Pulp Fiction - Opening scene


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Pulp Fiction - Opening scene

  1. 1. A shot-by-shot analysis of the opening scene.<br />By Alex Bryant<br />
  2. 2. The first frame is a still shot of a dictionary definition written in a dictionary style font of the word “Pulp.” It is clear that it is the second meaning that is relevant, as it sets the tone of the film immediately. <br />It fades in, and out, which I believe indicates that the director Quentin Tarantino intended it to be kept in mind when watching the film. There is silence at this point.<br />
  3. 3. This cuts to a medium shot that introduces the main characters in the opening scene: of a couple having a conversation while eating in a diner. The man is smoking and is lying back, suggesting non-conformity, and his liberal use of swearing suggests he is a rebel.<br />The woman is sitting up straight, and she sounds nice and happy a contrast to the man.<br />The shot has high-key lighting from the large windows behind them, and there is only diegetic sound, in the form of background conversation and activity and quiet music being played, as well as the sound of traffic, letting the audience know they are in a busy environment.<br />
  4. 4. There is nothing out of the ordinary about the couple, as both seem to be dressed as you would expect to see people eating in a diner. This goes against the conventions of a gangster film, and it is only when you start to listen to the conversation they are having that you realise they are not ordinary citizens, but criminals.<br />The stereotypical view of a gangster or criminal would be that of people wearing dark suits and perhaps sunglasses, discussing their criminal plans in a dark area, perhaps at night. This goes against the brightly lit and busy daytime scene we get in Pulp Fiction.<br />
  5. 5. The next shot is a close up shot of a waitress who has come over to offer more coffee to the couple. The waitress seems reasonably happy to serve them.<br />
  6. 6. The woman gratefully accepts the coffee, leading to a match on action shot of the waitress’s arm pouring the coffee. The woman starts acting a lot more friendlytowards the waitress. From the audiences point of view, this suggest that the way she acts towards strangers is different to her true self. <br />
  7. 7. Next comes an over shoulder shot which leads to a reverse shot, showing how the woman is listening to what the man has to say. The woman becomes more interested in what he has to say.<br />This scene is not following conventions, as at this point the couple are acting like a couple towards each other, whilst talking about the strong and violent subject of robbery or perhaps armed robbery.<br />
  8. 8. The man further explains his intentions, making the woman more interested and take a more active part in the conversation. The background lighting and music remains the same throughout the whole conversation, suggesting a relaxed, nothing out of the ordinary environment. The audience is not expecting something dramatic to happen, they are just interested in listening to what he has to say.<br />
  9. 9. As the man mentions the possibility of having to kill someone, the woman sweetly reacts by smiling and laying her head down and saying “well I’m not going to kill anybody.”<br />This is strongly against not only the conventions of a gangster movie, where you would expect the idea of killing somebody to be taken more seriously, but also against the conventions of a couple having a conversation.<br />
  10. 10. The man starts suggesting the idea of robbing the diner. This disrupts the calm and secure atmosphere that the lighting and sound has helped to convey.<br />The camera slowly pans round whilst simultaneously zooming in. This is the first shot where the camera has actually moved in the shot, rather than cutting between still shots like before. I think this is done to show increased interest in the man, as it has gone from a conversation about robberies to the actual suggestion that they rob the diner.<br />
  11. 11. They are now ready to rob the coffee shop. The woman has gone from being calm and friendly to be ready to commit the crime of robbing the people in the shop. She seems to enjoy the idea.<br />The man pulls out a gun and slams it down on the table. This is a massive contrast to the security of the coffee shop portrayed before, and let’s the audience know they are serious.<br />
  12. 12. Before they get up to rob the shop, the couple kiss and exchange almost sickeningly sweet comments to each other (I love you pumpkin, I love you honey-bunny.) <br />This is strongly against the conventions of a gangster film, and also of any kind of crime scene in a movie.<br />
  13. 13. The man, as expected, stands up to alert the people of the coffee shop that they’re being robbed. The camera pans up with him, and the woman turns away so we cannot see her face. At this point, the man appears to be the dominant figure, in charge of the robbery as the woman has moved out of the focus of the camera.<br />
  14. 14. At this point, the climax of the opening scene, all of the built up ideas about the character of the woman are dismissed. She quickly goes from her position of sitting down at the bottom of the frame, to standing up waving a gun wildly around, with an angry face, screaming obscenities and threatening to “execute every motherf***inglast one of you.”<br />This is not what the audience would have expected when the man suggest she handle “crowd control” in the scene before. The coffee shop sequence ends with a freeze-frame of the woman pointing the gun, with the credits beginning to appear at the bottom. The theme song starts.<br />
  15. 15. As The credits appear on the films for the production company, in the iconic yellow-orange pulp fiction colour and distinctive font, the theme song of Pulp Fiction “Misirlou” plays.<br />
  16. 16. The music continues to play as the title of the film in iconic font and colour slowly shrinks. This is the last shot in the opening scene.<br />