Basterds is a brilliant film by the legendary director, Quentin Tarantino which was planned out perfectly, as it has arguably some of the best-written characters in cinema, most notably the present villain of the story, Colonel Hans Landa of the SS division of the Nazi party which was dominant during the events of the film. Many people have gone over his character and subtle gestures that subtly make him an imposing character, from the opening scene in the French countryside where he is introduced as a cold and calculating man who enjoys his job in the SS; to the end of the film where his character is eroded and he contradicts his earlier character seeking sympathy from the protagonist.
However, a particularly powerful scene that I believe goes overlooked by many is the colonel’s reunion with the Jewish girl whose family he had killed in the opening scene. The Jewish Girl, Shoshanna has been obliged to attend lunch with Nazi top brass as a catalyst character’s plot to have her host his movie premiere as the main line of questioning pertaining to the premiere concludes and the interrogator is readying to exit a grey SS uniform enter the frame behind Shoshanna and his presence is acknowledged as the previous interrogator exclaims “Ah, Landa!” The camera pans up to the smiling face of the actor: Christoph Waltz with an unforgettable soundtrack that can only be described as distilled anxiety, as this can be seen in Shoshanna’s eyes which are wide with shock at seeing the man that nearly exterminated her bloodline.
The colonel sits down explaining that he is running security for the screening and has his own line of questioning with the aim of quelling her visible distress. The catalyst character as well as the previous interrogator have left with the entrance of Landa leaving tension that you can cut with a knife at this lunch table. Before beginning his line of questions he orders strudel for the both of them, an espresso for himself, and a glass of milk for Shoshanna which was visibly unsettling to Shoshanna as this milk may reference his knowledge of her Jewish background and her previous stay at the dairy farm in the first scene.
While the wait for the food and subsequent creme which was forgotten in the first order for the strudel questions pertaining to security were asked. Before she can answer the cream is served on the strudel and Landa implores her to take a bite of the pastry in hopes of approval; the way in which she sets up the bite and swallows is just filled with anxiety with the perfect framing for that purpose. Continuing to answer the questions Landa takes note of them in a similar fashion to the first scene with some off-handed racist comments regarding the black Frenchman in Shoshanna’s employ.
Concluding his questioning Landa offers a cigarette to Shoshanna reaffirming his nationalist perspective and claiming that the German tobacco is better; Landa lights the cigarette for her and before she is able to take the first draw Landa sets up a question as though he is about to reveal her identity, though he feigns and claims he forgot leaving Shoshanna with a semblance of relief on her face.
The colonel put his cigarette out on the strudel and makes his exit as the frame pans back to Shoshanna’s face where it is revealed that the whole time she has put up a facade as soon as the colonel makes his exit Shoshanna breaks down into tears which are the catalyst for later plot points of the film.