Since the early 1940’s, World War II has spawned a massive battery of films, both documentary and narrative-based. This proves, at least in the world of motion pictures, that the historical milestone that is World War II continues to be one of the most entertaining (and profitable) platforms on which to base a film.
The most recent WWII film is perhaps the most original, as it essentially re-writes history. Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (the title is intentionally misspelled) follows a group of ragtag Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds", who spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis in a sort of alternate WWII. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Calm down history buffs and scholars, you can put down those authentically replicated Braveheart swords now. Remember… it’s only a movie.
Thematically, what is so appealing about Inglourious Basterds is the role in which revenge plays. Films like Schindler’s List, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Pianist, and the underwhelming Robin Williams vehicle Jakob the Liar all center around the persecuted Jew. These films are significant fictional testaments to the Jewish experience as victims during the war, but rarely has there been a film that trades the targeted Jew for the heroic, justice-seeking Jew. I don’t know about you, but I receive quite a bit of satisfaction watching Jewish soldiers claim Nazi scalps.
After seeing the film (and The Great Escape not two days earlier) my curiosity led me to The Filson’s special collections: I wanted to know more about WWII. The Filson definitely has an impressive array of materials any WWII enthusiast would be satisfied with. In particular, the Herbert Glenn Clark scrapbook proved to be most stimulating during my newfound quest for knowledge. Clark served in the 3rd Army during WWII and this photo album documents his service, both stateside and overseas (North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany). There are some truly striking images and I highly recommend perusing this piece that provides insight to the dynamic and varied experiences of an American soldier during WWII.