Lawrence Bender and Quentin Tarantino Toy with Structure in Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction will go down as the main breakout film for Quentin Tarantino. Reservoir Dogs lauded his debut, but Pulp Fiction mainly established him as a superstar in the motion picture industry. The award-winning and award-nominated producer Lawrence Bender should receive tremendous credit for his role in bringing Pulp Fiction to the screen as well. Pulp Fiction certainly was not an easy movie to put together.

Probably the most striking aspect of Pulp Fiction would be the screenplay structure. Unlike a traditional narrative, the motion picture does not follow a linear progression of narrative events. Rather than employ a traditional “well-made play type of structure,” Pulp Fiction goes in a more experimental direction. The events transpiring in the movie appear out of sequence. Amazingly, the plot remains clear to follow.

Lawrence Bender deserves acknowledgment for his producer duties on this film. Overseeing a project that required such complicated editing was no easy task. How was he able to do it? Bender does have a background in dance. Perhaps his work on more theatrical live productions helped him gain the experience necessary for such an experimental film.

Pulp Fiction does someone “cheat” the non-linear structure of the screenplay by turning the narrative into an anthology film. While there is a single narrative to follow throughout, the main storyline features several self-contained stories within that main plot. And then there are even tangents to the film the go off into a seemingly directionless manner. Stunningly, Tarantino is able to tie everything together to create a coherent film. The support of Lawrence Bender as producer definitely help the end result.

Lawrence Bender would go on to work with Quentin Tarantino several more times. The strange nonlinear anthology method would be revisited by the two again. The Kill Bill films reflect probably the most successful example of repeating Pulp Fiction’s concept.

A cynical assessment suggests that Pulp Fiction’s violence contributed to its success. Essentially, audiences looked past the strange narrative set up because fight scenes and gunplay would draw their attention back. That assessment really isn’t correct. Without the intriguing story, structure, and humor, Pulp Fiction wouldn’t have succeeded to the degree it did.

Bender and Tarantino can lay claim to winning a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Pulp Fiction. The unique nature of the film’s structure certainly contributed to the honors.