Analyzing Inglourious Basterds Through Subtext
Understanding Subtext || Does Hans Landa Recognize Shoshanna? || Scribble Bees
Yasir Arafat Ifte
General Member of Research & Publication | BIZ BEE
August 20, 2021
Inglorious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarantino, alone has created some of the most unforgettable scenes that we as an audience vividly remember as well as still appreciate its work. Among those, one of them was the “Hans Landa and Shoshanna Cafe Scene” where these two characters finally reunite and we can see the existence of a mental duel between both of them and that made the scene more intense and powerful. This is the first time they meet since he murdered her family from the LaPadite’s dairy farm scene. But whether he realizes it or not remains ambiguous. This single scene manages to divide its entire fanbase by two groups where people still debate among themselves and that is still relevant on the internet whether Hans Landa did recognize Shoshanna or not? However, before analyzing this scene, I want to give an overview of the subtext.
So, what is subtext? The text means the sensory surface of the work of art in terms of films, it is the images of the screen, the literal meaning of dialogues, and the background sound of it whereas on the contrary, the subtext is the life under the surface thoughts and feelings of both known and unknown hidden by behaviors of the characters. In addition, subtext can be used in the scene without using any dialogue. Moreover, sometimes it might give the audience to think from their point of view and that can vary from person to person of any specific scene and that is known as subjective inference. Such as the “Hans Landa and Shoshanna Cafe Scene” where people still debate among themselves whether Hans Landa did recognize Shoshanna or not? Now, I would like to break down the scene through its subtext where you may conclude.
During that scene, many of the fans refuse to believe that ordering milk for Shoshanna by Hans was not a mere coincidence rather than they think that it was his actual intention to inform her to recall their first meet. I know, it’s not convincing enough and that’s why I intend to discuss the more fascinating part of this scene which might be overlooked by many of the audience and that was the second food ordered by Hans which was the strudel and eventually we will realize that how the scenes can be made more beautiful by portraying some of the amazing details. Now, why strudel is a crucial part of this discussion is because most European love to eat strudel by applying cream on it instead of spreading sugar on the strudel because of their cultural context. The only people who eat strudel with sugar are Jews. In addition, usually, people in the restaurants wait for the cream before having a strudel. Everyone knows and does that except for the Jews because it extremely violates their Judaism beliefs. It takes lard or pork fats to make strudel, and eating with cream would be considered as “non-kosher laws” which is prohibited for them because they consider pork, sea fish as non-kosher food, and they are not allowed to eat it with dairy products. As a consequence, instead of waiting for the cream when Shonna raised her hand to eat the strudel, Hans told her to “wait for the cream”, and eventually she does eat strudel by applying cream on it, by doing these, Hans not only took a test of her whether she was a Jew or not but also destroy her through violating her religious beliefs. However, many of the fans assume that at this exact moment Hans realized that she was an imposter and in fact, he was able to catch her but rather than taking her to custody, he let her go! The theorists are mainly establishing this statement based on the end of the scene where at the end, he looked at Shoshanna deeply as if he telepathically told her, he recognized her like in the LaPadite dairy farm scene which he did with the farm owner, and the only reason for letting her go was because he made up his mind on killing Adolf Hitler at the end, but he was frustrated that she didn’t able to crack any of these and thereby we see that how he shoved his cigarette into the pipe with complicated frustration, making the table unsatisfied. Now, just imagine the entire scene without any subtext, without developing any momentum Hans would’ve said straightly to her that I investigated you and I know exactly who you are; then it would seem quite awful, right? Even as an audience we wouldn’t be able to engage with this scene and thereby we might not even be able to get this memorable shot.