Director: Quentin Tarantino
Won– Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Nominated-Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (John Travolta), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Samuel L. Jackson), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Uma Thurman), Best Director (Tarantino), Best Film Editing (Sally Menke)
The scene embedded above is the last scene of Pulp Fiction, a film by Quentin Tarantino. This scene is also the greatest. Ever. I’m not saying the scene is the greatest in this film, but rather, the greatest scene ever, in any movie, ever. It is important, however, to understand the context of the film before you watch the clip. For thematic reasons, this scene doesn’t make much sense until you’ve seen the film in its entirety. For an abundance of reasons this scene is unparalleled including its cinematography, acting, the story/script development, lighting, historical perspective, and sound aspects.
What makes a film more aesthetically pleasing than others is its adherence to certain cinematographic principles. This scene has a plethora of different camera angles that highlight perspective and authority among the characters. The different angles also help keep the viewers interested. The colors are vibrant. Color variation is played with throughout the film, and here we see a variety of colors (e.g. Ringo’s Hawaiian shirt, Jules’ blue shirt, Yolanda’s purple shirt, and the orange seats in the diner) that add to the brightness of the scene’s intensity and the film’s colorful language. Another principle that is unspoken but contributes to a cinematically “good” scene, is the rule-of-thirds. While we only subconsciously appreciate the adherence to the rule-of- thirds, this scene does as good a job as any at applying this rule.
Moreover, It is no surprise that this film was nominated for its acting. In this last scene, Samuel L. Jackson makes viewers believe that he has changed as a character and as a person. Watch this film and I guarantee you will lose yourself in the realness of the fictitiousness. During this scene, nothing else exists beyond the walls of the diner because the scene is that believable. Where Jackson showed growth, John Travolta showed consistency. It is an intense scene but credit is due to Travolta’s congruent nature. He never sways out of character (and neither does Ringo or Yolanda). It is clear Tarantino had the whip out during rehearsals because this scene is flawless.
I’m not arguing perfection here, but the reason this scene, above others, is so memorable is because of its relevance to the story and plot structure of the film. The film begins in the same diner with Ringo and Yolanda planning to rob the restaurant of all its money. It ends here as well. The brilliance of this film is its intertwining stories. Different characters from different stories never meet-until the end-but their stories are always connected somehow. What is most important is how Samuel L. Jackson’s character can help Ringo through a difficult time. Two people that were never meant to meet. Or maybe they were? This film is about Samuel L. Jackson’s (Jules) transformation as a character in a period of American nihilism. This scene displays just that. And it is beautiful.
Moving on to more technical aspects of the film: lighting and sound. These two I’m clumping into one category because they are similar. Similar in how they can negatively affect a film, that is. If a scene has poor lighting it can be hard to see what is happening. If a scene has poor audio than it can be difficult to hear what is happening. Both of which can detract from the enjoyment of a film. Tarantino uses light specifically as a metaphor (in the briefcase), or to convey emotion in someone’s eyes (shadows on Ringo’s face represent his lack in understanding or knowledge). There is no music playing in this scene. Ambient background noise is all. However, the tone in which characters speak is representative of their mood. Jules talks calmly and slowly to Ringo, trying to guide him towards “the light.”
Lastly, the historical perspective of the film is quite significant in understanding the meaning of the story. This plot is set in late 20th century America where people, in this case, Travolta and Jackson, make sense out of their lives through pop culture icons like a Quarter Pounder. Life is stricken by an inherent belief that life has lost all value and meaning. This film is about violence and redemption at life. Redemption can be earned or given, but nevertheless, it is liberating. It is evident Jules is dealing with issues of self-purpose, which further elucidates why this last scene is the greatest. It is satisfyingly complete, like a good sneeze, or finishing a puzzle, or a tasty Quarter Pounder with cheese. That kind of satisfying.