Quentin Tarantino is known for his amazing films but also his gratuitous and violent scenes. The excessive bloodshed seen in his films compliments other filmmaking styles like Japanese cinema. Tarantino’s style of filmmaking adds realism and personality to his story, making the audience pause and absorb what is happening on screen. The shock factor is used to stun the audience and create a reaction. Violence creates excitement but can make audiences queasy, which is a reason Tarantino incorporates so much of it in his films. Kill Bill (2003), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Django Unchained (2013) and perfect examples of gratuitous violence used in order to create an unnerving impact on spectators.
In Reservoir Dogs (1992), there is a scene where three men occupy a warehouse, and one is nearly dead. The victim is tied to a chair in what seems to be a torture/interrogation scene in an environment where it is clear there is no escape. Tarantino pulls off this scene by creating a lot of suspense throughout. The music played makes you feel like dancing and evokes a happy feeling in audiences. This creates a contradictory impulse and that sense of happiness is being crossed with the feeling of dread, as a man is being tortured with a razor. The music lightens the tone of the scene, so the audience doesn’t expect the torture to be severe, but it does escalate very quickly, and the camera looks away from the action, protecting the audience from the graphic violence they are about to see. The safety of the shot is later violated as the man moves into the frame holding a severed ear. After this scene, the audience has no idea what could happen next, as what they initially thought was going to be a light interrogation scene, turned out to be a graphic torture scene. Tarantino gives the audience some temporary relief in a single shot by following the interrogator outside the warehouse and into the street, giving spectators a break from the intense atmosphere and even the happy song that was being played. The audience now hears everyday sounds such as birds chirping and street noises, returning to a sense of normality again, releasing tension from the previous scene. The audience is given time to process what happened inside the warehouse, but then we see the man approach the back of his car and pull out a can of gasoline. Instantly it is known where this scene will go but it is done so well that spectators are locked in the same shot as the camera continues to follow the man into the warehouse and as soon as he enters the happy and jovial music resumes. This song is now intrinsically linked with extreme violence and the effect created in audiences is that like no other. The scene ends in a blaze of gunfire as the man who is about to ignite the lighter and set his victim on fire gets shot by the third man the audience initially presumed as dead. This is an strong example of Quintin Tarantino’s bizarre and unique style of filmmaking and how it has an effect on audiences through suspense and violence.
ALLIANCE ATLANTIS (FIRM), et al. (2004). Kill Bill. [United States], Alliance Atlantis.
Tarantino, Q., et al. (2006). Reservoir dogs. Santa Monica, Calif, Lionsgate.
Tarantino, Q., et al. (2002). Pulp fiction. Miramax Home Entertainment.
Tarantino, Q., Dicaprio, L., Jackson, S. L., Foxx, J., Washington, K., Waltz, C., & Goggins, W. (2013). Django Unchained. [Canada], [Distributed by] Entertainment One.