For those people that know films, they know that Quinten Tarantino has a way of telling a story that is esoteric in nature. One of his early works, Pulp Fiction, takes the cake on this subject matter. It is not only the ensemble cast that he uses or the story that he tells, it’s also the manner in which he tells the story. It’s no wonder that the editor Sally Menke was nominated for Best Film Editing during the 1995 Academy Awards.
In a movie where the story is farfetched and so out there that it demands multiple viewings, an audience requires some form of visual cohesion so as to follow the storyline. Pulp Fiction follows multiple different storylines happening at different aspects on the timeline of the films. Editor Sally Menke jumps that timeline multiple times and relies on the footage provided to make sense of it all. That’s where visual cues come into place. Any movie can follow a script start to finish and follow a set timeline of events. Certain films will tell the story backwards of from the middle. Pulp Fiction jumps the timeline throughout the film.
Visual clues play a huge factor when it comes to editing a film like Pulp Fiction where timeline goes out the window. When the film starts, Travolta and Jackson are wearing the clothes in the bottom image. When the film “officially” starts, they are wearing matching black suits. Halfway through the film, they are wearing casual t-shirts again. Towards the end, Travolta is seen existing the bathroom in a suit, where he gets gunned down and killed. And back at the end of the film, they two men are wearing casual t-shirts in a diner. Even reading that causes a level of confusion. How does a guy get killed in a suit towards the end of the film but end up alive in a diner wearing a t-shirt at the very end of the film?
This is where the timeline comes into play. On paper, it’s very confusing. On screen, this kind of timeline jumping can also be very confusing but it takes a great editor and few visual clues to inform the audience that a time lapse or flash back has occurred. This is one of the many reason why Pulp Fiction is such a great film to portray proper editing techniques. Sally Menke uses very traditional forms of editing to tell an esoteric story on what can arguably be the most confusing timeline every created by a filmmaker.