Pulp Fiction has to be one of cinemas most iconic films of all time. Due to the uncertainty of the characters and the stylised yet ambiguous nature of the plot, Pulp fiction is not only to be branded intriguing but also a great example of postmodern. Work by theorists such as Fredric Jameson, will be looked at to help with the analysis of the chosen film. By doing so this helps prove that key concepts which are present within the film such as pastiche, irony, fragmentation and parody are perceptions that together make up a postmodern film proving that pulp fiction is a good illustration.
The use of pastiche is present throughout the film. Pastiche allows the emergence of differing techniques to form together in order to create a new structure. Replications of renowned film makers work has been used in order for an updated equally creative film to be produced. Anything from words, phrases, visual, and musical patterns can be used, by doing so it demonstrates that postmodern film is a combination of a variety of texts, styles and skills. Many theorists have spoken openly about their disproval of pastiche. Theorist Fredric Jameson for example even goes as far as to refer to pastiche as a dead language.
In the book Postmodern Culture Fredric Jameson writes about the decline of new art, he writes in a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles (Jameson,1995 ) Even though plagiarism of older plots(Jameson, 1995) occurs in some films it can be argued that by this technique being used it allows an ingenious reinvention of a classic, to be made. One of the first indications of pastiche in Pulp Fiction takes place in the third scene where Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) enter the house.
When Vincent is directed to the place where the brief case is, and opens it he is to be met by a bright glow, the scenes shows similar replication to a 1950s film in the film noir genre; called kiss me deadly. Where in both films the characters gaze adoringly in to the case, in Pulp Fiction the question of what it could possibly be is asked, considering the 666 (the mark of the anti-Christ) had to be entered into the case in order for it to be opened. Referencing to the 1950s is evident in the film, Marcellouss wife Mia is associated with the 1950s quite a lot.
The dialogue between Vincent and Mia is reminiscent to what would be said in a 1950s film. This idea is highlighted again when she chooses to go to a 1950s themed restaurant. The language and the setting breaks away from the usual formatting of the film which up until now consisted of violence. Mia being so much associated with the 1950s is rather ironic as you automatically associate the 1950s and women to be calm and innocent. We soon find this not to be the case as she is soon after shown taking drugs in the bathroom.
Another example of pastiche within the film would be when Marcellous got raped. After his traumatic experience he tells Butch that hes going to get his men to work on Zed with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. A line that was famously taken from the film Charley Varrick. The use of parody is another postmodern feature that is evident in pulp fiction. Like pastiche parody is also the imitation of a persons previous work. Even though they may seem the same, the two techniques in fact contrast one another. Parody imitates film through cynicism whilst pastiche emulates true form.
According to Jameson the use of parody emphasises a films distinctiveness through mockery, he rightly declares now parody capitalises the uniqueness of these styles and seizes on their idiosyncrasies and eccentricities to produce a imitation which mocks the original (Jameson,1995 ) The sarcastic tone to situations that can be considered to be serious are ridiculed whilst random partially irrelevant scenes are present at times. This technique easily can be seen as an attack on history however it also can be perceived as a humorous take on a scene or situation of something of importance.
According to Linda Hutcheon pastiche usually has to remain within the same genre as its model, whereas parody allows for adaptation (Hutcheon1989). Parody allows the script to differentiate away from the original and become a voice and vision of its own, helping create a new meaning to the scene. Parody allows the script to differentiate away from the original and become a voice and vision of its own, helping create a new meaning to the scene. An example of parody is shown in the film is in the scene where Butch is a young boy. He receives a visit from a friend of his father who died at war.
On first appearances you as the audience not only are intrigued but curious to find out what is going on. What seems to be something of importance is soon dismissed as the soldier goes on to talk about how Butchs birth right was hidden up his and Butchs fathers ass for seven years. Another element which is evident is the exploitation of words and situations being used in order to suggest the opposite of their intended meaning. Pulp Fiction explores this feature in the form of irony. The three types of irony used are: irony of fate, verbal irony and dramatic irony.
Together the three different varieties of irony merge collectively providing a witty script. The scene where the two men in suits (Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta) approach the door and enters, is a prime example of dramatic irony. This is due to fact that we know something bad is going to take place. The audience knows more than the characters in the film, making us to wonder what will happen next.
The sarcastic tone in the conversation Jules is having with one of the victims, too adds to the suspense as his tone is not serious do you mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down? The dialogue is rather confusing as you immediately think that your interpretation of events must be wrong and once again are left not knowing what is going to happen next. Before killing the victim Jules recites a biblical verse The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.
Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brothers keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will trike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee (Ezekiel 25:17). The irony behind this is that he associates God with assignation. His act has now become justified in a deluded way. Whereas before God was associated with negativity in regards to Jules in the end it was the divine intervention of God that also saved him from the life of violence. Jules epiphany came when he was close to death it was this same epiphany that saved the thieves in the diner at the end.
An example of irony of fate would have to be when Butch runs into Marcellous at the traffic lights. This is ironic as Butch escapes being killed due to Marcellous putting out a warrant for him. The scene continues to show irony as the two of them end up being put in a compromising situation in which they end up needing the help of the other for their own survival. Marvins death in the car is an additional case of irony of fate. He ends up being shot accidentally minutes after his life was spared. This is tragic as in Marvins case he was killed due to being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The complex nature of the film means that pulp fiction contains multiple storylines making it a story within a story. This fragmented form deliberately discontinuous narratives¦to suggest the fragmentation and breaks-up of formerly accepted systems of thought and belief (Tim Woods, 1999). This particular feature is vital and takes place through out. The mergence from one thing into the next forces those watching to construct and figure out the story for themselves. Fragmentation has a real role of importance in Pulp fiction as the distorted storyline enables the audience to have empathy for the characters.
The beginning of the film which we later find out is in fact the end, starts off with a mid way conversation between a man and a women. Only seconds into the movie and already the audience is left unsure of what it is they are talking about and what is going on in the scene. After a confusing dialogue between the two people which lasts only a few minutes the scene ends with a frozen image of the two of them. Not knowing what is going on is a theme which is explored throughout the film. Like in the first scene the scene following, too starts off with a conversation which has already started okay so tell me again bout the hash bar by doing so again the audience are unaware of what is taking place and feel the need to construct the story for themselves.
A different example in the scene Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallaces wife introduces another character which the film later reveals is one of three protagonist characters Butch. Like the formatting of the other scenes a conversation is already taking place when the scene begins. The scene continues and Vincent and Jules randomly enter wearing t-shirts and shorts. It is only nearer to the end of the film that we find out why they are wearing what they are wearing.
As the film draws to an end the first scene in the diner is explained in the last scene. The audience later find out that both Vincent and Jules are in fact present at the robbery. With his new morally correct path in which Jules wants to pursue he spares them their lives even though they had a gun pointed in his face. After an extensive look into postmodern film and the role in which it plays in the formation of film, it is evident that it is these features that make the films what they are, despite it contrasting the conventions of typical film.
Borrowing plot lines from other well known sources, the use of sarcasm when imitating art, irony and perplexity are just a few descriptions, you could find within this genre. Even though at times these features have been questioned as well as criticised, in the end the final product at times are fascinating, a good example of this theory defiantly lies in the film pulp fiction. Pulp fiction forces the audience not to conform to the conventional ideas of film but instead consider a new way of understanding and acknowledge film.
The concepts effectively add a new type of understanding to a collective of ideologies, allowing the reader to witness many different transitions that occurs within life through the characters. The relation between postmodernism and film has been openly criticised yet applauded by theorists. The lack of originality is the main focal point in regards to the subject with some theorist even referring it to plagiarism. Quentin Tarantino disproves this theory as his work is a prime example of originality and uniqueness that can come out of postmodern film in spite of pastiche, parody, irony and fragmentation being used.