Film Review // Pulp Fiction - 3 & 5 Act Structure

figure. 1 Pulp Fiction Movie Poster

figure 2. Opening Frame, Definition of Pulp
Quentin Tarantino's unholy matrimony of mash-ups and irregular timing are paired up once again; devoid of derivative usage from the well-fitting score to the character tropes of drug mules and gimps. Guns appear in the hands of Tarantino's characters as commonly as a cigarette in the 1960's, and with no absence of small talk as the differences in fast-food between America & Europe are told jokingly,  wishfully observing from afar (but not up close, heed that possible wished for shotgun of Vincent & Jules indeed appear) we are brought into their lives. Unlike Tarantino's earlier film, Reservoir Dogs; Pulp Fiction does not adhere to one event in fixed time, but instead breaks apart a typical three or five act structure open and with it any chance of linear storytelling. - Obtuse it may sound at first, but it soon becomes clear that in order to hear more about how in Amsterdam you may buy a whole glass of beer at a movie theatre instead of just having a paper cup; Tarantino slyly fits more information into key events of the numerous characters' lives whilst retaining his slapstick humour. 

Arguably Tarantino's fragmentation of the acts serves no more than a way to show that to follow a story it does not have to be linear in time; nor does it have to conform to character development simply in terms of a character encompassing one by one, an average state into discord, and out to their self-improved state of being. Tarantino's barrage of events can only be described as inner-worldly. Whilst the films created, Pulp Ficiton being no different, are stylized with the use of outsourced music and themes there remains a certain intra-personal realism to it all. - The same intra-personal feeling from every single event that happens. Not once do they feel as if they are affecting the grander scale, Earth, or the Universe at large. They remain personal to the present characters and audience. Much like listening to music with headphones on. - In this sense Tarantino is almost gratifyingly fitting snippets of separate events to be pieced together in a eccentrically honest way to fit his style of presenting films.

figure 3. Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) & Vincent Vega (John Travolta) Dancing.
Structure of Pulp Fiction is questionable less because of how the scenes are placed together but instead, the importance of each one.The beginning and end scenes match up bringing Pulp Fiction full circle which only leaves the middle to decipher. In terms of time it is not so relevant as Tarantino bounces back and forth between the future and past but never arrives at a solid answer for what is the present. The diner scene shown at beginning & end, where an overly-ambitious (yet unstable) couple try to rob everyone of their wallets eventually becomes interrupted by Vincent & Jules. We do know, however, that Vincent had already been shot to death albeit accidentally by Butch (Played by Bruce Willis) previously. From this it certainly isn't obtuse to say that the traditional beginning & end is no more than the middle and Tarantino does not try to deviously and without reason give meaning to the split up scenes. A case of being witty and understanding structure enough to deviate from it without causing unwanted confusion. 

To ask then: if Pulp Fiction has a structure regardless of the almost collage-like mix-matching of scenes and if it has fragmentation without the lost information we would look towards the characters at their lowest level of character development; their "come as you are" formality in order to show change or reluctance thereof; and finally any account of death. - The beginning and end. With Tarantino placing the traditional middle part of the three act structure at the beginning & end of Pulp Fiction it reduces our attention to the chronological "middle", which in the case of Pulp Fiction shows us the beginning and end. Vincent's night and accidental drug over-dosage of Mia (played by Uma Thurman) followed by his eventual death by the hands of Butch (figure. 4) give us his life experiences in separate scenes without directly effecting one another leading to ultimately enough space to differentiate scenes as standing alone whilst simultaneously creating an impossibly unpredictable outcome.

figure 4. Vincent Vega's Death by Butch


  1. This is a very well written review, Eva. Well done. :)

    1. Thanks Dan! :-D That's nice of you to say