J. B. Priestley, putting into practice arcane theories about the simultaneity of past, present, and future, juggled time frames in his theatre work in the nineteen-thirties and forties. Harold Pinter, in “Betrayal,” his 1978 play about a love affair gone sour, ran time backward, from the bitter present to the happy past. But the current cycle of disordered narratives—in movies, at any rate—began with “Pulp Fiction,” Quentin Tarantino’s malevolently funny pop masterwork from 1994. In the movie, which is made up of three stories, John Travolta goes to the bathroom four times. In the first story, Travolta, a lowlife enforcer, has been given the job of looking after Uma Thurman, the wife of a Los Angeles crime boss. At the boss’s house, Travolta absents himself for a minute and, when he returns, discovers Thurman almost dead, her eyes rolling back into her head from the heroin he bought earlier that day. In the second story, he sits down to read a novel on the toilet in the apartment of Bruce Willis, a washed-up fighter he has been sent to kill. But Willis quietly enters the apartment, picks up the gun that Travolta has left on the kitchen counter, and, when Travolta steps out of the bathroom, blows him away. In the third story, Travolta, bloodied after accidentally killing a young man in the back seat of a car, goes to wash up with his equally blood-soaked partner, Samuel L. Jackson, and the two get into a preposterous argument over the appropriateness of getting the towels dirty.
Travolta is still alive, and arguing over towels, because the stories, despite some overlap, are not in sequence, and no attempt has been made to lock them into a unified, flowing progression in the viewer’s head by using flashbacks, flash-forwards, parallel cutting among ongoing narratives, or any other means. The fourth trip? Travolta, toting the novel again, goes to the bathroom in a coffee shop, only to stumble out into a robbery in progress. A young couple is running around, screaming curses and waving guns—the same couple that we saw in the same coffee shop at the beginning of the movie. That stickup is a kind of ring encircling “Pulp Fiction”; what it encircles, though, is not a stable planet but three semi-independent narrative platforms, each one spinning on a magician’s stick.
A sardonic view of chaos, “Pulp Fiction” suggests that contingency and chance rule a good part of our behavior. A trip to the bathroom, normally a quiet moment in anyone’s life, becomes an absurdist entry wedge into metaphysical disharmony. Time is out of joint in “Pulp Fiction.” It doesn’t really advance, which means that planning for future action is meaningless. By editing the movie this way, Tarantino was also, I believe, getting at something inherent in all moviemaking. It’s commonly said that the immediacy of film is so powerful that what’s onscreen always feels like the present, even if the scene is set in the past. By scrambling the time sequence, Tarantino explicitly created an impression of the eternal present, the sense that what is happening was always happening, will always be happening.
Mig langar að sjá Pulp Fiction aftur.
Flottar myndir af neðanjarðarlestarkerfum víða um heim.