Monday, June 29, 2009

Pulp Fiction analysis - part 2: Relationship to the movie 'Hostel'


In part 1 of the analysis, we talked about the contents of the briefcase. Here in part 2, we will discuss the relationship of Pulp Fiction to Eli Roth's 2005 film, Hostel (of which Quentin Tarantino was one of the executive producers), and we will see how this relationship ultimately gives away one of Pulp Fiction's underlying themes.

For those who have not read the analysis of the movie Hostel on this blog, it is discussed therein that two of Hostel's underlying ideas are that, 1) some of Hostel's characters 'switch places', so to speak, during the film. For example, the character Paxton, who is a victim of physical torture early in the movie, has himself become a torturer by the end of the film; and, 2) there is suggestion made at one point in Hostel that each of the members of its audience is to switch places with Paxton. Putting these two ideas together led to the conclusion that Hostel's underlying theme is that anyone, given the right set of circumstances, can switch, from being a torture victim to becoming a perpetrator of torture, as did Paxton.

That Hostel indicates to its audience members that each of them is to switch places with Paxton, is evident from putting two specific scenes in Roth's movie together. In the first of these scenes, Paxton, along with his friend, Josh, have just arrived at a European hostel and are checking in with the desk clerk there. On a nearby countertop there is a TV playing, and on it is showing Pulp Fiction (see screencap at left; note the lack of subtitles). It is playing in a foreign language, not English, and Paxton comments on this, saying, "Great - no subtitles." Then in a later scene, in which Paxton is about to be tortured, he speaks to his would-be torturer in a foreign language, and the audience (of Hostel) is given no subtitles. By virtue of the fact that each member of the Hostel audience has here become like Paxton, in the sense that he/she is viewing a movie scene in which a foreign language is being spoken but no subtitles are given, each of them is to infer that he/she is to switch places with Paxton; and then, by the end of Hostel, each member of its audience is to realize that he/she could apply the idea of 'switching places' between tortured and torturer to himself or herself.

It was necessary to first describe the means whereby all the switching that is to take place regarding Hostel, was indicated to its audience, for us to now realize how all of this applies to us, the audience of Pulp Fiction. For If we now 'complete' the switch between the characters and audience of Hostel, within the context of Pulp Fiction being shown on the TV in Hostel, we see that when Paxton is watching Pulp Fiction, he must be watching a movie that has a theme of switching among characters, since that is what the audience of Hostel is doing (i.e., they are watching such a movie). The point is that one of the themes of Pulp Fiction itself is switching, in the sense that some of its characters undergo a kind of switching within the film.

Here is an example of the switching in Pulp Fiction: After Butch Coolidge has defeated his boxing opponent (killing the opponent in the process), cab driver Esmarelda VillaLobos ('lobos' is Spanish for 'wolves') accepts money from Butch for helping him - he gives her some cash, and she promises not to tell anyone that she gave a cab ride to the boxer who killed his opponent.

Butch and Esmarelda seal their deal.

Later in the movie, in the scene in Jimmie Dimmick's house, we see that Winston Wolf ('The Wolf') pays money to Jimmie for his help (for the purchase of some of Jimmie's blankets and bedspreads, to be used to hide bloodstains that are on the interior of the car which Jules and Vincent, who have driven to Jimmie's house, have been travelling in). The audience is here cued to the relationship between the two situations (Esmarelda/Butch, and The Wolf/Jimmie) via use of the 'wolf' nomenclature - the two scenes are, in a sense, 'opposites' of each other: In the first scene, 'wolf' (Esmarelda VillaLobos) is paid to help; whereas in the second, 'wolf' (The Wolf) pays for help. The (metaphorical) wolf has effectively switched, from being a person who accepts money, to a person who pays money.

Above left: Winston Wolf ('The Wolf'; seated on left) prepares to hand over some cash to Jimmie for the use of his blankets and bedspreads. Above right: Jules and Vincent wipe down the car in which they have been travelling, and inside of which a man was shot in the head, spattering blood (as well as brain and skull fragments) on the interior of the car (the body has already been removed from the car by the point in time depicted above). The blankets and bedspreads purchased by The Wolf, are to be used to cover over any bloodstains remaining in the interior of the car after Jules and Vincent are done cleaning it, so that it can be driven on public roadways without drawing suspicion.


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