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Why Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’ Screenplay Is a Masterclass in Suspense — Watch

The newest Lessons from the Screenplay video looks at Tarantino's World War II drama.

Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds

In his latest Lessons from the Screenplay video, the YouTube user who identifies himself only as Michael takes a look at Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” He focuses his attention to the instant-classic opening sequence, which introduced the world at large to not only the character of Hans Landa but to the man playing him, Christoph Waltz.

“What makes this scene so effective?” asks Michael. “How does Quentin Tarantino turn 17 pages of people chatting into one of the most tension-filled scenes of recent memory?”

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Michael alludes to Moritz Lehne and Stefan Koelsch’s essay “Toward a general psychological model of tension and suspense,” focusing on four of the six components they bring up: conflict, dissonance and instability; uncertainty; emotional significance of anticipated events; and lack of control.

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He also invokes Alfred Hitchcock’s example of the bomb underneath the table — if the audience simply sees it go off without knowing it was there, they’re momentarily shocked; if they know it’s there the entire time, they’re in a constant state of suspense. Tarantino expertly applies that principle to his extended opening scene, which finds Landa slowly revealing what it is that makes him so terrifying. Watch the full below.

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