By Afra Nariman
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Directed by: Quinten Tarantino
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Ving Rhames
An interwoven story about the exploits of two hitmen, their boss and his wife, a boxer and a couple planning on robbing a diner, who all have their lives intersect through violence, atonement and exhilarating moments.
There really isn’t anything not to love about Quinten Tarantino’s masterpiece, Pulp Fiction. A semi-anthology film, it’s possible to judge each story separately, but when you look at the film as a whole, the mastery in the way each story is interwoven, the long, dragged out dialogue and the unbelievably exhilarating and cool scenes all throughout; there really isn’t anything you can do other than sit there and reflect on the 3 hour experience of watching Tarantino’s mind unfold on screen, right in front of you; and be glad you watched it. It’s truly a wild ride of originality, insanity and awe-inspiring creativity.
Tarantino’s ability to create such complex and unique characters out of criminals and drug users is astonishing. We find ourselves rooting for the characters who in most films would be who we root against. By deescalating the gravity of our reactions to scenes of brutal murder, violent language and outlandish comedy; Tarantino is able to distract us from the moral void of his film. Without dealing with the moral dilemmas that may pop up in our heads as we watch such an excruciating and violent film, we are left to enjoy the best things about Pulp Fiction. The film never has a dull moment. There is always action, anxiety, comedy, or long, dragged out and interesting dialogue happening on screen.
Tarantino is known for his brilliance in being able to write extended and drawn out dialogue that completely sucks you into the discussion on screen. In Pulp Fiction, some are deep, spiritual and philosophical, some are outrageous and comedic, and others are just simple and fun; but Tarantino stretches out those simple conversations and makes those scenes just as interesting to watch. A perfect example of a simple conversation, dragged out and rung for every ounce of interest, is the early conversation between Jules and Vincent about what it means to give someone a foot rub. An example of an outrageous and comedic scene, on the other hand, is Christopher Walken’s scene playing Butch’s (played by Brice Willis) father’s war friend, in a flashback scene to Butch’s childhood, where Walken’s character goes on a long monologue explaining how he was able to smuggle Butch’s father’s watch for years in the war. Lastly, an example of a deep, spiritual and philosophical conversation comes towards the end of the film, right after Jules believes he has escaped the wrath of God and is seeking redemption by quitting his criminal life. The issues of faith and morality are brought into question in Jules and Vincent’s back and forth dialogue at the diner. All three types of conversations (deep, comedic, simple) keep your eyes and ears glued to the television, as you enjoy every ounce of action, dialogue, sound and visual of Pulp Fiction.
What makes Pulp Fiction such an impressive feat, is the fact that every story in the film is intertwined and connected through character relationships. Jules and Vincent work for Marsellus Wallace, the gangster who’s married to Mia. Vincent has been asked by Marsellus to take Mia out to dinner while he’s out of town. The story of Vincent and Mia’s night out is perhaps the best part of the entire film. Highlighted by their profoundly captivating discussions as they get to know each other with captivating music playing in the background, their masterful dancing scene and the anxiety surrounding Mia’s overdose; their night-out is full of excitement, interesting dialogue and insanity.
The other main story of the film is the story of Butch, a boxer who failed to throw a fight and is now on the run from Marsellus. Vincent was sent to “take care” of Butch, but Butch caught him off guard and “took care” of him instead. Butch and Marsellus later find themselves on the same side of an outlandish situation, trying to escape a couple of unbelievably crazy people. Lastly, there is the story of the couple robbing the diner. Unluckily for the couple, Jules and Vincent are there when they try to do so. Their robbery doesn’t go exactly as planned, but as it unfolds, we see Jules’ change in demeanor following his vow of redemption, which brings everything full circle.
Pulp Fiction is arguably the coolest film ever made. It is a masterpiece of originality and in it, there is an element of filmmaking for everyone to enjoy. The film transcends any genre or style. It is Tarantino at his very best, full of stretched out dialogue, excruciating violence, outrageous comedy, brilliant story telling and so much more to love. Additionally, it has an A-list soundtrack and perfect cinematography to accompany the vibe of the entire film. If you’re watching a movie for its entertainment value alone, it doesn’t get much better than Pulp Fiction, truly one of the most fun and entertaining films there is. Each rewatch breeds a new experience and is just as enjoyable as the first time you watched. Tarantino’s tour de force.