The opening scene alone…
For all the shock value and irreverent hallmarks in his movies, Tarantino’s shooting and editing are surprisingly conventional. And it kind of makes sense: his movies are all about movie traditions; he employs classic cinematography, and his longtime editor (Sally Menke, until her death) was a member of the ACE. The stars of Tarantino’s films are the dialogue and non-linear storytelling; if the camera work and cutting techniques were equally outrageous, perhaps his movies wouldn’t be as accessible, and wouldn’t have made the impact upon pop culture that they have.
The opening scene of Inglorious Basterds is a film school in itself. It operates in Hitchcockian fashion: conventional coverage of a scene that is heavy on dialogue and light on visual activity; yet it is so incredibly tense, due to both the incredible acting and the “ticking timebomb under the table” (or, more in this case, under the floorboards) situation (via AFI):
Special Guest Reviewer: My Ma
Ma: “Watched inglourious bastards last night & was on edge all the time, covering my eyes or fast forwarding the gorey bits, but i loved it, laughed a lot at Brad Pitt‘s accent, especially the Italian one. Loved Tarantino sequencing of chapters”
Each episode of podcast The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith is a deep dive into the process behind current box office hits with their screenwriters. In their chat about Inglorious Basterds, we discover that Tarantino’s approach to writing is as surprising as his films, and that he talks about it – and his characters – enthusiastically and lovingly (no doubt spurred on by excellent interviewer and host Jeff Goldsmith):
Our look at this and other dialogue scenes from well-known films which manage to build tension purely through traditional coverage, careful editing and sound design: