Language in Tarantino’s films

Published 12th February 2013
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Foreign language in a film adds something to the experience. Hearing an unfamiliar (or familiar) tongue in the dialogue of  a movie can help to transport you deeper into the world the Director has worked hard to create, would you agree?

I was excited to hear about the upcoming release of Tarantino’s latest work of art, Django Unchained. Criticism surrounding the over-zealous blood spattering and the controversial subject matter aside, there is something about the way his movies are shot, the flow and the dialogue that captivates me. One of the main draws for me to these films is the actor Christoph Waltz who makes his portrayal of his characters look so effortless. As Colonel Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, Waltz played the role of a sadistic Nazi with gusto, so too here he fits the bill as a Bounty Hunter in the Wild West in times of slavery and shoot-outs. In both of these films, language plays a key role. Waltz’s characters can be seen as hyper-articulate polyglots whose verbal dexterity helps make the scenes.

Tarantino’s films are known for their verbose dialogue and the sharp, witty comments are memorable long after the credits roll. As well as English though, German, Italian and French feature prominently in both scripts. In the Kill Bill trilogy, Japanese is the key language and again dominates many of the scenes. Christoph Waltz seems to have been the perfect choice for the two roles he has played thus far. Native Austrian with impeccable English and also fluent in French and Italian – who better to handle the twists and turns of Tarantino’s at times overwhelming dialogue. From the first scene of Django Unchained the audience is made aware that language is important to a full understanding of Tarantino’s intentions when dreaming up this masterpiece. Dr. King Schultz, played by Waltz, dazzles two slave traders with his ‘posh’ language and extensive vocabulary before freeing Django from his fate with them. Language becomes a key component of Schultz’s character as the film continues as it shows his intelligence and knowledge of cultures beyond his own. It creates the impression of a rounded man who is worldly and capable of taking care of himself.

Fellow blogger, Ollie Scrim, describes the effect of language when Tarantino uses it, in his recent post:

“Even with his use of foreign languages, Tarantino conjures a poetic element to his films, which maintains the captivation of the audience impressively. Christoph Waltz is the main protagonist of the linguistic showmanship that is present in both Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, and his performances are worthy of Academy Awards without question. This daring and tentative writing style is quite brilliant, as the eloquence of each language, no matter how seemingly mundane or indeed sinister the topic of conversation, never ceases to entice. Tarantino’s use of language and dialect has created some of the most compelling dialogue scenes in recent memory, with the German underground bar in Inglourious Basterds as a particular highlight for this author.”

Whether or not you are a fan of Tarantino’s work, surely you can see the appeal of his dialogue and use of languages to enthrall his audiences? Let us know your thoughts.

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