Hans Landa, “Jew Hunter”or “damn good detective?”
Col. Hans Landa: [to Aldo] So you’re “Aldo the Apache”.
Lt. Aldo Raine: So you’re “the Jew Hunter”.
Col. Hans Landa: A detective. A damn good detective. Finding people is my specialty so naturally I work for the Nazis finding people, and yes some of them were Jews. But “Jew Hunter”?
Col. Hans Landa: [reacts in disgust] It’s just a name that stuck.
Pfc. Smithson Utivich: Well, you do have to admit, it is catchy.
Col. Hans Landa: Do you control the nicknames your enemies bestow on you? “Aldo the Apache” and “the Little Man”?
Every movie needs a villain. Everyone knows that a movie is exceptionally good when the villain is just so damn likeable; you love that you hate them and hate that you love them, you just cannot help yourself. Like Loki in The Avengers or the Joker in Batman, Colonel Hans Landa is the loveable villain in Quentin Tarantino’s, Inglorious Basterds. Like Loki and The Joker, Hans Landa is crazy, cruel, egotistical, ambitious, highly intelligent, ruthless, but astonishingly charismatic. All these characteristics have earned him his title of the “Jew Hunter,” and of course the fact that he has found and killed many Jews. Colonel Landa is no Nazi…or so he claims. This Austria-born SS (meaning Schutzstaffel, a paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party) soldier proclaims to not share the ideologies of the Nazi’s when it comes to Jews, he is just merely doing his job, which just so happens to be killing Jews… for the Nazis.
So what makes Landa such a good villain? What makes him so good at finding Jews? Well, the Jew Hunter is very protean, he has the incredible ability to change frequently and easily and adjust to his surroundings; he is basically a Chameleon. He is a trickster; he exhibits a great deal of intellect and secret knowledge, like his ability to read people and speak four languages, and uses his intelligence to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behaviors. Landa takes great pride in his much earned nickname and shares the versatile characteristics of a lovable villain, a trickster, and a chameleon, but above all Colonel Hans Landa is first and foremost a detective.
“My pipe is bigger than yours.”
The peak of Landa’s trickster and chameleon abilities are exemplified and analyzed in “Once upon a time… in Nazi- occupied France” when the colonel is interrogating the French farmer. His fancy uniform, shiny badges, and scary nickname are what got him through the door but his ability to read people and morph into his surroundings are what make him successful in finding the hidden Jews. Like Landa stated; “The feature that makes me such an effective hunter of the Jews, is, as opposed to most German soldiers, I can think like a Jew. Where they can only think like a German, or more precisely, a German soldier.” As soon as Landa steps into the farmer’s house he gets into character. As Tarantino explained in an interview with Charlie Rose, “every scene [Landa] does is a version of an interrogation and every piece of interrogation is a piece of theater or, a mind game with the participant.” At the farmer’s house, he simultaneously morphs into a rat and a detective. He chooses to be a rat because Jews think like rats. He also gets into his role as detective and begins to interrogate the farmer, carefully analyzing his body language. Like any great actor, one must have props. The farmer begins to smoke his ordinary pipe when all of a sudden Hans Landa asks if he can smoke his pipe too; Landa takes out his pipe and it is a huge Calabash??. In reality the pipe is merely just a prop, the Colonel does not smoke. Tarantino stated that “[Landa] kn[e]w the farmer smoked a pipe and at a certain point he brings out this pipe and what pipe does he bring out? He brings out the Sherlock Holmes pipe. One, you can say it is a sexual thing because, my pipe is bigger than yours, and the other thing is that you can say is, I know you are lying and I got you, I’ve got the Sherlock Holmes pipe. He doesn’t smoke a pipe at all it’s simply just an interrogation technique to send the farmer more into hell.” He doesn’t smoke the pipe at all, it is simply an act of theater. Like Sherlock Holmes, the Colonel is excitable and animated during an investigation and manipulates innocent people. Landa, like Holmes, derives pleasure from his interrogation and has supreme confidence — bordering on arrogance — in his intellectual abilities.
His ability to morph into a rat succeeded. Landa, through the course of the interrogation, was able to read the farmer and think like a rat. He knew he was hiding Jews and he knew they were under his floorboards. The non-rat thinkers (the German soldiers) would have never looked there. They would have looked in the cellar and in the attic, the more obvious places, but according to the Detective, rats hide underneath the floor boards, where there is virtually not room and where you would least expect it. Not only did the actor’s phenomenal acting intensify the scene, but Tarantino’s use of cinematic techniques, specifically his camera work and angles, truly captured the moment. Most of the interrogation is seen through a wide shot, where the audience can see the setting but still have full view of the characters and their body language. The camera does an almost full three sixty around the scene but stops and focuses at a wide shot of the two men. When Colonel Landa says something important or witty the camera focuses more on him, through a medium shot, which shows some part of Landa in more detail while still giving an impression of the whole subject. When showing the farmers response or reaction, a medium shot is then used on him for the same reason. When Landa, finally figures out where the Jews are hiding and begins to negotiate with the farmer, the camera moves closer and closer to his face. The camera goes from a mid shot, to a medium close up, to a close up, and then finally to an extreme close up allowing the audience to see and feel Landa’s detective instincts at work. The audience can see the exact moment when Landa comes to his epiphany. The same goes with the farmer, the camera zooms in closer to his face when his secret is being revealed and the audience can see the agony and desperation in his face. At the end of the scene, Landa uses his super power of knowing four different languages to trick the French Jews, and has his men slaughter them, a “BINGO” for the Jew Hunter.
[In Italian with a heavy American accent] “ Buongiorno.”
It is a common fact that being able to speak more than one language is a super power. In that case, Landa’s ability to speak four languages, English, French, German, and Italian, is his supernatural aid. His special ability allows him to mess with the Basterds. In the scene where the guests are awaiting the film at the cinema, the Colonel runs into the actress, Bridget Von Hammersmark, and does what he does best, interrogates her. Here is where the dramatic irony kicks in. The audience is aware that the Colonel knows Ms. Hammersmark is working with the Bastereds because she left her shoe at the crime scene; however, Hammersmark and the Basterds do not know that. The Colonel continues to question the actress until there is no more that she can say. He then begins to toy with the Basterds. The Detective is told that the men are Italian, so he speaks to them in Italian as well; he messes with the Basterds until he makes everyone uncomfortable, again, one of the Detective’s strongest qualities. Through his findings at the crime scene and in the interrogation, The Detective was able to bust the Basterds.
Colonel Hans Landa acts only out of pure self interest. At the beginning of the film he is working for the Nazis, since it brings him wealth and power; however, at the end of the film he joins the opposing side and helps the Basterds end the war by assassinating its main players. He adjusts sides because he negotiates to receive full immunity for his actions as well as be rewarded the Medal of Honor, amongst other things. His intelligence and manipulating ways are what awards him his many findings and immunity; however, his egotistical and overall villain nature are what awards him a swastika on the forehead, branding him a Nazi for life.
His attitude toward his infamous nickname changed throughout the movie. At the beginning when he is with the farmer, he takes pride in his name because he earned it, which reflects on his incredible abilities. He takes pride in his name because it was convenient; it made him seem like a loyal part of the Nazi army, brought him respect, and bestowed fear upon the Jews. In contrast, at the end of the movie, when dealing with the Basterds, he claims to not like his nickname anymore and is somewhat disgusted by it. Why? Because it is convenient for him again. He has switched parties and now he wants to be seen as a war hero, not some kind of military weapon. He asks the Basterds if they like the nicknames that their enemies bestow on them, but who is Landa’s enemy? The Jews, the Nazis, the Baseterds? They are all his enemies who gave him a much suiting title.
“Ooh! That’s a Bingo!”
Inglorious Basterds would have not been the same without The Jew Hunter. Quentin Tarantino struggled to find the perfect actor to play Hans Landa, one of the best characters he has ever written. Before he finally casted Christoph Waltz, Tarantino started to believe, at one point, that he had written an unplayable part. Tarantino was about to pull the plug on the entire movie, for he knew he could not make it without the perfect Landa, when Christoph Waltz walked in. What captured Tarantino about Waltz, was that he was a linguistic genius, the most crucial aspect of the Landa character. Waltz was able to be poetic in every language that Landa was poetic in, without Waltz, Landa would have just been trapped on the page. Playing Landa was Waltz’s role of reincarnation, he was reborn. This vital role helped Waltz gain respect as a professional actor, it shined the spotlight on him and introduced him to serious acting with big and important roles. Before his role in Inglorious Basterds, Waltz was mostly a TV actor, filming mostly TV series and TV movies. It was not until Tarantino gave him his big break in hollywood and on the big screen. This role got Christoph Waltz his first Oscar, and this actor got Quentin Tarantino a BINGO.