Pulp Fiction is one of the most famous works by Quentin Tarantino that was released in 1994 in order to introduce the audience the peculiarities of American life from various perspectives. This movie is a unique combination of such issues like humor, violence, love, devotion, fear, desire, respect, style, fashion, etc.
In fact, it is difficult to evaluate Pulp Fiction from the one perspective only because its richness and power lie deep in the perfect combination of the properly chosen genre, auteur, ideologies, and numerous cinematic elements. One of the most noticeable and amazing features of Pulp Fiction is Tarantino’s decision to present a kind of collection of stories that represent different people’s lives which are connected by the issues like money, power, sex, and family.
On the one hand, it is not always easy to comprehend director’s intentions: why it is important for so many people with different problems to make decisions and improve or at least save their lives. On the other hand, this movie is centered on the lives of two gangsters who have common affairs and duties, and their lives are hard to forecast but still easy to understand.
Quentin Tarantino introduces his Pulp Fiction by means of several scenes which have a certain sequence: proper enlightenment, strong and certain camera movements and shots, focus on some details and complete ignorance of the others, and careful attention to monologues and dialogues provide the audience with a good chance to grasp the main idea offered by Tarantino and accept it the same way the director does it.
Almost each American movie has its own message or a couple of messages, its audience, functions, and power. In case with Tarantino’s works, it is useless to admit that his movies may be interesting to one group of people and unclear to the others. Quentin Tarantino is one of those directors and screenwriters who cannot focus on one issue and devote the whole movie to it. He tries to add as many captivating details and lessons to his works in order to underline that it is wrong to accept this life as one-sided state of affairs.
This life is a combination of mistakes, lessons, desires, and dreams which fulfill each day and each night of an ordinary American citizen. Such attitude to screenwriting and directing makes many critics pay much attention to Pulp Fiction and evaluate the movie’s main aspects and approaches. First, according to genre, Pulp Fiction is characterized as a neo-noir that displays ironic and reflexive sensibility that is challenging to comprehend at first.
The movie under consideration has also numerous features to be recognized as a neo-realistic movie as it depicts social context with all its outcomes and challenges, authentic shooting that helps to underline some important moments, and numerous violent progressive changes which attract people’s attention due to their suddenness or long-term expectation.
One of the possible examples may be observed in the scene when Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) come to Brett’s in order to punish the character who tries to transgress their boss. More than 5 minute, Jules communicates with the characters in order to clear up what happens and provide them with some time to live.
It is clear that Jules and Vincent come here to kill but still it is not clear when they should kill these men. In my opinion, with the help of this scene, Tarantino wants to represent a kind of spiritual message, where Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) performs the role of the devil whose soldiers come and takes someone’s lives because of numerous sins and disobedience.
Talking about this movie and its strong and weak sides, it is necessary to remember the article written after the movie was released. “You don’t merely enter a theater to “Pulp Fiction”: you go down a rabbit hole” (Maslin para. 3). Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction has numerous hidden and evident messages in order to learn people, explain the challenges of this life, and evaluate the outcomes which may influence many lives at once.
And the point is that he shares his ideas and messages in absolutely different ways playing with light, camera movement, and even words. For example, Tarantino explains that danger may expect you anywhere and anytime. This message is depicted in the scene when Butch (Bruce Willis) comes to his home and discovers Vincent in his bathroom. Vincent cannot even guess that when he leaves the bathroom, someone may shot him.
Probably this Tarantino’s message is ironic and cruel but still it is always important to be careful when you are alone and defenseless. In fact, this scene has many captivating points to concentrate on. When Butch notices the gun on the table, he comprehends that there is another person who meddles in his life and his affairs. When he takes the gun, the camera movements play an important role at this moment.
The camera moves slowly away from Butch and represents a long corridor that leads to the door. Now, the camera directs and slowly approaches to the door that is open by Vincent. Short shots, two men (one of them is armed with the gun and another with the book), a working toaster, and quick gunshots. The life is over; death comes suddenly without any warning.
There are no sudden moves; the auteur does not hurry up to change the scene. There is no other way out, and people have to accept this reality though cruel and violent but still realistic and integral. The use of camera turns out to be a significant point in the movie, and Tarantino tries to make use of its movements, angles, and distances as professional as possible.
Such writers and directors like Tarantino get used to rely on numerous cinematic tools in order to advance their worlds. They try to use everything from sight and light to camera angles and sounds. Though there are a number of dialogues and monologues in the movie, much attention is paid to different tools in order to tell the audience about the plot and allow them participating in the story.
Though it is impossible to observe a specific camera position and numerous angels while watching the movie, Tarantino admits that he implied more than 10 camera angels to create this movie. He slows down the reality to provide people with a chance to comprehend the moment and enjoy it; he makes use of editing and achieves the best results.
The scene when Wallace says or even orders Butch to lose the fifth round in the fight may be taken as an example. During the talk, camera movements alternate to demonstrate that several people are involved into conversation. However, when the suggestion is announced, Tarantino does not move the camera but leaves it on Butch in order to allow the audience concentrating on his face and thinking about the thoughts and ideas in his head.
It is very important to comprehend what runs Butch at this moment, and camera pause, as nothing else, helps to represent this task. Another powerful example of camera movements and editing may be observed on the scene at Brett’s. Camera shots seem to be a bit uncertain but still quick and logical. Tarantino knows what he wants to tell and what characters have to be observed.
In this scene, the main role is performed by Jackson who not only discusses about the sins, mistakes, and possible redemption but also provide the audience with a chance to comprehend the true nature of their business, their boss, and actions which may lead to different outcomes.
Even the positions of the actors (Jackson and Travolta) may be interpreted in many ways. One of them is that they encircle Brett as predators encircle the prey. Camera movements help to see that Brett is at the worst position even: he cannot observe these two people together at once; this is why he has to move and open himself to the stroke.
In this scene, as well as in many other scenes of the movie, certain attention is also paid to the light. To realize the whole essence of this episode, it is necessary to combine camera effect and movement with the light chosen. Poor lighting of certain parts of the room and clear lighting of Jules’ face make the reader focus on certain details and emotions.
When Jules is talking, the light allows to observe how emotionally tensed this character is. Though he does not like Brett’s attitude to the situation and cannot forgive his mistakes, Jules does everything possible to remain polite and confident in his ideas and words.
It is also possible to notice that the room where the characters communicate is bright, and people in it are deprived of a chance to be lightened completely. They are bad; they sin often; and they have to be punished one day. Another powerful example of how Tarantino uses light in the movie is the scene when Vincent opens the briefcase taken from Brett. This plot device cannot be even properly interpreted by the director. This briefcase contains the light.
This light is brighter in comparison to everything else that may be found in the room. The point is that the viewer cannot even get a chance to discover what may be here. Numerous theories and suggestions were offered: from Wallace’s soul to Oscar’s Statue. The chosen color certain tapers off the possible guesses, but still it is impossible to give a clear answer that is so perfectly hidden by Tarantino.
To underline the significance of the sin and wrong actions which are conducted by people to get more money, power, or recognition, Tarantino also focuses on words and thoughts that may bother the characters. In the scene under discussion, one of the most excellent and educative speeches was introduced by Jules. The final words before he kills Brett are taken from Ezekiel 25:17:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the LORD when I lay my vengeance upon thee.” (Pulp Fiction)
This religious side of the movie has to be appreciated because not each director will be able to unite such themes like murders, drugs, sex, and violence with the Bible and its rules. Though this movie is full of “F” words, it does not mean that it lacks of serious lessons and educative and spiritual stories. People are free to choose their style of life, their interests, and their duties. However, if the decision/choice is made, there is no other way out.
People have to be responsible for their actions, and if they prefer to use rude language and slang to be more comprehensible to people, they are welcome to talk this way. Tarantino does not want to look too religious, too right, or too wrong. Monologues and dialogues help the audience to comprehend the plot and those aspects which cannot be evaluated by means of camera movements or light preferences. Manner of conversation proves that this movie is a neo-noir that may be wrongly interpreted at first but appreciated with time.
Frequent use of rude and vulgar words, much attention to sex and sexual abuse, use of drugs, everyday violence, cheating, and nudity lead to the idea rate this movie as “R” so that only people at a certain age are able to watch it. However, one day or another each person would like to watch this movie, enjoy the chosen style, be amazed of the used techniques, and get one of the most significant lessons in this life.
It is just necessary to keep in mind that all phrases and ideas have to be listened till the end and evaluated together with settings, camera movements, and lighting because only the proper combination of details promotes the desirable effect and influence of the audience.
Quentin Tarantino introduces one of the most powerful and captivating movies about this life and its rules, people and their dreams, events and their outcomes. This professional director and writer makes a magnificent attempt to create a captivating story and to strengthen it by means of numerous cinematic tools and approaches. His Pulp Fiction contains many interesting scenes and episodes where the main role is performed not only by actors but also by cameras.
Without such a correct use of camera movements, this movie and its message will be hard to interpret and evaluate. This is why, to provide the audience with the necessary hint, Tarantino relies on light and shadow as well as one the play of Travolta, Willis, and Jackson.
The episode when two gangsters come to Brett’s in order to take a revenge, teach, and explain the mistakes made may be used as one of the possible examples of how perfectly and clearly each cinematic issue is chosen. Movements of cameras demonstrate how anxious and scared some characters are; certain lighting of the room demonstrates that not everything as clear as it should be, and there are still many aspects that have to be highlighted.
The peculiar feature of the chosen episode is not accidental because it can prove that only a well-coordinated work of each aspect, concrete phrases, and even mimics are able to reproduce the main idea of the story and show how the movie may influence people’s perception of the reality, this cruel but still integral reality.
Maslin, Janet. “Film Festival Review: Pulp Fiction; Quentin Tarantino’s Wild Ride on Life’s Dangerous Road.” The New York Times. Sept. 1994. 8 Apr. 2010.
Pulp Fiction. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Perfs. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman. Miramax Films, 1994.