In my video essay I’ve aimed to first establish what pastiche is and to affirm through textual evidence Tarantino’s regular use of it. My intention is, on top of this, to construct an argument around how he uses these techniques and how this use may be tied to his work thematically in recent years. I have used Kill Bill (2003-4) as an example to establish his interest in pastiche, but the focus of my piece is Inglorious Basterds (2009), Django Unchained (2012), and The Hateful Eight (2015). I argue that there is a unifying thematic interest behind these three films, in their approach to the relation between truth and image.
To explore this I’ve split my video essay into three parts, the introduction, the theme of storytelling, and finally the ‘closed room sequences’. Exploring the theme of storytelling I suggest that both Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds offer similar spins on the revenge formula. By utilising pastiche, and in Inglorious Basterds’ case imbedding issues of propaganda, the conflict in the films emerge from issues of representation. Our protagonists are imbued with the power of myth and legend in the films presentation of them, through the power of their own narrative tropes they challenge the warped representations of their historical oppressors. These are the wishful histories the title refers to, these films that shift historical truth to give violent agency to characters that have been victimised by history. This sense of the malleability of truth is something the third part then picks up.
Relevant to the second part, the third focuses on the shifting ideas of truth in the regularly appearing ‘closed room’ scene in Tarantino’s filmography. There is a focus on shifting levels of identity and performance that appear often in the plots of these final three films. The changing and unstable nature of these spaces, seen in the sudden reveal of a new dangerous or threatened element of the space in The Hateful Eight and Inglorious Basterds, alludes to what remains distinctive in these scenes, the unstable and unreliable nature of images and the idea of ‘truth’.
The Hateful Eight relies on uncertainty and mystery, and through this and other factors, I argue, it comes to reflect tellingly on its two predecessors. The motif of the Lincoln letter as an act of wishful history is the most overt example of this. Reflecting on the image I have chosen to start and end my video essay with, the snow covered Klu Klux Klan shaped crucifix. I suggest in my essay that the idea of a fluid symbol secures these issues of interpretation and critical thinking as a Tarantino staple.
Structurally my intention with this bookending image was to round my argument off efficiently. This repeated image would allow for all ideas gestured towards in the body of the piece to be informed by and to help inform this central intriguing picture. My introduction section was an attempt to engage with the platform that this kind criticism operates best on, using online content to establish the broad idea of borrowed and appropriated content. I was also interested in capturing the manic and disorientating experience of much of the internet, the mass of deferred signifiers and referential images, something that I had to cut back on when considering the time limit of my essay.
This idea though of social media content and new forms of bite sized entertainment as a mass form of pastiche seemed a viable thing to engage with considering the online address and appropriated style of the video essay.
This alludes to my attempts to give my video essay the texture of film, in so much as I cut away to a projector at regular intervals in the essay, and often blend film images with the projector image. This was to ensure that the viewer was engaged with the idea they are watching appropriated content, exploring a filmmaker who emphasises surface above all else. This skin fits thematically for the argument the video follows. When in the essay I show Django standing in front of the exploding plantation I blend this with the projector image. In doing this I attempt to engage, and ensure that viewers are engaged, with these characters just as the film is engaged with them, as nothing more than characters. This level of superficial representation is one that I felt I needed to maintain to follow the argument I established, that uses pastiche as a bedrock on which my thematic readings are based. In this instance the image of the projector when linked to the explosion and the previous clip of Gone with the Wind encourages the interpretation that Tarantino is critical of these sources.
This kind of editing was something I aimed to thread throughout my video essay. When the essay fades from the Nazi cinema to the British war office, the desired effect was to connect the space arrangement of the two without explicit statement. This kind of possibility was a liberating factor in the construction of my argument. I have attempted to use blending techniques and visual montage to add to the overall direction of my essay.
Altogether the intension of this piece was to construct an argument on the development of the use of pastiche in the work of Quentin Tarantino, whilst simultaneously attempting to communicate the experience of appropriated content and the post-modern condition in a broad sense.