Narrative and Genre Features in the Opening Sequence of Pulp Fiction
A narrative is the story itself and generic features are elements
expected to be contained within a certain category of film.
Pulp Fiction is labeled as a gangster film; however gangster films
follow very precise generic elements such a death, contraband’s,
violence, wealth and strong family loyalties.
Pulp Fiction doe follow the above mentioned elements but the locations
of the action are unorthodox. Screen gangster activities tend to take
place in sophisticated up market places as gangsters tend to be
perceived as sophisticated and highly respected and feared individuals
in society. This is a generic convention which is usually followed
strictly; however the action in Pulp Fiction takes place in everyday
places in broad daylight.
Gangster films also tend to follow the rise and fall structure, where
the main character goes from rages to riches and back to rags again or
ends up dead. This is a form of Aristotelian narrative. Pulp Fiction
has a circular narrative; it begins and ends in the same scene,
opposed to an Aristotelian narrative. However Pulp Fiction contains
three smaller Aristotelian narratives within its main story.
In the opening sequence of Pulp Fiction we see two characters dressed
casually. Therefore immediately see that Pulp Fiction is subverting
generic conventions and traditions because traditionally screen
gangsters wear well-fitted smart suits. There is also a female
gangster. This is almost unheard of except for in ‘Bonnie and Clyde’.
The second of the two opening characters is an English man. This is
also a subversion of conventions. Theses two characters are petty
criminals and not big time gangsters. Screen gangsters are usually
extremely confident before they commit their crime. However these two
sit and weigh up the pro’s and con’s before they engage in the
activity. The male says
‘…. no-body ever robs restaurants’
This illustrates they are breaking conventions.
In a traditional narrative we expect to see characters that have
prominent roles in the film to be in the opening sequence; also you’d
expect the story contained in the opening sequence to be followed up.
This is not the case in Pulp Fiction. We leave the opening scene in a
moment of action. Therefore we are set up with the expectation of what
happens next? In a traditional linear narrative this is a question
which is likely to be answered. However in Pulp Fiction the next scene
contains different characters and a different plot. We do not return
to the opening story till the end of the film.
The next scene contains the opening credits. The music is upbeat and
compliments the emotional intensity of the two thieves’ situation. The
music also suggests we are still with the two thieves’ story.