Unique Narrative Style in Pulp Fiction
Quentin Tarantino is one of the best directors in American film. Tarantino is well known for showing intense graphic violence and also for constructing very good dialogue for his characters. His unique use of using the non-linear narrative structure is another way that he is able to make his films more interesting. In one of his most popular movies, Pulp Fiction, he shows the events of the movie in an order that isn’t shown chronologically in order to convey more meaning in the scenes.
One scene in which he does this best is the scene in which Jules and Vincent are sent to retrieve the briefcase in the apartment. Although this scene is truly the beginning of the movie chronologically, the viewer cannot understand it very well without the context of the rest of the film. This is done to present the scene in a different way. Tarantino deliberately keeps the viewer in the dark as to the full context of the scene. We have just seen Vincent and Jules having a casual conversation in the car about Vincent’s time spent in Europe. As they go into the building, they continue to talk very casually. They don’t come across as concerned or uncomfortable with with what they are about to do. They don’t really even discuss what their job is. As they enter the room and begin talking with the boys, they maintain this casual attitude. The boys evidently come across as nervous and a little bit scared, but Vincent and Jules remain very calm and composed. It is incredibly shocking and abrupt when the two gangsters commence killing people with no warning. This scene is given more value because of how little we know about the characters at this point in the movie. By showing this scene towards the beginning, Tarantino is able to adequately surprise viewers in introducing them to the genre of the movie.
While watching the film, we later learn that this scene only shows one half of the story. When we return to this event we are able to experience it again from a perspective that we did not know about before. We learn that while Vincent and Jules were in the apartment, there was a fourth man waiting in the bathroom with a gun the whole time. We are able to hear everything transpiring in the apartment, but we can only see in the bathroom. Tarantino does this to put us in the shoes of this newly introduced character. We can better understand what is going through his head because we can only see what he can see. This new character is the only focus of the scene. There aren’t any distractions in the bathroom and the camera focuses just on this man and his expressions as he hears Jules give his speech to Brett. By splitting this scene into two distinct parts, Tarantino enables the viewer to see this event taking place through the perspectives of the characters involved rather than as an outside observer.
Another scene in which Tarantino shows the events happening twice is the scene in the restaurant. Like the scene in the apartment, the first time we see it, it is to shock the viewer and grab his or her attention. We first see Pumpkin and Honey Bunny hold up the restaurant and threaten and intimidate the people in the restaurant. It is a good way to abruptly push the viewer into the violent world that the film focuses on. Like the other scene, we first are able to hear a very calm conversation going on that has the effect of humanizing the criminals and showing them in a light that is often not shown in other movies. We, as the viewers, do not know that Jules and Vincent are in the diner. Tarantino denies this knowledge to us to get us to better focus on these two new characters. If this scene were only shown chronologically, the viewer probably wouldn’t care much about these new characters. They are fairly interesting characters, but if they were introduced after we have already witnessed the crazy storylines involving the main characters of the film, they would not seem as important.
When we see this scene again at the end of the movie, we are able to watch it with a completely different context. From the perspective of Jules, the scene has a completely different meaning that has nothing to do with what it was originally. Jules’s transformation after witnessing the miracle in the apartment is what this scene focuses on. The purpose of the scene is now to show us how Jules has re-thought his way of life and now believes that he ought to show mercy to people like Pumpkin. Because this scene is placed at the end of the movie we are better able to understand the significance of his transformation. We know Jules’s brutality and inclination towards violence and are very surprised to see how much he has changed.
In Pulp Fiction, the order of the scenes is arranged to give the audience a more real viewing experience. Because the structure of the narrative is not known until the end, each individual scene has to be watched and interpreted on its own. In this way, Tarantino makes the audience think more while watching the movie. The viewer must re-examine all the scenes in the movie as more information is added. This gives Pulp Fiction a very unique quality that is part of the reason is such a popular film.
Tarantino is incredibly effective at controlling the way that the viewer experiences each scene in his movies. In Pulp Fiction he does this most effectively. Usually, movies present the events in their stories chronologically. They sometimes have flash-backs or flash-forwards, but this is usually done with the purpose of giving the audience extra context so they can better understand what is going on in the present. In contrast, in Tarantino’s films, scenes are shown in an order so as to limit the context that is available to the audience. By ignoring the conventional methods of narration in a story, Tarantino is able to present much more interesting scenes. Because the viewer is kept in the dark, he or she is able to better see the events of the story only through the individual perspectives of the characters, making Tarantino’s movies much more interesting to watch.