Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Quentin Tarantino and Philosophy

This post is for Daniel Knickerbocker, Drew Huff, and Ben Burton to post their contributions to the philosophy project. 


  1. Absurdism Mother Fucka Do You See It?

    Quentin Tarantino’s film, “Pulp Fiction” is widely recognized as one of the greatest works of film literature ever created. However, this acknowledgement isn't given just because it has excellent cinematics or ensnaring dialog. No, the critical acclaim that “Pulp Fiction” has accrued is born out of the absurdist way the film unfolds. The absurdist philosophy argues that it is the human condition to constantly search for a meaning in life, however at the same time humans are completely incapable of realizing that meaning. Thus, it declares that mankind maintains an absurd relationship with the world. In other words, the relationship is one of constant contradiction. Moreover, the absurdist movement in art seeks to express things in a contradictory way, in order to distract or draw attention to certain key aspects. The epitome of which can be seen in “Pulp Fiction”.

    Tarantino portrays the absurdist argument in a number of ways throughout the film. The first just so happens to be shown in the very first scene of the film. As two of the main characters, Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega, drive to a hit, the dialog contains none of the subject matter an audience member might expect. Instead, the two hit-men are discussing what the French call a “Royal with cheese”, and how it led to be named so. Furthermore, as they arrive at the location of the hit, they begin talking about the sensuality of a foot massage. Two conversations which having nothing to do with the event taking place, and, in fact, serve to distract the audience completely from the gravity of the situation being portrayed. Where most writers would have filled the aforementioned scenes with intense dialog or maybe even suspenseful silence, Tarantino brought them to life with talk of hamburgers and the etiquette of romance. It is the contradictory relationship between the conversations taking place and the actions taking place that create a sense of absurdity which pervades the opening of the film. The second instance of absurdity is the importance of the briefcase. The briefcase Vincent and Jules are transporting to Mr. Wallace is elevated to a level of supreme importance both when Vincent first opens the case and is utterly dumbfounded by its condense and when Jules relinquishes all of the money in his wallet to Pumpkin but refuses to hand over the case. Yet, throughout the entire film, there is not one mention or hint at what might actually be inside the case, and ultimately, it doesn't matter. The briefcase’s contents are depicted absurdly, as they seem to have infinite value to Jules, Vincent, and Marcellus however they hold absolutely no meaning for the audience. Lastly, in “Pulp Fiction” death has very little meaning, and as it happens life seems to be the complete focus of the film. Death visits the screen twice during the film, once, as the death of unfortunate Marvin, and secondly, as the abrupt end of the Vega family tree. In both cases, death is merely noticed and then passed without a second thought. When poor Marvin is accidentally shot in the head after the hit, Jules and Vincent don’t stop for a moment to mourn the loss of a dear friend. On the contrary, they immediately lament the suspicious, not to mention disgusting, state of the car. Likewise, after Vincent is blown away by macho man Butch Coolidge, Butch simply grabs his freshly toasted Pop-Tart and strolls out the door. This disregard for the importance of death is one of the fundamental principles of Absurdism. The focus of the audience is forced to shift away from the death of characters and instead onto the matters of the living ones, and through that method Tarantino keeps his audience captivated on the scenes to come. Absurdism isn't just a feature of “Pulp Fiction”. Absurdism is what defines the film as one of the greatest of all time.

    1. Watch your language young man... <3

    2. Anonymous4:44 PM CDT


  2. Consequentialism (or the questioning of) in Inglorious Basterds

    (Super-duper-mega-major spoilers, though this is a good movie that has been out a while so you should have seen it already...)

    Inglorious Basterds is not only an amazing piece of historical fiction, riddled with violent retribution and absurd contradiction, but it also provokes philosophical thought. The absurd violence of the movie, especially from the protagonists of the story, makes us question the usually obvious benefits of consequentialist thinking in WWII movies. In the typical model for these movies the protagonists, usually members of the allied forces, are clearly justified in their means used to defeat the obviously evil antagonists, the German forces. This shows that the means, namely killing anyone who stands in the way of the allied advance, is justified by the end of toppling the Nazi regime. Tarantino flips this model on us in order to make us question the long held justification for the violence portrayed. In this movie the Germans are portrayed in a way which displays their humanity. The opening scene of the movie shows Col. Hans Lander (Christoph Waltz) is shown in avery human way explaining and acknowledging all that is wrong about what he is doing in his job as the 'Jew Hunter'. The protagonist, Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), is in contrast shown only explaining that he and his men have a single purpose in the war, 'killing Nazis'. He goes on to explain that they will scalp the Nazis they kill, and we soon see that they carve swastikas in to the foreheads of any Nazis they release to mark them for life by their military service. This sets the precedent for the characters in the rest of the movie and makes way for several instances that make us question weather the means used by the American soldiers are worth the results of accelerating the end of the war.

    In a pub in a basement, the Americans meet with their German contact. This bar is occupied when they arrive by a group of German soldiers who are celebrating one of their own becoming a father. They are seen innocently drinking and playing bar games while enjoying their celebration, but despite their passiveness they are killed in the ensuing firefight when the Americans cover is blown. The killing of these German soldiers, with the emphasis on the orphaning of a newborn, calls in to question weather the and does justify this act of violence against somewhat innocent people. The next major example is the killing of the High Command of the Third Reich. In addition to the Basterds planning to blow up the Leaders of the German Miitary, there are several other people trying to destroy the Nazi leadership. A woman who owns a theater decides to burn it down with the High Command and their guests inside for a propaganda film premiere. Both of these things happen, and both involve killing the high command, but they also both involve killing the many civilians present at the premier. This issue of murdering somewhat innocent people also raises the issue of ends justifying means. These people are mostly innocent in the war, but are slightly guilty insofar as they are associated with the propaganda of the Nazi party closely enough to be invited to the premier. That being said, they certainly are not all evil to the same extent as Hitler, Gobbles, and the rest of the leadership who are the targets, and perhaps should not be butchered alongside them. The last example is at the end of the movie, when Lander bargains with the Allies for his freedom and even asks for rewards, if he allows the plot to kill Hitler to continue as planned. This brings up the issue of allowing a man who committed enough crime to earn himself the moniker 'the Jew Hunter' to walk free in exchange for ending the war which was about to end anyway. All of these cases provide us with evidence to question the consequentialist ideology in relation to WWII.