On some level, we know that all movies are constructions. When we see two people hanging perilously from a helicopter landing skid, we subconsciously understand those aren’t real people in a life or death struggle; they’re just actors on a soundstage doing their job. The only reality onscreen is the one we give it in our minds when we suspend our disbelief. Maybe that’s why we love the idea of shared cinematic universes — when two or more movies by one creator are revealed to share common locations, characters, or plot points — so much. Shared universes suggest a life to a movie beyond the edges of its frame. The construction seems a little less constructed (somewhat ironically, since the construction is, in fact, even more constructed in order to make the various cinematic pieces fit together). The disbelief seems a little easier to suspend.
One of the directors best known for a shared universe is Quentin Tarantino, who has quietly created an entire world out of his dozen or so movies as a writer and/or director. Some of the connections are fairly obvious — Mr. Blonde from “Reservoir Dogs” and Vincent from “Pulp Fiction” share a last name, implying they are brothers — some are more subtle. But they’re there, and once they’re there they invite more theories about more connections from fans. At Reddit, a user by the name of “UOLATSC” puts forth a borderline brilliant theory about “Inglorious Basterds” and why everyone in Quentin Tarantino’s movies is so obsessed with popular culture.
“As it turns out, Donny Donowitz, ‘The Bear Jew,’ is the father of movie producer Lee Donowitz from ‘True Romance’ – which means that, in Tarantino’s universe, everybody grew up learning about how a bunch of commando Jews machine gunned Hitler to death in a burning movie theater, as opposed to quietly killing himself in a bunker.”
“Because World War 2 ended in a movie theater, everybody lends greater significance to pop culture, hence why seemingly everybody has Abed-level knowledge of movies and TV. Likewise, because America won World War 2 in one concentrated act of hyperviolent slaughter, Americans as a whole are more desensitized to that sort of thing. Hence why Butch is unfazed by killing two people, Mr. White and Mr. Pink take a pragmatic approach to killing in their line of work, Esmerelda the cab driver is obsessed with death, etc.”
In other words, “Inglourious Basterds” isn’t just some World War II war movie slash revenge fantasy. It isn’t just a loving ode to the power of movies. It’s basically the origin story of the entire Tarantinoverse. This one event sent our own universe off on this weird, movie crazy tangent where all these films were set. Which, in some weird way, makes a perverse sort of sense. I don’t know if Tarantino planned it that way, but if he did, that’s one hell of a construction.
[H/T David Chen]