[The following post has spoilers for both Inglourious Basterds and Atonement. Like you were interested in seeing either of them.]
Spring 2007 I sat down to watch a movie called Atonement. It was a lovely Sunday night and I had just gotten off work.
[Full disclosure: I worked at a Blockbuster Video and got to watch it for free. This situation could have been much, much worse]
Two and a halfish hours later, I was in a state of despair. Two people [Cecilia played by skinny girl Keira Knightley] and Robbie Turner get their lives completely ruined a false accusation of rape. Robbie gets carted off to jail. Cecilia pines and cuts herself off from her family -- her sister is the one who made the accusation.
Things suck. A lot. For a longass time. But at the end, the sisters reconcile and Robbie and Cecilia live by the coast together.
Except: this ending is a fictional one, the atonement for the false accusation years ago by the younger sister. If they couldn't be together in real life, at least they could be together in this novel the younger sister wrote like sixty years later, right?
Wrong. Cold comfort. You think that just because in fiction they get to be together forever, that makes any bit of difference? You think that just because in fiction you reconciled with your sister that you are somehow closer to her in her death?
[Yeah, I get that Atonement is completely fiction. But within the universe, this is the situation]
It bothered me. I've seen the movie again and read the book, but the same things bother me about it. Like, who could think that this was honoring anyone? Would the two people's lives who were ruined be happy that you made everything happy fictionally?
[Twoish years later]
I saw Inglourious Basterds. And it was basically the same premise.
You think just because you depict Adolf Hitler being tortured and killed, being scared of the "Bear Jew" that makes any difference to real life? That anyone really feels better about all the deaths he directly and indirectly caused?
Sure, it might be nice to briefly inhabit a land where revenge (cosmic or otherwise) is exacted on the Nazis, the most perfect movie villian of all time. But -- just like Atonement's false happy ending -- its a cold comfort. World War II doesn't end with that kind of justice.
[Turns out the skull that was thought to be Hitler's belongs to a woman]
I left the theater both disgusted by the films climactic scene -- torture is still torture, even if its done to Nazis -- and empty. No amount of film fantasy or fictional happy endings is going to change what happened. Fiction doesn't make up for anything. Not even a little bit. Its like getting a wet blanket to keep yourself warm with.
[Or fiction ain't shit]