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Tarantino is famous for his specific postmodern view on the world and his ability to reveal his perspective in a perfectly postmodern manner. One of major peculiarities of postmodernism is the contrast between the past and the present, real and unreal. Tarantino seems to accept this dualism.
Tarantino’s neo-noir films Kill Bill (2003) and Pulp Fiction (1994) can be regarded as suggestive examples of this dualism and postmodern agenda. It is possible to consider a number of thematic and stylistic devices to understand the essence of Tarantino’s surrealism that is manifested in his characters’ inability (and, perhaps, unwillingness) to live a real life and to be real people.
One of favorite thematic devices employed by Tarantino is an anti-hero protagonist. In both films, the protagonists have numerous positive qualities and seem to be good people, but they also make rather questionable moral decisions. Thus, Butch is a man who has a girlfriend he cares about and who has certain moral principles (his father once had the same values) (Pulp Fiction). At the same time, he still accepts the offer to lie down at the fight (though changes his mind); he kills people and is rather violent.
Likewise, Black Mamba is shown as a desperate woman who lost her husband and her child (Kill Bill). She shows compassion, as she is unwilling to kill one of her tortures in front of her daughter. However, she kills dozens of people to carry out her revenge plan. It is also important to add that the protagonists are on their quest to get their own redemption.
Redemptions is one of common thematic devices used in neo-noir films, since it is also a type of escape from the real world. (Conrad 102). The use of such protagonists shows that Tarantino believes in duality of life where real and unreal is intermingled. These protagonists also show that some people (like Tarantino) are eager to escape the real world and live in the world of their own moral values.
A stylistic device used by Tarantino is the way he places his characters within shots. The characters often appear above the camera, which is not common (or rather was not as common) for films. This angle creates a specific feeling of the cluster of reality and the unreal world. It seems that Tarantino makes use of certain kind of stylistic irony (Tuck 154). The characters live their lives observing different things. At the same time, they are also objects of observation.
This angle helps to trace the desire to escape form the real world as well. Tarantino uses such a queer way to show that his characters stress that they are living in two world simultaneously (the real and their own world). It is possible to note that camera angles often switch quite abruptly and this is also an important peculiarity of the postmodern film. As has been mentioned above, the switch from the past and present as well as from one angle to another reveals fragility and instability of the reality.
Finally, non-chronological ordering of events, which is achieved through numerous flashbacks, also reveals duality of Tarantino’s reality and his adherence to his imaginary world. Numerous switches from reality and dreams, peacefulness and violence, present and past are characteristic feature of postmodern films (“The Nature of Surrealism” Notes 2).
Tarantino makes use of the tool to emphasize his belief that people’s life is nothing more than a set of flashback and some events perceived when people distract from the world they invented. Kill Bill is especially remarkable in this respect as the entire narrative is a combination of flashback from different people’s lives.
It is sometimes difficult to see when the myth is over and real life starts. Pulp Fiction is also characterized by the specific structure. The film seems to be divided into several parts and the parts are mixed on purpose. Clearly, Tarantino reflects the idea of duality. He makes the viewer confused and puzzled. When watching the film, each viewer reconstructs the events in his/her own way and, hence, creates another unique world based on the story told by Tarantino.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that two Tarantino’s films, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, can be regarded as perfect illustrations of postmodern films and worldview based on the principle of duality of the world. In the two films (as well as in the postmodern world), people are trying to escape the reality and are sometimes lost in their own world. Tarantino employs such devices as anti-hero protagonists, queer angles and flashbacks to reveal his fascination with the unreal world.
The view may be puzzled during the film but he/she will inevitably end up accepting the duality Tarantino promulgates. The films in question reflect the contemporary world and help trace many people’s desire to escape the reality using various tools (using social networks, creating identities, daydreaming). The two films are also tools that can help forget about the real world or plunge into the alternative reality, at least, during several hours.
Conrad, Mark T. “Reservoir Dogs: Redemption in a Postmodern World.” The Philosophy of Neo-Noir. Ed. Mark T. Conrad. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2009. 101-116. Print.
Kill Bill. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. New York: Miramax Films. 2003. DVD.
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Pulp Fiction. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. New York: Miramax Films. 1994. DVD.
“The Nature of Surrealism and “True Reality” in Quentin Tarantino’s Films.” Notes.
Tuck, Greg. “Laughter in the Dark: Irony, Black Comedy and Noir in the Films of David Lynch, the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino.” Neo-Noir. Ed. Mark Bould, Kathrina Glitre and Greg Tuck. London: Wallflower Press, 2010. 152-167. Print.