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#008. Fractured Storylines

Occasionally a movie comes along that requires a second viewing. Occasionally, this is due to a fractured storyline. When the plot unfolds in a non-linear or non-forward fashion, there are many details that can be missed the first time the film is seen. With so many movies pandering to the thoughtless, it is refreshing to see some films that require the audience to pay attention. This week’s movies require the audience to piece the story together, even if it takes a few views to do so.

Pulp Fiction
Year: 1994
Rating: R
Length: 154 minutes / 2.56 hours

I feel that one of the strengths of a good movie is a solid understanding of continuity and connections. It’s very simple, very Newtonian: cause and effect. Nothing happens in a vacuum, but instead each action affects many other aspects of the film in ways that the characters don’t quite understand, but the audience is given full privy to. And yet, each piece of plot gives a depth to the characters that perhaps wasn’t understood at first glance. This is what makes re-watching films like Pulp Fiction enjoyable. When you can see that a certain character acts a certain way early on in the film because of something that was revealed later as a semi-flashback, it almost makes it so you’re watching a whole new film.

Pulp Fiction starts out with a conversation about robberies and gets interrupted to tell the story of two hitmen (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson) who were sent by Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) to pick up a mysterious briefcase. We then get to see Vincent (Travolta) take Mrs. Marsellus Wallace (Uma Thurman) out on a date. From the previous section of plot, we can see why Vincent is a little bit nervous about this, especially when Mrs. Wallace gets into trouble. We then move on to a story involving a boxer (Bruce Willis) and a gold watch. It’s through this storyline that we finally meet Marsellus Wallace, albeit not in any measure of pleasant circumstances. Just when you think you’ve figured out the flow of Pulp Fiction‘s plot, it jumps back to the end of the hitmen saga, when Jules (Jackson) comes to the realization that they were saved by a miracle. Of course, another act of God gets them in trouble, and eventually the audience finds themselves back in the diner that the whole film started with. Full circle. The diner scenes act as a set of bookends that ties the three plots together and makes one wonder what they missed on a first glance.

Year: 2000
Rating: R
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours

While Christopher Nolan is certainly a big name director after the successes of Inception and his reboot of the Batman franchise, his first few films tended to be very psychological. In fact, his very first film, Following, was a black and white shattered plot that becomes pieced together as the movie progresses. Memento took that idea and gave it more of a linear flow. The first time I watched Memento, my mind was blown. I almost had to sit down and watch it again, because now I knew what I was looking for in the strange progression of plot.

Memento tells the story of Leonard (Guy Pearce) who suffers from short term memory loss and is searching for his wife’s killer. In order to keep two storylines separate, one is presented in black and white, while the other remains in color. SPOILER ALERT: The black and white segments progress a forward plot where the segments in color give a plot told in reverse. Therefore, when the movie starts, the audience gets a view of both the beginning and ending of the plot and watch as it progresses toward a climactic middle. The method of breaking up the storylines, both forward and in reverse, gives a greater understanding of the main character’s memory loss condition, as the audience has seen what will happen, and not what has happened.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 non-traditional plot flows


7 responses to “#008. Fractured Storylines

  1. Pulp Fiction is an awesome film. I still remember vividly seeing it on the big screen shortly after it opened. I have been a fan of Tarantino ever since. Yeah I know I was late to the game and did not see Reservoir Dogs when it first came out.

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