"I love my unofficial title, precisely because I have earned it." ― Hans Landa speaking about his nickname "The Jew Hunter".[source]

Standartenführer Hans Landa is the main antagonist in the 2009 Quentin Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds. He is an Austrian SS officer stationed in occupied France, nicknamed The Jew Hunter because of his ruthlessly uncanny ability to find fugitives hiding in the most unlikely of places. Ambitious and opportunistic, he does not share the Nazi ideologies of the Aryan race, and only performs his duties because it is what he is ordered to do. Nonetheless, his executions are performed with terrifying efficiency, and he is one of the most favored officers in the area.

He was portrayed by German-Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who also played Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained.

Biography

Early life

Hans Landa was born in Austria. After joining the military, and the annexation of Austria into the German Third Reich, he was recruited into the SS. Because of his intelligence and skills, he quickly rose to the rank of Standartenführer (Colonel).

Story

Chapter One - Once upon a time... in Nazi-occupied France

Col. Hans Landa is first introduced when arriving at Perrier LaPadite's farm, to search the residence for any hiding Jews. After he asks permission, he enters LaPadite's house, where he meets the former's daughters. He sits at the kitchen table and asks for a glass of milk, as LaPadite operates a dairy farm. Landa then politely asks LaPadite to send the girls outside, so that they could have a talk. He then asks to switch to English (so that any hiding Jews in the house would not know what they're saying). LaPadite, obviously nervous, asks for permission to light his pipe and Landa agrees, as it's the Frenchman's house.

Landa begins to ask LaPadite if he knows anything about the Dreyfus family, as well as their names and ages, which LaPadite gives him. Landa asks for another glass of milk before he leaves, and then begins to talk about how he loves his nickname, "The Jew Hunter". He explains to LaPadite that the Jews are similar to rats, saying that he doesn't consider it an insult. He goes on to elaborate his statement before coming to the conclusion that his ability to find Jews is far more advanced than that of regular German soldiers', and that he is aware of "humans being are capable of once they've abandoned dignity".

At this point, Landa suddenly asked Perrier for permission to smoke his pipe. He pulls out a huge Sherlock Holmes-like pipe, then starts to tell the French farmer that in order to cross his family's name off the list, he would have to have his men search his house. However, he tells LaPadite, any information that will make his job a lot easier would not be met with punishment, quite the contrary, it would be met with reward, that his family will no longer be harassed in any way by the Germans during the Occupation. Resigned, a tearful LaPadite reluctantly confirms to Landa that the Dreyfuses are under the floor of his house. Landa asks him if they don't speak English, since he hasn't heard any noises during the conversation.

After LaPadite has confirmed his suspicions, Landa asks him to return to French and continue the masquerade. He thanks him in French for the hospitality and for the milk and says that they're now finished. Landa exits the door, seemingly to call the girls, but he actually calls his men, and points them out the place where they need to shoot. As he wishes to everybody "Adieu", his men shoot through the floor, killing the Jews. However, one girl, Shosanna, somehow survives and crawls through the basement vent and flees in horror, crying. Landa goes to the front door, puts his suitcase on the doorsteps and aims his Walther P38 at her, soon realizing that she's run too far for him to shoot. Instead he smiles and says to himself, sarcastically, "bupsti" (the German equivalent of "oopsie"). Landa then shouts, "Au revoir, Shosanna!", as Shoshanna flees further into the distance.

Chapter Three - GERMAN NIGHT IN PARIS

Hans Landa arrives at the restaurant where Joseph Goebbels, Francesca Mondino, and Fredrick Zoller are talking to Shosanna Dreyfus, now known as Emanuelle Mimieux, about her cinema. Zoller introduces Landa to Mimieux, telling her he is running the security for the film premiere. He kisses her hand, while Shosanna tries to remain calm. As the Germans leave, Landa explains that he would like to have a conversation with Mimieux. Zoller rudely asks why, and Landa (both offscreen) is surprised by the private's attitude. Landa then sits at the table with Mimieux. He then orders two strudels and a glass of milk for her. He asks Mimieux about her cinema and if it's true that a black man operates the projectors. When Mimieux confirms that it is, Landa tells her that she will be the one to operate the projectors on the day of the premiere. He then says he had another question for Mimieux and briefly stares at her. After saying he cannot remember what the question was, he leaves. Landa attends a film screening in Shosanna's cinema, as requested by Goebbels, along with Hellstrom, Zoller, Francesca and her pudel. He leaves the cinema with the group to prepare the film premiere.

Chapter Four - OPERATION KINO

Hans Landa is called into the village of Nadine, to investigate a shootout between several German soldiers and the Basterds. He identifies Hugo Stiglitz and Wilhelm Wicki. He tells the soldier that accompanies him that they were part of the Basterds, responsible for killing German soldiers. But he notices that there's something odd about the incident. He then sees a woman's shoe, and deduces that someone is missing. After signalling everyone to leave, he finds a handkerchief with an autograph from Bridget von Hammersmark.

Chapter Five - REVENGE OF THE GIANT FACE

On the day of the premiere, Landa drinking some champagne and sees Bridget von Hammersmark with 3 of the Basterds, Donny Donowitz, Omar Ulmer and Aldo Raine, who are masquerading as Italian escorts. He speaks with von Hammersmark and her escorts, and sees through their disguises because he speaks Italian fluently and the Basterds do not. Landa also alludes to Bridget's unconvincing lie that she had to wear the plaster because of an accident while mountaineering. Surprisingly, however, Landa acts as if he has not noticed anything and the Basterds who carry bombs are even allowed to take their places in the cinema. Aldo Raine remains briefly in the anteroom with Bridget and Landa asks her to come to his office for a conversation. In the office, Landa reveals that he found Bridget's shoe in the ruins of the restaurant where the Basterds fought the Germans and thus knows that she is a traitor. After he puts on the shoe that fits her, he jumps over to Bridget and strangles her to her death. He then picks up a handset, calls his men and orders Aldo Raine to be captured along with another Basterd named Smithson Utivich.

Aldo and Utivich are caught in a truck and transported away from the cinema. The two Basterds are brought to a nearby bar, where Landa is waiting for them. Aldo asks where Donny, Omar, and von Hammersmark are. Landa tells him that von Hammersmark got what she deserved, and that Donny and Omar are still at the theatre with bombs strapped to their legs. He then reveals to them that they are not dead yet because Landa believes the Germans will lose the war. Landa also explains that he only has to call the cinema, whereupon the two Basterds are brought out of the cinema with the bombs and their plan is thereby frustrated. However, Landa reveals that he is ready to allow the Basterds to carry out the attack on Hitler if the Americans then grant him for immunity, Medal of Honor, American citizenship, and a house on Nantucket Island. Aldo contacts his superiors, who then agree to the deal. Landa lets the attack happen and all members of the Nazi High Command, including Hitler, Göbbels and Bormann, are murdered in the cinema, most likely ending the war.

According to the plan, Landa and his radio operator drive Aldo and Utivich into Allied territory, and then surrender to them. Aldo tells Utivich to cuff Landa. Landa asks if that's really necessary, and Aldo replies that he's a slave to appearances before shooting the radio operator and having Utivich scalp him, to Landa's shock. Landa finally loses his composure and tells Aldo that he will be shot for this. Aldo says that he will most likely be "chewed out" and that he's been chewed out before. Aldo, knowing that Landa plans to take off his Nazi uniform someday, tells the frightened Landa that he will give him something he can't take off. He then carves a swastika into Landa's forehead as he screams in agony. After finishing, he tells Utivich that "this just might be my masterpiece."

It's unknown as to whether or not Landa was killed by the Basterds, by other Nazis for his betrayal, or if the deal was actually honored and is destined to spend the rest of his life with the swastika on his head. Had he survived World War II, it is possible for him to remove the swastika-shaped scar, seeing the drastic improvements of plastic surgery technology after WW1 which left many combatants suffered from disfiguring facial injury.

Awards and decorations

Hans Landa appears to be the recipient of several high awards and decorations of Nazi Germany. He is seen wearing the Blood Order, indicating that he either participated in Hitler's 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, or that he had been a Nazi Party member since no later than 1932; his status as a veteran Nazi is reinforced by the Golden Party Badge, only worn by the first 100,000 NSDAP members, and the Honour of Chevron, indicating Party membership before 1933. On his dinner dress uniform, he is seen wearing the Golden knights cross of the War merit cross with sword, the highest possible grade of this order.It should also be noted that several of his medals are out of place. His Iron Cross First Class is worn below the War Merit Cross and the ribbon of the War Merit Cross Second Class is in worn in lieu of that of the Iron Cross, when, actually, the Iron Cross came before the War Merit Cross in precedence.

  • Blood Order
  • Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross (in Gold with Swords)
  • War Merit Cross (First and Second Class with Swords)
  • Golden Party Badge
  • Iron Cross (First and Second Class)
  • SS Long Service Award
  • Studentenland Medal (with Prague Castle Bar)
  • Germanic Profieciency Runes
  • Anti-Partisan Guerilla Warfare Badge
  • Honour Chevron of the old Guard
  • Sicherheitsdienst Sleeve Diamond
  • Reichssicherheitshauptman Cuffband

Personality

"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... more precisely, German soldier. Now, if one were to determine what attribute the German people share with a beast, it would be the cunning and the predatory instinct of a hawk. But if one were to determine what attributes the Jews share with a beast, it would be that of the rat." ― Hans Landa[source]

Hans Landa is portrayed as a highly intelligent and cold-blooded SS officer ordered to hunt down any European Jew hiding out in France. He has a sarcastic, sharp sense of humor and is often shown to distract his preys by luring them into long talks to lower their guard, and asking them trap questions. In all of his conversations with other characters, Landa proved that he could be extremely persuasive, charismatic and courteous, until the table is turned. He laughed hysterically on Bridget von Hammersmark's made-up story about her injured leg, having peeled off every aspects of it as hastily prepared lies but letting her panic slightly for his own amusement - before suddenly shifting in character and murdering her by strangulation.

Landa takes a great deal of pride in this reputation as the Jew Hunter, as shown during the farm house scene in 1941. 3 years later, however, he scoffs at his nickname during his conversation with Aldo, alluding that he does not share in prejudice against Jews, and only hunts them because that is what he is ordered to do. He uses a very methodical and Holmesian approach in his search for hidden Jews, suggesting that either something had changed his perspective during the time gap, or he simply stated so to win Aldo's trust. He also wisely switched sides, deliberately capturing Aldo and Utivich instead of executing them, as he was aware that the tide of the war was against the Germans and knowing that he would be trialed and executed for his crimes, should he be caught.

Despite several loyalty awards within the SS, and his long career with them (his badges show that he joined the NSDAP in 1934), Landa is not a true believer in Nazi ideology; he admits he has no personal animus toward Jews, and that he is simply very accomplished at hunting them and therefore does what is asked of him. He also shows himself to be quite ambitious, as when negotiating with the General of the OSS for his "conditional surrender", he wanted history to write down his "contribution" to Operation Kino as a double-agent and demanded rewards for his service: citizenship in the US, medal and property on Nantucket Island, showing that he is willing to help people if he gets his own way.

Besides speaking German, he is also fluent in at least English, French and Italian. Although he said to Mr. LaPadite that his knowledge of French was not excellent, he may have said it in an effort to conceal his suspicions of LaPadite hiding the Dreyfuss family from them if they happened to be within hearing distance, showing his excellent calculations and lateral thinking.

Behind the Scenes

Hans Landa was played by Christoph Waltz. Director and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino has said that Landa might be the greatest character he has ever written. Since Landa was so crucial for the movie and the actor who would play that role had to not only be fluent in French, German, English and Italian but to be able to act in these languages too; and during the casting Tarantino was about to quit the movie (as he said in an interview) and release the script to the web. His crew at the time begged for another 2 weeks of casting. After more than a week Tarantino was again about to give up since he had not been able to find the actor suitable for the role. It was during Christoph Waltz's audition when he whispered into one of his coworker's ear (Bender) "we have our movie". The role ultimately went to the Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who, according to Tarantino, "gave me my movie back", as he felt the movie could not be made without Landa as a character but feared the part was "unplayable."

(Some believe Landa's part was originally created for Leonardo DiCaprio but the role created for this actor was the one of Aldo Raine.)

When Waltz auditioned for the role, he had no prior correspondence with Quentin Tarantino or producer Lawrence Bender, and believed that the character of Hans Landa was being used during the audition process to cast other roles. Waltz stated that he was most impressed with the dialogue and the depth of the character. Waltz describes Landa's character as one who has an understanding of how the world works, stating that the swastika means nothing to him. He adds that he is not driven by ideology, and that if anyone were to call Landa a Nazi, he would clarify that he was not, stating that just because he wears a Nazi uniform does not mean that he believes in the Nazi ideology. In describing the ending between the Basterds and Landa, he describes him as "realistic to the point of being inhuman", adding that he understands that the world is not just one thing at a time, and even though these things may contradict each other, they do not necessarily have to.

The character Col. Hans Landa was named after one of Tarantino's repeat customers when he worked at Video Archive, a now defunct video rental store in Manhattan Beach. The customer, Hans Landa, was an Austrian immigrant. Tarantino bonded with Landa over their mutual love of foreign films. Upon hearing of Landa's death, Tarantino paid his respects to him by naming the character after him.

At his audition in Berlin, Michael Fassbender inquired about playing Colonel Hans Landa. Quentin Tarantino however replied: "Look, man, any guy that gets cast as Heathcliff is not fucking German enough to play my Landa, all right?"

In late 2009, legendary British actor Michael Caine praised Christoph Waltz's performance as Hans Landa, saying it was "the best performance of a villain I've seen in years". Caine even correctly predicted that Waltz would win Best Supporting Actor at the 2010 Academy Awards.

Notable quotes

"I love rumors! Facts can be so misleading, where rumors, true or false, are often revealing." ― Landa to Perrier LaPadite while interrogating him.[source]

"The reason the Führer's brought me off my Alps in Austria and placed me in French cow country today is because it does occur to me [where a Jew would hide]. Because I'm aware what tremendous feats human beings are capable of once they abandon dignity." ― Landa to LaPadite[source]

"You are now in the hands of the SS. My hands to be exact." ― Landa to an incapacitated Lt. Aldo Raine.[source]

Trivia

  • Hans Landa appears in four chapters (One, Three, Four and Five), the most of any character throughout the movie.
  • Landa addresses all Germans of lower rank as "Herman", a colloquialism for "soldier" or "army man" (Heer Mann).
  • He is ranked 10th in Watchmojo's Top 20 Most Evil characters ever.
  • Hans Landa speaks several distinct European languages throughout the movie, including English, French, German, and Italian.
  • In the scene where Landa strangles Bridget von Hammersmark, the hands doing the strangling are those of Quentin Tarantino, who had a very distinct approach on how to strangle her and opted to do it instead of Waltz.
  • The pipe smoked by Landa is the Calabash Meerschaum, famous for being smoked by Sherlock Holmes. This further alludes his similarities to Holmes, although he uses his intelligence in a rather immoral way.
  • Landa is incorrectly addressed as "Oberst" by Bridget von Hammersmark.
  • Christoph Waltz dubbed his own performance in the German and French version.
  • The role of Col. Hans Landa is that of a notorious and merciless "Jew Hunter". In real life, Christoph Waltz has a son who is a rabbi.
  • Ironically, in the next Tarantino movie in which Christoph Waltz starred, Django Unchained, his character is a polar opposite of Landa: a peaceful German dentist with progressive and abolitionist views and after witnessing the horrors of slavery, becomes devout to murdering and destroying slave owners.
  • Landa's speech to LaPadite, which relates Jewish people to rats, is influenced by a real German film, The Eternal Jew (1940), made by the S.S. propaganda team in Poland during World War II. The film was made with the intention of lower the image of Jews throughout Europe, and depicts rats and other animals spreading diseases, that would contaminate the Arian people, if the Jewish Question wouldn't be resolved by their extermination. This horrific concept and aesthetics is a central theme in present days, and was duly criticized by Tarantino in this picture.
  • Landa claims that if they [the Basterds] want to end the war they must kill Hitler, Goebbels, Göring and Bormann, however, he completely forgets about Albert Speer, Heinrich Himmler and Karl Dönitz, who are just as important as the former four. That said, the Nazis were so prone to factionalism, encouraged by Hitler himself so as to not be conspired against, that their respective bodies may not be able to function alongside the others due to their lack of important leaders.
  • Handa also claims the Bubonic Plague was caused by rats. However, the plague was caused by fleas on the rats, not the rats themselves. In the 1940s it was believed that rats were the cause so it is correct for Landa's character to be mistaken.
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