In 1994 Quentin Tarantino released a contemporary film noir movie. The plot possesses a darkness of hit men, drugs, and organized crime hiding underneath the ‘average citizen’ persona each character maintains. The movie is set up so groups of scenes are not in chronological order. The reordering is highly intentional and comprehensively thought through. To understand why Tarantino set up the film in this way I decided to view it in ‘Tarantino’s order’ and then in chronological order. The two orders are as follows.
- Prologue (“I love you Pumpkin. I love you too Honey Bunny.”)
- Opening Credits: Miserlou
- “Royale with cheese.”
- Ezekiel 25:17
- “Boxers don’t have an Old Timer’s Day”
- “All my piercing, eighteen places on my body – every one done with a needle.“
- Son of a Preacher Man
- Jack Rabbit Slim’s
- You Never Can Tell
- Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon
- … Adrenaline …
- Captain Koon’s Story
- “I’m an American Honey. Our names don’t mean shit.
- “I wish I had a pot.”
- “Where’s my watch?”
- Flowers On The Wall
- “Bring out the gimp.”
- “I’m going to get medieval of your ass.”
- “Zed’s dead baby, Zed’s dead”
- “Do you know what divine intervention means?”
- “I just shot Marvin in the face.”
- “If Bonnie comes home and finds a dead body in her house, I’m gonna get divorced.”
- “I’m Winston Wolf. I solve problems.”
- Epilogue (“I’m trying real hard to be the Shepherd.”)
- End Credits
2. Opening Credits: Miserlou
3. “Royale with cheese.”
4. Ezekiel 25:17
21. “Do you know what divine intervention means?”
22. “I just shot Marvin in the face.”
23. “If Bonnie comes home and finds a dead body in her house, I’m gonna get divorced.”
24. “I’m Winston Wolf. I solve problems.”
1. Prologue (“I love you Pumpkin. I love you too Honey Bunny.”)
25. Epilogue (“I’m trying real hard to be the Shepherd.”)
5. “Boxers don’t have an Old Timer’s Day”
6. “All my piercing, eighteen places on my body – every one done with a needle.“
7. Son of a Preacher Man
8. Jack Rabbit Slim’s
9. You Never Can Tell
10. Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon
11. … Adrenaline …
12. Captain Koon’s Story
13. “I’m an American Honey. Our names don’t mean shit.
14. “I wish I had a pot.”
15. “Where’s my watch?”
17. Flowers On The Wall
18. “Bring out the gimp.”
19. “I’m going to get medieval of your ass.”
20. “Zed’s dead baby, Zed’s dead”
26. End Credits
I believe it is important to note that some critics of this film would classify scene 12, ‘Captain Koon’s Story’, as the first in chronological order because it showcases Butch as a young child. However, since the segue from Butch as a child into modern time is Butch waking up suddenly, I believe it is a dream or recollection and would therefore be classified as happening as a memory just before Butch’s boxing match.
Pulp Fiction does not have simply one instance of rising action, climax, or denouement. It has at least three, each one within a story. This is why Tarantino was able to reorder the stories because the audience was still able to understand the film and enjoy each situation separately without the order taking away from any of them. It was on purpose that no story was chopped up during the rising action or climax. The integrity of each story was never compromised.
Some scenes in the film are repeated or shown to the audience twice but from different perspectives the second time. Tarantino’s order opens the film with Honey Bunny and Pumpkin and closes with them as well. The end dialogue of their conversation is repeated. I believe that the repetition’s purpose is to remind the audience of the context of the scene (since it was over two hours since the viewers have seen Honey Bunny and Pumpkin). However, Jules and Vincent’s repeated scene, the end of scene 4 ‘Ezekiel 25:17’, and beginning of scene 21 ‘“Do you know what divine intervention means?”’, has more significance. Jules’ repeated line, “Marcellus Wallace don’t like to be fucked by anybody except Mrs. Wallace” is received completely different since minutes before, in Tarantino’s order, Marcellus was raped. The chronological order would never have achieved the horror this line instills as Tarantino’s repetition and reorder does.
What was Tarantino really trying to do with this order? Why did he leave us with Jules and Vincent walking out of the diner instead of Butch and Fabienne fleeing on the stolen motorbike to safety? And why did he start with Honey Bunny and Pumpkin rather than ‘“Royale with cheese.”’?
This movie is classified as film noir because of its darkness, crime and generally shadowed cinematography. By Tarantino opening with a couple casually having coffee at the diner and speaking about their recent robbery of a liquor store, and potential robbery of a bank, it emphasizes the darkness that hides in average looking people’s lives. No passers by would believe the couple steal from others at gunpoint for a living. The theme of darkness hidden by normality continues but is never as well presented as it is with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny. That is why they open and close the film.
Vincent and Jules leaving the diner is filmed in a way that the audience would recognize to be the conclusion. The long take of Jules and Vincent leaving the diner is a tracking shot and a medium shot and cuts to the credits. This set up looks like many other endings, wether Tarantino would admit to it or not. Butch and Fabienne’s exit on Zed’s chopper is a distant shot which pans following the couple drive then fading to black. Tarantino chooses to fade to black between scenes and cuts straight to the opening or closing credits at the end of the prologue or epilogue respectively. This creates a consistency that tells the audience what to expect.
The epilogue is calm and although guns are involved there is no shooting, murder, or physical assault. Everyone leaves the diner without rushing and without any fear of danger following them. Butch could still be bleeding out at his exit. Leaving a film on the inconclusive note of running for one’s life does not feel satisfying for the audience.
My position, and I believe any alternative viewer who had seen the original first, is biased. The epilogue scene feels right and good at the end, and wraps up the film. The audience is finally gifted with all the information that they were teased with during the prologue. The fact we know Vincent will die did not affect my enjoyment of watching Jules and Vincent interact and share dialogue. Tarantino’s order makes the film more interesting and pulls the audience in with the intrigue it creates. It was illuminating to watch the chronological order and it cleared up any plot questions I may have had. And although watching the chronological order created a new amusing context, stick to the entertaining, roller coaster original. There is a reason it was made that way.