23 October 2011

Pulp Fiction (1994)


Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction is a film that employs the widest arrays of genre. Packed with many famous actors it is quite possible the most interesting movie of its time. What makes Pulp Fiction so interesting is that it is quite violent and deals with some pretty serious stuff, but amid the violence there is quite a bit of humor. Perhaps the most interesting fact about this movie is that it tells three different stories in one movie, and at first glance they all seem completely unrelated because they are not in chronological order. The editing in this movie is quite interesting because it employs many different characteristics of continuity editing but it also includes elements that defy continuity.

One of the main ways Pulp Fiction strays from continuity style, is the fact there are three different stories that don't follow chronological order. One example of this breaking of chronological order is the fact that in the second "chapter" of Pulp Fiction Vincent Vega (John Travolta) is killed by Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis). Despite Vincent being killed, he is seen alive in the next chapter of the movie. Yet another instance of this is at the end of the first chapter there is a sudden dissolve to a flashback of Butch Coolidge when he was a child. The flashback serves as an explanation for what happens next, but it really requires the viewer to think because the character Butch really isn't developed yet, and only appeared for a minute or so in the preceding scenes. In fact, his name up to this point is only mentioned a few times, and it was only mentioned in the beginning of the first chapter.

These chronology breaks are seen in every chapter of Pulp Fiction, and unless you watch the movie multiple times, it is impossible to catch them all. One of the most subtle instances of this best exhibited in the relation between the first chapter and the last chapter of Pulp Fiction. In the last chapter we see Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield dressed in the same t-shirts and shorts that they are dressed in the first chapter, they are carrying the same briefcase too. This huge jumbled mess of time is just one of the many ways Pulp Fiction employs characteristics of disjunctive editing. The time jumps could be described as distantiation, because they ultimately force the movie viewer to think about what they are watching and how everything interrelates, kind of like putting a puzzle together. Editor Sally Menke did not employ distantiaion through the use of jump cuts rather she chose to do it in a way that gave the film a certain flow, but at the same time containing disjunctive elements.

Pulp Fiction is not by any means like what we normally associate disjunctive movies with. It is not a terribly jumpy movie because it employs certain elements of continuity such as the 180-degree rule, reverse shots and eyeline matching in conversations, and invisible editing. At first glance it seems like any other normal Hollywood movie because it is so enjoyable to watch. It isn't until the movie progresses that the viewer starts to notice the lapses in time and the jumping around. In fact even though the viewer doesn't fully understand what the movie was about, because of the content (especially the humor) is is still quite enjoyable to watch.

Overall I would highly recommend this movie, but it is the kind of movie that needs to be watches over and over again to catch all of the relations. I look forward to watching this a few more times to try and see how each story interrelates with each other.

Photo Credit: The Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110912/

The Film Experience: An Introduction, Timothy Corrigan & Patricia White (Definitions for distantiation)

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