Pulp Fiction

According to Sander (11), Pulp Fiction is one of the American’s crime film directed in 1994 by Quentin Tarantino with a screenplay co-write from Roger Avary. She notes that, for many years, the film had defined the America cinemas. This was especially so in 1990s where it incorporated hard, fast, stylish and funny genre coupled with smart allusion from other films. She adds that the film is well known for its incorporation of eclectic dialogue, ironical humor mixed with violence, and nonlinear storylines. It is such sensational genre that Sander (11) alludes to have made the Pulp Fiction film win the Palme d’Or award six months after its first appearance at Cannes Film Festival.

As pointed out by Sander (12), Pulp Fiction is a highly directed stylized film that connects the intersecting storylines of life and activities of Los Angeles well-known mobsters, small-time criminals, and fringe players. She notes that, through the film’s screenplay, there are devotional conversation and monologues between the characters which give an insightful sense of humor. This denotes the perspective of life being inhibited by these characters. She adds that the Pulp Fiction’s title reflects real life situations, which were eminent in the mid-20th century, as was illustrated by the pulp magazines and hardboiled crime novels.

Maddox (1) notes that the hard-boiled writing style that was incorporated in Pulp Fiction tends to be the birthplace of film noir, which is depicted on its theme, sensibility, and characterization. He points out that the film incorporated the hard-boiled writing style in denoting the graphical violence and punchy dialogue, which were eminent in this period as people were being revolutionized by postmodernism. Therefore, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994) film is an experimental film in terms of its break with linear narratives, through which it is also rooted in classic “hardboiled” characters and plots from pulp fiction and film noir. It is in this respect that this paper tends to answer questions related to the film.

What is Pulp Fiction?

As pointed out by Maddox (1), pulp fiction refers to the 1994 movie that was directed by Quentin Tarantino with John Travolta, Samuel Jackson, and Bruce Willis acting as stars in the film. He notes that the name, pulp fiction, originated from popular fiction magazine that dominated the first half of the 20th century, of which creative writings were printed and published on cheap wood paper known as pulp. These fiction magazines included the Weird Tales and The Strand prolific literature of H.G Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among others (Maddox, 1). This was to produce an escapist fiction entertainment genre for a mass audience. He adds that these pulp magazines contained lurid subjects with their covers beautifully decorated with lurid pictures of space aliens, which gave out insightful attraction to readers.

Jut like the pulp magazines, Sander (22) notes that Pulp Fiction film contained lurid scenery especially with its full content of violence, depraved human behaviors together with more shocking moral arguments as engaged by characters. The pulp magazines contained lurid pictures of pretty women who seem to encounter trouble, with portraits of handsome men trying to come to their rescue; the Pulp Fiction film depicted such genre, too (Maddox, 1). He notes that it is such vivid portraits of the film with rich in eclectic dialogue, ironical humor coupled with violence that made the film’s director Tarantino and co-writer Avary win the Best Original Screenplay in Oscar Awards.

Additionally, Maddox (1) notes that pulp fiction has more than offered legacy to the entertainment stories by adversely contributing to the evolution of literature and popular fiction superstars that are evident today. He points out that many of the pulp magazine writers, such as Carroll John Daly, adversely changed the popular genre of detective fiction story into a more hard-boiled version that depicted criminals as offensive, with detectives at tough and street-smart in countering the criminals. He adds that it is such hard-boiled style as incorporated in the Pulp Fiction film, which critically revitalized the career of John Travolta into becoming one of the successful fiction superstar of today’s entertainment.

What is Film Noir?

According to Park (17), film noir is a collection of American films of 1940’s and 1950’s which were marked with pessimistic and fatalistic moods in trying to explore the darkest aspects that were associated with modernity. He notes that the film noir incorporated hardboiled American crime fiction on its screenplay that not only set the characters in criminal milieu, but rather explored the consequences associated with engaging in criminal activities. He adds that film noir incorporated both the popular appeal and artistic merit, which presented the film theme as adversely raising concern on addressing the human conditions and the fragility of the human life.

As pointed out by Park (19), film noir originated from post- World War II trauma that was manifested with fear, desperation, and loneliness as Americans were still ailing from the war. He notes that the war had created a “dark-self” and alienation of criminal groups and paranoia in the modern American city. According to him, the American existential despair was adversely contributed by loneliness that marked the urban life as a result of depressive consequences of the war. For instance, Cornell Woolrich, a noir writer depict himself as a lonely and repressed individual who spent most of his life in the hotel room (Park, 19). He adds that the most of film noirs were widely agitating for awareness of psychoanalysis and its consequence on American people at that age of modernization. This is evident in the Pulp Fiction film, an example of film noir.

Maddox (1) points out that most of the pulp fiction stories were mainly based on continuous man’s struggle, so as to overcome the powerful, dark and evil forces, which were beyond his control. He notes that pulp fiction incorporated a mix of scientific facts with speculative fiction, in order to bring out a compelling alternative that would enable the man to overcome both the internal and external forces that undermined his activities. It is in this respect that Quentin Tarantino even adopts the title of Pulp Fiction to his film. Maddox notes that Tarantino’s adaptation of the film title tend to depict the movie as a piece of pulp fiction that should not be taken serious as it is, but rather denote self-referential irony that embattled human activities in the early and mid-20th century.

Pulp Fiction Film as a Neo-Noir

According to Stanfield (159), Pulp Fiction film, just like any other American film noir movements, is a neo-noir since its screenplay tends to emulate the German expressionism and French crime films of the 1930’s. He notes that the highly stylized screenplay of the film tends to originate from the early era of German expressionist cinemas, which incorporated shared storytelling sensibility characterized with humor and violence. He adds that the brooding melancholy coupled with violent death scenes that Tarantino incorporate into his film gives it an insightful label of a neo-noir.

As pointed out by Wise (1), Pulp Fiction film is an extended homage of noir style that tend to borrow narrative, structural elements from others work in enhancing its iconography. He notes that Tarantino believed that the principle of appropriation, which allows the classical noirs to be effectively incorporated into film, could only be achieved if it can put everything into the film. This is quite portrayed in the film’s lurid subject matter of hard-boiled fiction. Bobby Wise (1) points out that the literary qualities of Pulp Fiction film emanate from the hard-boiled fiction scenery that is adversely captured by the attitude posed by the film’s characters.

According to Wise (1), the epitomized hard-boiled style incorporated in the film tends to be characterized by its episodic structuring, lack of emotions as illustrated by its characters, subjective dialogue and its content of brevity. This best denote the film as a neo-noir. Bobby Wise points out that the pulp fiction was a period, which was characterized by profanity and violence, where people’s emotions were marginalized with action being a justifiable conduct in the society. He notes that Pulp Fiction film displayed this concept of lack of emotion by incorporating hard-boiled characters of gunmen and gangsters whose actions do not rely on emotions, but are rather contributed by brutal forces. He adds that lack of emotion in the film clearly originated and mirrored the lack of emotions, which occurred during the time where fate did not play a significant role in the individual’s life. In the film, this concept of fate is referred to as divine intervention (Wise, 1).

Additionally, Wise (1) notes that the Pulp Fiction film inhibits a non-sequential narrative structure that tends to illustrate the downfall of noir protagonist of the classical era thereby forming a neo-noir film. He points out that the film inherited its subjectivity and themes from hard-boiled traditional practices that were being engaged by people, especially by illustrating an embodied flashback structure. He adds that the chronological break in the film enabled the audience to identify and form part and parcel of the psyche of the disturbed noir that the depicted heroic character underwent. Moreover, the extended flashback in the film portrays the fate of the noir’s heroes against which they unsuccessfully fought thereby bringing the film to allude to the current specter of human life.

Moreover, Wise (1) points out that the episodic structure of the hard-boiled Pulp Fiction film presents it as a neo-noir. In this case, the film is composed of a series of events happening all together, and the tortuous puzzling mysteries that people undergo form the basis of the investigative noir. The author notes that, Pulp Fiction incorporates numerous plot threads that only emerge when their time to be resolved is reached. For instance, “Pumpkin” and “Honey Bunny” as acted in the film by Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer respectively are portrayed as having reached a decision to rob a restaurant on realizing that they could obtain more money from customers, as well as their business. However, the moment after the scene is initiated it breaks off with credit title rolling off showing that the intended action had been met.

Additionally, Wise (1) points out that Tarantino deploys a start and stop, then later emergence of the same event at the time of its resolution in depicting the act of postmodernism. For instance, the Bonnie situation takes the viewer back to the story of Vincent and Jules, who had executed Brett and eluded their conducts as a sign of miracle from God who had made them hit men. In recapturing, Vincent is devoted to opinion from Bret’s associate Marvin concerning “miracle”, and he later shoots him. Wise (1) notes that the autonomous episodic structure in the film renders it as a modernist play that gives viewers ample opportunity of understanding the content of the film by simplifying its composition. This is what depicts the film as neo-noir as it incorporates illustrative borrowed structure that gives meaning to the present activities.

Moreover, Wise (1) notes that the colloquial manner of speech and the quality of being brief in a given period that the film adopts portrays it as a neo-noir. He points out that Pulp Fiction film deploys extensive use of rude words in depicting the modern times. This is evident in the film’s characters that not only use cursing words and playful insults, but also use racial utterance in order to form tough guys in the modern society. Wise (1) notes that Tarantino’s display of colloquial and brevity characters in the film tends to originate from overreliance of popular culture that forms the basis of which people live their lives.

Wise (1) points out that the colloquial language deployed in the film presents a closed popular culture, where people communicate to each other and pose for any effects similarly to those who had the same characteristics. He adds that the pop cultural references, which play off as signifier to the film’s characters, are mainly concerned with identifying and bringing the past out of intended action. This, indeed, concurs with the characteristic of neo-noir film.

Relationship between Pulp Fiction Film and the Maltese Falcon (Noir Classics)

According to Gores (101), The Maltese Falcon is one of the best popular noir classic detective novels that were successfully written by Dashiel Hammett in 1929. He notes that the novel became part of best renowned classical film as it was faithfully adopted by John Houston in his film The Maltese Falcon. This film had remarkable screenplay that comprised of stylistic mixture of thriller, romance, and mystery as it portrayed corrupt and deceitful activities that people were undertaking.

According to Veloso (1), The Maltese Falcon incorporated hard-boiled characters that portray the world as a senseless and brutal place where people’s acts of morality are usually subjective. He notes that this is to replace deductive reasoning with an action that plays a pivotal role in human activities. Veloso points out that the film portrays the criminal detectives within the milieu in order to act as an intermediary that harmonizes the world’s criminal activities and the subjected laws. This pessimistic and pervasive role inhibited by the film characters, especially Sam Spade, is to present a classical detective fiction that adequately connects to the period’s activity.

For instance, Sam Spade in the ‘Flitcraft parable’ recounts how his life was constructed from his old, past life and perfectly mirrored his experience (Veloso, 1). Spade recounts that, “he adjusted himself to beam falling, and then no more of them felling, and then he adjusted to them not falling.” Veloso (1) notes that Spade’s parable asserted that people should not adopt themselves to virtuous activities, as there is neither reward nor punishment associated with showing deviated behaviors. He points out that the classical noir naturally allows the character to engage in activities that gives way to his or her impulse rather than enhancing rationality. This is evident in Spade when he indulges and competes with the deviant forces by forming part and parcel of their level of operation.

For instance, Sam Spade is depicted as aware of Bridget, Cairo, Gutman and Wilmer’s involvement in his colleagues death; however, he extort large amount of money from them instead of finding justice to his partner (Veloso). This shows that those crucial members of the society, whose role is to enhance order and justice system, are actively engaged in flawless activities that present the world as the highest place of manipulations.

Similarly, Sexton (1) points out that the root cause of uncertainty and doubt, which forms the darkest impulse in the human mind as created by classical noir, also forms the basis of Pulp fiction film. For instance, Vincent is depicted as having insightful debate over his rational approach, whether to have sex with the wife of his boss, Mia. He adds that Vincent’s decision to leave Mia’s house without giving in to her attraction is an attitude, what makes the film adapt to classical noir effectively, since it engages insightful interaction between actions and monologue debates.

Reservoir Dogs and Sin City as Postmodern Noirs

According to O’Brien (1), a film can be regarded as postmodern noirs if it is capable of effectively illustrating the philosophical ideas that enable people to understand and interpret the illuminating ways they take. He notes that the motion of pictures and the ultimate concept of postmodernism that is incorporated in Reservoirs Dogs clearly make the film a postmodern noir.

As pointed out by O’Brien (1), postmodernism was a period which was characterized by late capitalism with human life clearly determined by economic structure thereby denoting consumerism as the only facet mode of people’s life. He notes that Reservoir Dogs forms a considerably terrific job in denoting the world which is adversely consumed by late capitalism. Contrary to heist dialogue in Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s film characters in Reservoir Dogs tend to discuss the impact of “Like a Virgin”, and “True Blue” songs on consumer culture (O’Brien, 1). He adds that the film uses Get Christie Love, television show, in denoting the impact of media in the contemporary society. Moreover, O’Brien points out gangsters such as Mr. White and Mr. Orange in the film who are portrayed as desiring to acquire a lot of diamonds which will allow them to purchases a lot of products.

Additionally, O’Brien (1) notes that Reservoir Dogs presents postmodern noir due to its critiques of denoting that there is no such a thing known as absolute truth. He posts out that postmodernist normally opposes such a mode of thinking and, therefore, pushes people to radical relativism that strongly engages their knowledge. It is such notions that are captured in Reserve Dogs. O’Brien notes that this is evident in the film by containing scenery that binary oppose acts of racism, sexism, and homophobia among others. For instance, each gangster in the film has his own understating of a given-well known song and more so assigned to definite colors.

Similar to Reservoir Dogs, Sin City is another film that denotes postmodern noir. According to Brilliant and Badass (1), the directors of Sin City film Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have incorporated post-modern noir artwork in capturing the importance and aesthetic of the Basin City. They point out that the film incorporates stunning characters that give a three-dimensional format of the human life. Additionally, they note that Sin City presents blistering scenes of ballet of bullets and blood which illustrate an active process of pop culture that is eminent in the postmodern period.

Additionally, Brilliant and Badass (1) point out that Sin City film incorporates violent scenery, which is regarded as more of cartoonish, thereby illustrating the use of highly equipped technologies. They note that this off-screen violence, which is never real, is, however, intended to trigger the audience to identify and understand the three protagonists in the film in order to enhance their individuality. Individuality is one of the human concepts that postmodernism agitate for application. This is encouraged in the film through the use of black and white dreamy cinematography.


In conclusion, the write up has highlighted Pulp Fiction as both a noir and neo-noir classical film that agitates for proper human activities in enhancing mankind. Therefore, it is essential for filmmakers and noir writers to incorporate characters in their artworks that not only illustrate individual’s activities in overcoming the odds, but rather allow people to construct philosophical ideas, which enhance their decision making process.

Order now

Related essays