My Film Group viewed Pulp Fiction
(1994) this Monday. It was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (54). The name refers to the pulp magazines and crime fiction that was popular during the 1960-1980s, as he was growing up. These were known for their graphic violence. From his early childhood, he knew he wanted to make films, and studied the lives and work of other directors in the genre of gangster and crime films. He then went on to develop his own style, as do all great artists. He is considered one of the greatest film makers of his generation. Pulp Fiction was given seven nominations in the Oscars, including for Best Picture. In 2013, it was preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Pulp Fiction is certainly violent, with John Travolta as Vinvent Vega and Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield, two of the most objective hit men you wouldn’t ever want to meet. They are magnificient as two men with a job to do, which doesn’t interupt their very serious conversation about a foot massage given to Uma Thurman as Mia, the wife of the crime boss Marcellus Wallace. Jules is fearsome as he recites Ezekiel 25:17 incorrectly before he puts a bullet in his target. But what he adds does sound biblical, and the sentiments can be found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. The correct quotation, in case you are interested, is, as follows:
Ezekiel 25:17 And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.
As Jules lays the vengence of Marcellus on Brett, he certainly epitomises the most fearful image anyone could have conjured up in their worst nightmare. Then he goes outside and continues his conversation with Vincent as if nothing has happened. It is so funny, but also so horrific, and the audience are left wondering at its own mixed reaction to it. Absolutely brilliant! This continues throughout the film, and we are left a little shaken that we have laughed our way through a film full of violence, with totally amoral characters, who have so heartily entertained us. Bruce Willis as Butch Coolidge, Ving Rhames as Marcellus Wallace, Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace, and Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolfe, were all perfect for their parts, as was everyone else in this film. I loved each one of them.
Pulp Fiction inspired a wide discussion on its meaning. It appears to deal with American nihilism, which describes the loss of value and meaning in people’s lives, with the loss of religious belief systems. The words of Nietzsche, “God is Dead”, infer that there is no inherent moral code. This film does seem to illustrate all these ideas, and show what life without meaning can look like.
Quentin Tarantino created a masterpiece with Pulp Fiction. It is brilliantly directed, and apparently the actors loved working with him. It reactivated many careers, and furthered others. When it first was screened, I avoided seeing it because of its well-advertised violence, and all the criticism it aroused. I’m very glad I’ve seen it now, and have developed my own opinion of it. I ought not to have listened to the critics. It is a multi-layered film, with lots of food for thought. The characters were so strongly drawn, they remain in my memory, and I even feel fond of them, in spite of their violent jobs.
There is so much more one could say, but primarily I am left with the feeling that Quentin Taratino is saying it with his tongue in his cheek.