AUTEUR Quentin Tarantino is a celebrated director with a distinct style of exploitative violence, rich dialogue and homages to several films.
Although all of his films break the strict conventions of genre, the combined five hour plus epic of Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2 offer distinct genre-precise chapters. These chapters add to the grand scope of the film, whilst also making the long narrative easily consumed and understood by the audience.
Through the prologue of the first film during David Caradine’s monologue as the titular Bill, Tarantino introduces us to the Bride, and due to the disturbing close up of her introduction and Bill’s tender wipe of her face with his handkerchief, it is conveyed that the characters’ relationship is dysfunctional yet personal.
The titular Bill and his Deadly Viper Assassination Squad are responsible for the death of nine people in the chapel, including the brutalization of the Bride and the loss of her child. The four members of the squad are presented in a low angle to present them as powerful and strong. Additionally, their black costumes could almost allude to funeral attire, as the wedding has turned into a massacre. Also, while they are dressed in black, the Bride is dressed in white, establishing a contrast between the two sides.
Following this, in Chapter 1: 2, Tarantino delivers an exploitation film, with extreme violence and emphasised folly sound (sound effects) to add a sense of exploitative cliché to the sequence. His use of an alarm leitmotif taken from Death Rides a Horse works not only as a homage, but allows audience familiarity to recognise this film is based on revenge.
Additionally, through the beginning of part one, with what is chronologically the end of the first half, Tarantino establishes a fragmented narrative, which allows us as an audience to identify and sympathize with Vivica A. Fox’s character Vernita Green, as we too are disoriented and thrown into a world of sudden violence.
It is from this that Tarantino is able to create a violent yet entertaining sequence, but also raise the notion that vengeance is a fatal force that leads to nothing but death, destruction and misery. Furthermore, in killing Vernita Green, the Bride has destroyed the life of Green’s four-year-old daughter, therefore the Bride’s “kill list” has tainted pure innocence- that of a child’s.
Furthermore, upon the events of Chapter 2: The Blood Splattered Bride, the director adds context to the events of the film. The first part of the chapter focuses on the Bride’s origin and the chapel massacre with a spaghetti western vibe. However, the second half is almost akin to B-movie horror, with the distorted grain on the film as the Bride is covered in blood smashing Buck’s head into a door creating an eerie effect.
The director has spoken about this sequence, stating it is a homage to the Australian exploitation film (Ozploitation) Patrick from 1978. However, Quentin Tarantino wanted Uma Thurman to have her eyes open during her character’s coma because it was a better homage, yet Thurman refused to keep a slight sense of realism to the scene.
Moreover, whilst the bride rests in a coma, Daryl Hannah’s character is introduced during an assassination attempt. Her introduction to the narrative, wearing a white coat, constructs the character well. This is because her coat with black buttons and straps are actually drawn on, which initiates the notion that she is synthetic.
This is further expanded upon her initiation into the hospital masquerading as a nurse, and the ways in which her lies cause the demise of two characters later on in the narrative.
I have vermin to killThe Bride
In Chapter 3: The Origin of O-Ren, Tarantino decides to outsource the origin from live action to Japanese animation – anime, as its commonly referred to. This allows him to not only have absurd amounts of blood and gore, but establishes the origin of the Japanese-Chinese “army brat”: O-Ren.
Although it could easily be taken as a Japanese-stylised sequence for a Japanese character, the chapter devotes time in establishing and constructing the antagonist as a formidable foe, as well as that she is the leader of the Yakuza, depicting she essentially has a small army at her disposal.
Whilst O-Ren as an adult is a murdering ruler of Japan’s underworld, being exposed to murder at a young age forced her into a life of revenge to cause murder, pain and misery. Ultimately, Tarantino’s recurring slander of revenge allows a seemingly mindless brutal violent film to have a true message and goal.
When fortune smiles on something as evil and ugly as revenge, it seems proof like no other that not only does God exist, you’re doing his willHattori Hanzo
In the penultimate chapter of the first film, Chapter 4: The Man from Okinawa sees the Bride travel to Japan with an almost Mexican non-diegetic score with a map travel montage similar to the montages of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films.
The Bride arrives there to meet Hattori Hanzo, a legendary swordsmith who crafted the sword of Bill. At first, the Bride pretends she is bad at speaking Japanese, before revealing she is actually quite fluent. It is because of this that we as an audience see subtitles depicting what Hanzo is yelling out to his co-worker, as the Bride can understand what they are saying too.
Upon discovering the Bride has “vermin to kill” and needs a new sword to perform the titular task, Hanzo accepts responsibility for making Bill’s sword. This is significant as thematically the sequence ties into the film’s other ideas of responsibility and regret.
Furthermore, the chapter adds to the grand scope of the film, as the Bride is now armed and ready to gain vengeance.
The final chapter of volume one, Chapter Five: Showdown at House of Blue Leaves is the climax of the first film. The Bride’s yellow motorcycle suit is a clear homage to Bruce Lee’s jumpsuit in Game of Death. Whilst a homage, the yellow of the suit could also illustrate the notion that revenge is a cowardly and petty act, or that in leaving the Bride to die instead of killing her, Bill and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad’s pusillanimous decision has created the vengeful woman responsible for their downfall.
Additionally, the battle between the Bride and the Crazy 88 reverts from colour to black and white. The reason for this is that to get the film down to an R-18 rating, the sequence had to be black and white to lull the violence down. However, it could be artistically interpreted that the sequence lacks colour because it is a cinematic convention of life, which is entirely devoid in the brutal sequence of death and mutilation.
The non-diegetic score once more applies an exploitative atmosphere to the scene. Once the carnage subsides, by telling a young Crazy 88 member to “go home to [his] mother”, Tarantino not only adds a comedic line after several minutes of blood and gore, but also presents the Bride as fierce yet maternal.
Ultimately, the Bride is a mother enraged for losing her child at the hands of Bill and his assassination squad. This sense of loss is also expressed in her demand that any body parts she has removed in the battle “belongs” to her, as the Bride has lost so much in her life due to Bill.
Expanding upon that, Bill’s monologue at the epilogue of the film in which he describes his murder attempt of Beatrix Kiddo as himself “at my most masochistic”, insinuating he has lost a sense of himself in performing the act. Moreover, the Bride’s battles against O’Ren’s bodyguards before facing off with her. Their fight, again with a non-diegetic score of exploitation, adds a sense of stylised absurdism to the battle. Signified with an extreme close up of pouring water with the two characters in the background, the director reinforces the notion that although the fight between the two is the climax of the film, it is seemingly unimportant, as not only do we know she survives to battle Vernita Green at the chronological start of the film, O-Ren is still not as important as the main antagonist, Bill.
Upon the defeat of her enemy, the Bride is truly presented as a strong female character that has arisen from her coma, trained, gained the “finest” sword from a legendary swordsmith, destroyed an army of the Japanese underworld and overcome two foes, cementing her as strong, established and prepared to “kill Bill” in the next film.
Whilst an entertaining and violent film, Quentin Tarantino’s fourth directed film, Kill Bill: Vol 1 delivers a narrative that criticises revenge in an attempt to emphasise the importance of regret, learning from one’s mistakes, and ultimately forgiveness. It is the “blood-splattered Bride[‘s]” lack of forgiveness in regards to Vernita Green’s apology in the first chapter of the film that establishes this, as true acts of murder and vengeance have consequences, and can destroy us both physically and morally.
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