To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.
The smell of gasoline floated through the air as Prisoner Alfréd Wetzler’s body trembled with fear beneath a pile of wood beams. The air was silent apart from the heartbeat of his friend, Rudolf Vrba, beside him and the sound of distant cries from the concentration camp in the distance. After three days, the smell of gasoline meant one thing: safety—comfort knowing that the gasoline soaked tobacco should lead the search dogs away from the hiding place of the men escaping Auschwitz (Wetzler 125). The men watched the sun sink slowly in the sky, anticipating the moment they would make their final escape.
The success of these men marks a moment in history far greater than prisoners escaping their cell, it marks the first glimmer of hope amidst a world darkened by war and genocide. The moment they committed to escape, Wetzler and Vrba seized their own destiny by denying what their culture had allotted them.
In a very similar way, director Quentin Tarantino showcases numerous characters who take control and choose to write the story of their lives, rather than being under the jurisdiction of someone above them. These dramatic leaps of faith become the central plot of Tarantino’s movies as he encourages viewers to take action and seize control of their lives. I took the opportunity to delve into two of Tarantino’s films and uncover how a collection of his characters are depicted as having hearts and minds similar to those of Wetzler and Vrba—minds committed to a leap of faith.
When watching Inglourious Basterds, I was immediately drawn to the deep emotion and hard exterior of the Bear Jew in how he draws from such deep pain as he beats in Nazis’ skulls. According to Tarantino’s script, this Sergeant Donowitz was born into a Jewish family in Boston. He was prepared to fight in the war, but was originally scheduled to deploy to the Philippines. He refused to follow these orders claiming that “if [he’s] gonna kill [his] fellow man in the name of liberty, that fellow man, will be German” (pg. 29) Much like Wetzler and Vrba, Sgt. Donowitz was born into a Jewish family and his heritage spurs him on to defend the rights of fellow believers in Europe. Donowitz arms himself with a bat inscribed with loved ones’ names and refuses to let the Germans define what is right and wrong. Donowitz is characterized by the courage and strength that he finds in himself to avenge the deaths of his fellow believers.
In a much different way, the character Jackie Brown veers off of the road that leads to her demise, takes control, and overcomes her oppressor. Brown’s criminal prevents her from holding a well-paying job and the man she works for has full control of all of her actions. After she lands in jail, Brown realizes the damage that her previous actions have had on her life. In this moment, Brown has a change of heart and commits to overthrowing her oppressor, From this point on, Brown seizes every opportunity to take control of her life and overthrow her boss, Ordell Robbie. Brown’s true moment of characterization is showcased as she steals a handgun and presses it against Robbie’s genitals to signify the new control that she is taking over.
My papers tend to focus less on the final outcome of the characters and more on the moment in which they took the initiative to rewrite their stories, despite their past. As I compared the heart of these two papers, I discovered that I did not focus on the same theme simply because each movie had a common portion of the hero’s journey; I focused on the characters’ heart and courage because they reflect a personal desire to do the same. Tarantino sheds light on the fact that all humans are heading down some road of life, but the individual is responsible for choosing whether or not to take hold of he or she’s future, or let it pass them by.
My portfolio is more than a mere analysis of movies directed by Quentin Tarantino; it reflects the desire in my heart to be more than a person who simply exists-a longing to do. My heart was sparked as I felt the deep emotion that the Bear Jew drew his vengeance from, and my mind was ignited as I watched Jackie Brown triumph over all of the characters in the movie—all inspired by one moment. Whether it be categorized by a small decision or an utter leap of faith, these significant decisions and commitments have the potential to change the course of our entire lives.