‘…. no-body ever robs restaurants’
This illustrates they are breaking conventions.
In a traditional narrative we expect to see characters that have prominent roles in the film to be in the opening sequence; also you’d expect the story contained in the opening sequence to be followed up. This is not the case in Pulp Fiction. We leave the opening scene in a moment of action. Therefore we are set up with the expectation of what happens next? In a traditional linear narrative this is a question which is likely to be answered. However in Pulp Fiction the next scene contains different characters and a different plot. We do not return to the opening story till the end of the film.
The next scene contains the opening credits. The music is upbeat and compliments the emotional intensity of the two thieves’ situation. The music also suggests we are still with the two thieves’ story.
In the middle of the title track we hear a radio changing dial and a new track plays ‘Jungle Boogie.’ This suggests unpredictability. This is also a subversion of traditions in itself as it doesn’t happen in any other film.
We enter the next scene mid-way into a conversation. We do not know of they’re related to the couple in the restaurant. A whole new narrative has been introduced and conventionally we do not expect that.
In a traditional narrative these characters and what they’re talking about would have been made clear when they were introduced. However in Pulp Fiction it is not clear; all that is made apparent is that one of the characters has been to Amstedam.
Traditionally all dialogue should advance the plot. However the characters conversation does not advance the plot in anyway; it gives minute details about one of the characters. The characters are dressed in suits. Traditionally dressed like screen gangsters in black suits and ties with white shirts. Very neat, tidy and sophisticated. Also one of the screen gangsters is black; this is generically unusual.
In the next scene the first thing they say is ‘… we should have shot guns…’ this suggests they are used to violence and they have business to take care of. This is followed by a long journey up to a flat. Conventionally we do not see journeys like this as they fail to advance the plot. So yet again we have another subversion of film conventions. During the journey they talk conversationally. They are relaxed and casual not purposive; yet another convention subverted.
During Tony Montana’s first drug deal in ‘Scar face’ both Tony and the atmosphere are very tense. In relation to Pulp Fiction their general chit chat decrease’s tension. Traditionally during these kinds of scenes tension is usually heightened due to an impending scene. The characters tend to be tense as they apprehend the outcome of the looming situation.
The characters speak in an elegant intelligent manner. Traditionally gangsters swear and speak of only gangster issues. Whereas Jools and Vincent know how to express themselves intelligently an coherently.
Before they enter the flat Jools says ‘… lets get into character…’ This suggests they are giving a performance; they know that their existence is artificial and just a performance it also demonstrates the artificiality of the film world itself. Whereas Tony Montana (from Scarface) and Henry Hill (from Goodfella’s) live the gangster part. For them its not a performance but a way of life.
Upon entering we see Jools and Vincent’s opponents are college kids and not rival gangsters as traditionally portrayed in gangster films. This emphasizes the brutality of what they do. These college kids are no match for gangsters. This puts distance between the audience and Jools and Vincent, as the audience sees it as unnecessary violence. It also highlights the essentially evil nature of the characters.
A lot of intimidation is used by Jools in this scene, particularly intimidation by sarcasm. For example ‘… can I have a bite of your burger?’ ‘…may I wash it down with a drop of your tasty sprite?’ These are both rhetorical questions which are not ment to be answered. By asking such questions Jools is demeaning the college kids and giving himself a great sense of self importance.
Before Vincent and Jools shoot Brett, Jools gives a theatrical performance of a passage of the bible. This appears to give Jools a sense of self importance. This subverts generic conventions. It’s unusual for a character to turn a murder into a theatrical performance. In the next scene this narrative is left behind and a new one unfolds.
To conclude Pulp Fiction is one of a kind. It tends to break all the conventions set in place for a traditional gangster film, however it does it successfully and with style.