The Film Corner: My Director of the Month

Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino (born in 1963) – actor, producer, director, screenwriter.

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Reservoir Dogs, released in 1992, is considered to be his directorial debut. But, Pulp Fiction (1994), one of the classics of cinema, gave him international recognition, winning an Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1995. Then his filmmaking career really started. As a director, screenwriter or even actor (he often played supporting roles in his movies), he created many generously awarded, known worldwide movies such as: Kill Bill (2003) and Kill Bill 2 (2004), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Django Unchained (2012, another Academy Award for best screenplay in 2013) and, most recently, The Hateful Eight (2015). All mentioned productions are Quentin Tarantino’s main projects, both directed and written by him. Undoubtedly, they represent his own unique, signature style of storytelling.

Quentin Tarantino’s Style of Storytelling

Throughout almost three decades, Quentin Tarantino has had an opportunity to build a quite impressive portfolio of films. He used his screenwriting potential to develop his own, quite recognisable, signature style of storytelling. I am going to explore it by analysing three of the Quentin Tarantino’s key productions: Reservoir Dogs (1993), Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2013).

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In Reservoir Dogs, the gangster boss gathers a team of gangsters who do not know each other. Their task is to rob a jewellery store. The suitcase full of valuable diamonds is the proof of the heist’s success but something has gone wrong in the process. The police has already known about the planned robbery. This means that there is a “rat” amongst the gathered gangsters…

Who is a snitch? This is the question which main characters are trying to answer throughout the plot of the movie. Many retrospections and the disturbance of the chronological order of scenes offer us the unfinished jigsaw puzzles which need to be put in the correct place. Reservoir Dogs is also full of “decorations” such as: catchy dialogues (e.g. the conversation about giving tips), violence or exaggerated bloodiness. Sometimes scenes are such a joke that we can hear Quentin Tarantino laughing straight in our faces (e.g. the torture scene where the torturer is dancing to the diegetic sounds of cheerful jazz music).

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Inglourious Basterds is set in 1944. Here we can see many characters having their own stories to tell. The most important plot threads are linked to the team of Jewish American soldiers killing Nazis in occupied France, the other group of American soldiers planning to assassinate Adolf Hitler and the young Jewish French woman owning a cinema in Paris. All stories and characters lead to the one conclusion – to the assassination attempt of Adolf Hitler…

This time the film presents the historical setting which Quentin Tarantino has been trying to reflect. However, in this case the historical accuracy usually falls prey to his screenwriting creativity. Again there is a lot of catchy dialogues (e.g. the conversation between Hans Landa and French peasant or the pub shoot out scene) and violence. The chronological order of scenes seems to be preserved. Nazis are portrayed here as people prejudiced towards Jews and black people (which is basically quite accurate) and that fact leads to many racist, dark jokes appearing in Inglourious Basterds (e. g. the question game scene is probably the biggest source of racism in this movie). Basically the Third Reich and Nazis are presented here as a laughing stock. Such approach is highly attached to satire.

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Django Unchained is set in USA, in the 19th century (before the American Civil War). It follows the story of a German bounty hunter and the black slave liberated by him. The Bounty hunter offers a fair exchange: Firstly, the black slave is going to help him catch his targets, and in return, the Bounty Hunter is going to liberate the black slave’s wife from slave labour.

Django Unchained is a film loosely based on Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. This legacy is accompanied here by the fictional presentation of the harsh reality of black people being enslaved in pre-Civil War America. This film is much bloodier and violent than Inglourious Basterds and Reservoir Dogs. Again we can witness catchy dialogues but sometimes there is more depth into them (e.g. the conversation between the Bounty Hunter and black slave about the goddess from Germanic mythology.) The movie is also a satire on the owners of plantations (they are prejudiced towards black people and that prejudice is presented by racist, dark jokes).

It is easy to notice that each film has a different setting and making such shifts is probably one of the Tarantino’s qualities. However, sometimes there is a comeback (e.g. The Hateful Eight, released after Django Unchained, is a comeback to western setting). Tarantino’s plots themselves are often very simple but presented in a way which make them interesting to watch; his endings can be really surprising as it is not stated whether everything is going to end well or not (some main characters might die at the end). The disturbance of the chronological order is also considered to be the one of the most recognisable of Tarantino’s tricks (however, not always used.)

In such a way, the three chosen films perfectly present the overall picture of Quentin Tarantino’s storytelling style.

Webography:

Filmography:

  • Django Unchained, 2012. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. USA: Columbia Pictures
  • Inglourious Basterds, 2009. Directed by Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth. USA/Germany: Universal Pictures.
  • Kill Bill, 2003. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. USA: Miramax Films.
  • Kill Bill 2, 2004. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. USA: Miramax Films.
  • Pulp Fiction, 1994. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. USA: Miramax Films.
  • Reservoir Dogs, 1992. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. USA: Dog Eat Dog Productions Inc.
  • The Hateful Eight, 2015. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. USA: Double Feature Films.

Written By: Piotr Wysmyk