I saw Pulp Fiction for the first time recently and I liked it a lot (though I prefer Inglourious Basterds). Something that I love about Tarantino from the movies of his that I’ve seen so far (Pulp Fiction, Basterds, Reservoir Dogs) is the dialogue. Trantino does a great job at writing believable conversations is a genius when it comes to his writing. As someone who enjoys writing screenplays, I find Tarantino’s writing to be one of the best I’ve seen in films.
But I digress.
I saw Pulp Fiction and there are two or three parts in the film where the character Jules, played by Samuel L. Jackson, quotes a verse from the Bible, Ezekiel 25:17. I really didn’t think much of it until one day I decided that I wanted to read that verse in the Bible. So I looked in my Bible and I found that it was a completely different verse. This is what is in the movie:
Well there’s this passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”
This is what Ezekiel 25:17 really says, “And I will execute great vengeance upon them, rebuking them in fury: and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.” (DRB)
As a professional working in the media, and who just completed helping a young screenwriter, I think Tarantino’s work is awful. The subject matter is awful. The characters are awful. And the premise for each movie you mentioned, awful.
Screenwriting is not just about creating flicks, but about getting messages across to the audience. I would not recommend his work to any fellow Catholic.
I haven’t checked those translations, but I have read online that the passage from the movie is his own embellishment of other Bible verses into one and that the only resemblance this has to that actual Ezekiel 25:17 is the ending. I also read that he modeled the format after the KJV.
Speaking of Pulp Fiction, I always get a kick out of the fact that Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump both came out in 1994 and critics debated over which of them was the greater film and would become considered a classic. And now today we know that the classic film from 1994 was actually a movie that didn’t even do that well at the box office and got little hype . . . The Shawshank Redemption. Irony
I completely agree! I have seen plenty of wonderful, action-filled, thrilling movies that have none of those things, but today people think a movie HAS to have the f-word thrown around at least a dozen times per minute. I really don’t understand it. There is just no need for all of that terrible language and violence. It is so far over the top is is unbelievable. I generally try to avoid movies like that, but it’s getting harder and harder. Even some PG and especially PG-13 movies cross the decency line now.
I was kinda being funny since they are both dynamic translations. The message being MUCH more so and ridiculously so. But trying to follow along at Mass with a KJV, RSV, or Douay-Rheims is kind of funny and I stopped doing it because it is frustrating all of the alibiing the NAB does.
I found this explanation online as to the moral of the film and the meaning the Bible verse plays in the film:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
The point is that at any given time, any man could be the shepherd, the weak or the tyranny of evil men. At different points in the movie, all the characters trade roles. marcellus wallace is tyranny when he’s going after Butch and during the Mia story, but he’s the weak in the pawn shop. after Butch frees him, he becomes the shepherd by letting Butch go free and by exacting some well-deserved justice on the rapists.
Vincent Vega is the shepherd in the Mia story, but he’s the tyranny in the Butch story.
Jules is the shepherd at the end but he’s certainly the tyranny when he kills “flock of seagulls”.
The couple in the diner are the tyranny at the beginning but the weak by the end.
Stories that are pulp fiction deal in stereotypes: the good guy, the bad guy, the femme fatale, etc. But what the movie is saying is that nobody exists in only one of these roles. All of us switch hats depending on the situation.
It may seem like it, but none of the stories are random. They are very specifically chosen to make the point.
Quentin Tarantino is (except for maybe Martin Scorcese) one of the most film-literate directors out there. That might not mean anything to Ed, but if you can’t “speak” the language of the film, you have no business writing a screenplay. In “Inglorious Bastards” alone, QT covered everything from “The Searchers” (the John Ford/John Wayne classic) to Truffaut’s “The Last Metro” to “Cat People” (both versions) to Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch.” There are generations of filmgoers who might not have never heard of Goddard if it weren’t for him, or the French film “Au Revoirs, Les Enfants,” whose mispronunciation gave us the title of Reservoir Dogs.
Pulp Fiction, in its linear, non-chronological order, is a redeeming story of the Prodigal Son. That’s unavoidable, even if you think the movie’s trash.
My taking art classes in college taught me one thing: I should have taken Industrial Design. After taking Art Appreciation, I realized I had just taken Art Indoctrination. I was given a reeducation by individuals skilled in brainwashing. I was told, with great drama, that a piece of plexiglas with metal rods sticking out of it was actually a man’s life! After viewing a spiral of duct tape on the floor of an art museum, I noticed a small, white card next to it: Please do not remove. This is art. Then the illusion was broken.
Instead of joining the Art Cult, I began to observe it in action. Its priests were art critics, its places of worship were art galleries. I met with a local group of fine artists who also dressed in a cohesive, strictly classified way. I heard speeches encouraging the tribe to do something. Only later did I learn the meaning of the ritual.
Oh, I can speak the language alright. The problem is I’d rather be like the cleaning lady at the art museum who needed that little card to tell her that the duct tape was somehow important and should not be scraped off the floor.
I am privileged to have been involved in world building, creating environments and characters. Thanks to the direction of some very skilled and talented individuals, I have seen work at a level of quality that I thought had ceased being done.
I object to what Mr. Tarantino has done because his work is reflective of a template that degrades entertainment at all levels, including comic books, animation, printed fiction, TV programs and movies: the rise of the Dysfunctionals. The sordid, the lurid, the graphic. Like Picasso who declared: “I have come to destroy beauty.”
In the 1960s, so-called art houses showed “art films.” Yeah. Art. J.D. films from the 1950s were avoided for a reason.
After reading art reviews, I began to realize that the writing was more important than the art. A recent review of a performance by some important musicians described the sensation of experiencing their work as ‘telepathic.’ Pleeeease. We’re all on planet earth and we have bills to pay just like we had last month.
The chosen language of film today, for the most part, reflects not just pushing the envelope, but tearing it to shreds. There are some bright spots. It appears those never go away entirely. Great art, in my view, revolves around positive and functional themes, even if they portray great suffering. When a message is buried under layer after layer of the vulgar, the lurid, and the graphic, it becomes voyuerism. It becomes less than what it could be.
From the Internet Move Database entry for Pulp Fiction:
*]The passage from the Bible that Jules has memorized was mostly made up by Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson. The only part that’s similar to what the Bible says is the part where he says, “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee.” However, the parts about the righteous man and the shepherd are not real.
*]The Ezekiel bible quote was taken from any early draft of From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). Harvey Keitel’s character was supposed to say it; while walking backwards down the hallway facing the vampires.
*]During an interview Quentin Tarantino admitted that Jules’ Samuel L. Jackson bible quote of Ezekiel 25:17 was something he remembered from the Sonny Chiba movie Karate Kiba (1976) aka The Bodyguard. He said he never read it in the bible, and it is taken almost word for word from that film. Tarantino has always been a Chiba fan and has included references to him in True Romance (1993) and a cameo by Chiba in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).
Just going out on a limb here, but do you recognize the (very famous) painting that’s on the cover of Patrick Coffin’s book advertised on CA bookstore section at the top right of this web page? If you were successfully ‘reeducated,’ then you probably know the artist and painting. Maybe, maybe not, but gotta know…
Just as a response to the original question. I saw somewhere that, yes, Quentin re-wrote the passage of the Bible to fit the film. He took a few passages and patched them together mostly from Ezekiel. So he titled the movie “Pulp Fiction” to emphasis it was fiction for whatever its worth.
I really appreciated its theme of brokenness and redemption. It is almost like an Old Testament movie that closed with a New Testament theme.