Great writers can bring a story alive. But it takes great actors to help us see the truth in a different light. I wonder if things would have been what they are if Christoph Waltz hadn’t played Col. Hans Landa, the sly Jew hunter in Inglourious Basterds, and the antebellum bounty hunter Dr King Schultz in Django Unchained.
The ability of Tarantino to write “unplayable characters” isn’t surprising. In fact, what would be shocking is the absence of it. But all of it would have been in vain had he not found that singularly talented actor—Waltz. Their simpatico pairing seems to find a perfect ground no matter where the bloody plot takes them to. In other words, the typical, satirical, hyper-texted bloody Tarantino scripts in which aesthetised violence often finds itself splattered all over the walls.
Tarantino himself said post-Inglourious… success: “I think that Landa is one of the best characters I’ve ever written and ever will write, and Christoph played it to a tee… It’s true that if I couldn’t have found someone as good as Christoph I might not have made Inglourious Basterds“.
So is Dr Schultz, I would say.
It is Dr Schultz who brings in that much-wanted interlude between violence and more violence. Each time he recoils at a whipped slave, broods over the death of another ripped apart by dogs and flinches at the muted beauty of Broomhilda and goes out of his way to save the woman being used as a sex slave by ruthless plantation owner Candie (played by DiCaprio), it breathes relief into the bullets-ridden history dripping with vivid violent imagery.
An actor’s face is like an ocean with countless expressions. Here’s one who will never render his director’s hunt for a perfect expression, a tic, a squirm… in vain. Hope to see more of Hans Landa—both deplorable and delicious character, and Dr Schultz—a lovable white man who turns to Alexadre Dumas’ ‘Three Musketeers’ for intellectual support in a house minutes before it turns into a graveyard.
Django… throws up many questions about whether it centres around a black character who is out to free his wife, or a white man who camouflages as a bounty hunter only to unburden his own racial guilt each time he shoots down a white man because he “deserved” it.
Nevertheless, Waltz shines.