Pulp Fiction

David Skreiner
david@htu.tu-graz.ac.at


Pulp Fiction


To all you people: Film studies isn't yet a widely accepted field at my University yet (Karl-Franzens-University in Graz, Austria, Europe). This paper was written for a seminar (something like a third-year course or so) and you might want to rewrite it to fit your own school's idea of what a film analysis should look like. Also, watch out for unusual sentences; I'm not a native speaker so some minor errors or weird expressions may have found their way into this paper. I think it got an "A", or a "B" grade (don't remember exactly). Dave



Term Paper:
Seminar "Violence in American Literature and Film"
Prof. Dr. Arno Heller
Winter Semester 1995/96
1
Table of Contents
1 TABLE OF CONTENTS
2 PLOT, STORY AND STYLE
2.1 DEFINITION
2.2 CHRONOLOGY
2.3 CIRCULARITY
2.4 VIOLENCE IN PULP FICTION: PLOT STRUCTURE AND NARRATIVE STYLE
2.5 CINEMATIC STYLE
2.6 CONSIDERATIONS OF GENRE
2.7 MISE-EN-SCENE
3 TARANTINO'S WORLD
3.1 TARANTINO'S CINEMA
3.2 INTERTEXTUAL ASPECTS OF PULP FICTION
3.3 TARANTINO'S AESTHETICS
3.4 TARANTINO CHARACTERS
3.5 VIOLENCE
3.6 POPULAR CULTURE
3.7 REDEMPTION
4 BIBLIOGRAPHY

2
Plot, Story and Style
2.1 Definition
When considering plot and story, I will stick to the convention of using plot for the film's contents - what we are presented on the screen - and story for the whole of the events we are presented and the events or facts that are relevant to them. This distinction is important because, as will be shown later, Pulp Fiction's plot leaves out some aspects of the story, and leaves us to imply or simply guess at several loose ends in the story as a whole1.
2.2 Chronology
The plot of Pulp Fiction is not linear; it does not follow the chronological order of events. Rather, the story presented to the audience consists of three distinct - and very much interwoven - plot lines. The three plot lines are presented to us in 'acts' or 'chapters' mixed together, complete with chapter titles: "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife", "The Gold Watch" and "The Bonnie Situation". Several elements are consistent in all of the sub-plots; for instance, Vincent Vega and the figure of gangster boss Marsellus Wallace (or at least his influence) are present throughout the film.
Overall, the effect of the unusual structuring seems similar to browsing a pulp novel one already knows, reading the 'good bits' for amusement and skipping the rest - which might be the very intention of the film maker. Not only are there numerous references to pulp films and books, but we also see Vincent Vega reading a pulp novel in the film. Certainly, the film has been designed to be a success, and its title may be seen as a referral to the genre of "pulp novels" as well as a self-description.
2.3 Circularity
Like many classical films, Pulp Fiction has a noticeable circularity to it. Todorov's explanation of the typical linear plot2 (plenitude, where everything is satisfactory, peaceful, calm, or at least recognizably normal - plenitude disturbed by some threatening power or force - action of a force directed against disturbing force - restoration of plenitude) is not really circular, for although the final point resembles the beginning in its stability, they are not really the same. The circularity found in Pulp Fiction - the film ends with a continuation of its very first scene - is purely structural, while the story itself has hardly any noticeably circular elements: Most of the strands of the story end with the main characters getting killed or leaving town. The film keeps referring back to itself, presenting chains of causes-and-effects in a jumbled, non-temporal and seemingly illogical order. With the exception of very few continuity mistakes, though, the plot is based on a logically consistent story. Tarantino's possible reasons for having changed the order of events will have to be discussed later.
2.4 Violence in Pulp Fiction: Plot Structure and Narrative Style
Pulp Fiction's plot deliberately leaves out certain aspects of the story (as a whole), so that we are left guessing at parts of it. The plot's nonchronological construction also disrupts many of the story's otherwise plausible cause-and-effect chains, and places the film's closing scene somewhere in the middle of the narrative. It is, however, not the action or the plot which creates the suspense and weird appeal that this film has, but the characters in the film - in other words, it is not what situations the characters get into