Pulp Fiction Narrative

Pulp Fiction Narrative

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Pulp Fiction is a controversial film, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, in 1994. It has almost everything you could wish for in a movie; drama, hilarity, intensity, action, thrills, fun, intelligence, romance, intimacy, over-the-top bravado, vulgarity, sweetness, humor, and soul-searching. The film is very raw and brutal, but has a unique sense of style that keeps the viewers entertained. It will build its way up gradually to an incredibly intense scene, before dropping down to a relatively calm, only to build back up again a few scenes later. This goes on throughout the entire course of the film, pummeling the viewer from one scenario to another.

In Pulp Fiction we see how Vincent (John Travolta) and the dealer are bringing Mia (Uma Thurman) back to life, after she had an overdose. In a medium shot the dealer explains to Vincent what to do. While the dealer is counting to three, the camera zooms into even tighter close ups of Vincent and Mia's face, the needle where the adrenaline is dribbling off, and the dealer and his pierced girlfriend's face. This effect is used to show how nervous the dealer is, how much his pierced girlfriend enjoys this spectacle, and how afraid Vincent is. The spectator is able to identify with all these emotions.

According to the feminist film theorist, Laura Mulvey, one of the most important pleasures of the classical narrative is identification. This is send to occur when the spectator narcissistically identifies with an idealized figure on screen, typically a male hero whose actions determine the narrative, in a process that recapitulates the discovery of the image of oneself in the mirror phase. For the scene just discussed, the idealized figure is Vincent, whom the spectators personally identifies with.

Then, to even increase the tension of this extraordinary scene, the camera zooms into the place where the needle has to push in, while there is no noise at all. As Vincent pushes the needle down, the camera shows Mia's opening eyes in a close up shot, while the diegetic sound of the needle stabbed in her heart makes us believe that we have seen the crucial moment. The graphic violence of how the needle is pushed into her heart is again elliptical. In a medium shot we then see Mia screaming.

Nevertheless, Quentin Tarantino's films show plenty of violence. In Pulp Fiction there is for example a homosexual rape, the hit-men killing their victims, and a man having his head accidentally shot off in a car.

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For this last scene, Vincent is shown just before the gun accidentally goes off, without actually showing the exploding head. As a result, the two hit-men are covered in blood and parts of the brain.

In addition, Tarantino’s violence confuses the spectators’ emotions, as his representation of violence is comical. Jules (Samuel L Jackson) asks his victim before killing them, what a Big Mac is called in Paris, and why the French do not call a Quarter Pounder a Quarter Pounder. He then tries his victim’s fast-food, because he has never tried that brand before, as he prefers MacDonald’s. Tarantino seems to be fascinated by life’s grotesque haphazardness. In one scene Butch (Bruce Willis) returns to his house, where he finds a machine-gun in his kitchen, whereby the discovery of the gun is being presented as a point-of-view shot, a subjective moment inserted into an overall framework of objectivity, picks it up and shoots the hit-man, after having his last pee. This scene is terrifying, and hilarious at the same time.

Throughout the film there is a mystery of what is actually inside the briefcase. Every time it is opened up, the characters’ faces go pale with either amazement, or shock. A light shines out on their faces, and the audience is never allowed to actually view what is inside the briefcase. Although in the film Butch’s boss, Mr. Wallace, is seen with a huge white bandage on the back of his neck. This bandage is to be covering up a hole in the back of his head, which is to be representing the exit hole of his soul. Gangsters get rid of their soul, as it has no use for them any longer, as it will interfere with their businesses. Mr. Wallace’s soul is what is actually inside that briefcase, which brings the shiny light upon the characters’ faces when opening the briefcase.

Quentin Tarantino often achieves the humor through a well-written, witty dialogue. Another of Tarantino’s personal features throughout his films, such as Pulp Fiction, are that he seems to be fascinated by narrative structure. What was supposed to happen is disclosed via flashbacks and flash forwards. It even includes flashbacks including flashbacks. This fragmentation of the narrative continues in the film. Its four narratives overlap, with the characters wandering between them. This anthropological narrative deliberately confuses the audience. Understanding the plot is often like resolving a puzzle. At one point, towards the end of the film, we see a flashback of Vincent that continues the story of the beginning, after Butch had already shot him. The creating of the story in our minds becomes an intellectual pleasure of bliss. The non-linear narration is Tarantino’s variation from the expectation.

Pulp Fiction uses the classical narrative elements such as parallelism. After boxer Butch wins his fight, and therefore betrays the boss, he flees by taxi, as we see hidden person in the bathroom, while Jules is saying his words from the Old Testament. In addition there is the eye-line shot. The conversation between Mia and Vincent in the restaurant in an eye-line shot. The eye-line shot is a simple idea, but a powerful one, since the directional quality of the eye-line creates strong spatial continuity.

Generalizing Pulp Fiction, it can be seen how Quentin Tarantino is fascinated with narrative structure and that he deliberately confuses the audience with fragmentation of the narrative. Its four narratives overlap, thus the characters wander between them. The creating of the story in our minds gives us a pleasure of delight, where bewilderment is on top, and for certain viewers to actually figure out the film Pulp Fiction, by realizing that the light in the briefcase is the lost soul. However due to Tarantino’s witty technique, there are plenty of viewers who will not come to realize this, in so making Tarantino a master of mystification and puzzlement.
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