Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pulp Fiction Analysis/Review (Spoilers)

The film is a very influential film on many standpoints but I won't really dwell on that and just focus on talking about what meaning I have always gotten out of Pulp Fiction (because honestly this classic has been out for nearly 20 years, do I really need to go to much into how good this film is and such on technical stand points such as acting and such?  If you don't know than just know that the acting is great and the screenplay is genius.), and that is the meaningless in American society.  The mere opening of the film suggests this with Tim Roth's outstanding opening monologue which leads to a random and meaningless act of robbery with no real justification except for that they could get away with it.

Following the act of robbery the film has three different stories that are all self-contained and only linked together by the main character's that share them and the events which happen, however they never tie together into a single narrative but multiples.  Each story has many examples of the needless, and meaningless acts of violence done, and in all the cases you never see a consequence for them being done (although you can see the fear of consequence), and each is done for it's own reason, it is a sense of unrealistic emptiness.  Even the verse from Ezekiel that Samuel L. Jackson quotes turns out to be nothing but something meaningless to say before he kills somebody (that is until he has his revelation).  The major plot-point that could follow this film is Marcellus trying to get his briefcase back, you do not know what is in the case but that is has meaning to Marcellus and that is all that matters (Although I like to think of it symbolically as his soul), it is Marcellus trying to find the meaning that he is missing from his life (the band-aid on his neck I believe represents that he is missing something on a symbolic level).  The suitcase, and obtaining it, is what Marcellus believes will fill his emptiness and he will stop at nothing to try and get it back (even if it means murder, or other various unethical things), the value of something being right and wrong is gone, the consequences are gone, because his meaning is gone.

The next thing Tarentino shows us about the meaningless of pop-American society is through Willis' story.  You start his story with the knowledge that he was supposed to throw a fight (As said by Marcellus) and didn't, which ended up in the death of the man he was fighting.  He shrugs off this death as meaningless, and then you see the story of the gold watch.  The gold watch was what supposedly had meaning in his family, everything else seemed meaningless to him and it was worth risking his life (and even his attitude of how he handled to situation by descending into the same meaningless violence that the gangsters who were after him (Although you could argue the boxing and death by the boxing was also a meaningless act of violence so he was already on their level in the first place)).  There was no guilt in the shooting of Vincent (Jonh Travolta's character) in order to retrieve his watch, and even went into crashing into Marcellus to avoid death.  It was when he went into the shop with Zed and the other pervert that everything changed.  The two character's who originally had the power were then placed in the opposite position, their fate was placed in the hands of two perverts.  It was when Marcellus was being raped and when Butch had the chance to escape that you see a change in his ideals.  Originally Butch was willing to run over Marcellus to obtain a watch from his family tradition (and you could argue what he went through to get a materialistic item back was a way both father, grandfather, and great-grandfather wouldn't agree with or appreciate.  Because the watch in their tradition was meant to represent each of their father's heroism being passed down to each son, and the way Willis re-obtained it and was running showed no heroism the watch was meant to represent) which showed how something which once had meaning had descended into nothing but an item, the meaning it had once bestowed was gone.  It was when Butch turned from leaving the door to go back that his heroism began to restore, by looking through the items you see four, three of which had no meaning and one which when it killed in it's line of history it meant something, he chose the one with meaning, the samurai sword.  By taking this sword and saving his enemy from wrong-doing it was there that Willis' character had the true family tradition of heroism restored into the watch, and by choosing the item with meaning it showed how his actions had meaning, for the first time in the movie you see the violence as an act of heroism, not meaningless slaughter.  And by restoring meaning to the gold watch which had lost it he was able to return back to the town of his great-grandfather, you see meaning and tradition restored.

What further shows Tarentino's point of the current American nihilism is the first act where you see Travolta and Uma Thurman (Marcellus' wife) going out because Marcellus told Travolta to do so.  There is no other reason Travolta does what he does, and when you see Uma Thermon overdose and his reaction, his scared reaction is not because he is scared he'll lose her but because he is scared he will share the fate of Tony (the man Marcellus threw out the window) because of what had happened.  There is no emotional meaning for why he rescues her or why he gets assistance other than that it could upset Marcellus, in other words if Travolta wasn't told to care at that point in time he wouldn't have cared, so her death would mean nothing to him on that level.  You a brief glimpse of a possible turn around after he saves her and he blows her a kiss, the only act of meaning that you see Travolta's character do in the first act, again you see meaning restored to something that was currently meaningless.

The last and most important example of this is seen in Act Three (as well as the intro to this in the very beginning of the first Act), in which you see Samuel L. Jackson's character come to a revelation, it is important to note that he commits no more meaningless acts of violence after the revelation hits him, while Travolta's character does (who did not have the revelation).  You see meaning missing in Samuel L. Jackon and Travolta's life at the beginning in the talk of pop-culture, it is what fills their emptiness (such as with the cafe with more pop culture references such as Sullivan and Monroe), although it's hollow as it only fills the emptiness with more emptiness.  Even the scripture that Jackson quotes has no meaning because he puts no thought into it, it isn't until after his revelation that he believes him still being alive is divine intervention that the scripture finally receives the meaning to him.  In the final and most impacting scene with the confrontation between Jackson and Tim Roth you see it.  Jackson had been following the American standards of pop-culture and violence, and he did so because he was told to do so by the higher authority, he saw no meaning to his actions besides that it got him his pay.  When he comes up with the decision to quit the mob and leave the American standard (of going to work on well-paying job, eat, and prosper) you start to see the meaning come back to him.  Until this point all his actions are meaningless, until he throws away the standard by buying Tim Roth's life and offering his new revelation to the Ezekiel verse.  He comes to the conclusion by following the American standard, life was meaningless and he was nothing but the evil-doer placing tyranny on other's life, making others to feel forced to comply (as did Marcellus) because it was what the American way had descended to, meaningless actions.  It was by leaving the American way (as Willis was going to leave America) that he could search for the true meaning and transform from the evil tyrant into the shepard to guide people to the light.  By leaving the acts of meaningless violence it was a way for Jackson's character to redeem himself and by doing so help to redeem others.

While some would criticize, Pulp Fiction, for being a meaningless film full of senseless violence and pop-culture references, you would see it's these exact things that show the film's meaning and insight on American society.  Pulp Fiction is Tarantino's masterpiece that exaggerates how American society has become and reflects it back to them, showing that American society (and Western society in general) and pop-culture have become nothing but a void to attempt and fill empty lives as true meaning and purpose in the lives of people has been lost to the 'tyrannical' idea of the American way. 

10/10 Sticks of Bamboo

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