Narrative analysis of Kill Bill: Vol .
1 Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is directed by QuintenTarantino (2003). Being Tarantino’s 4th film subsequently after Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Jackie Brown (1997). Kill Bill: Vol.1 was also succeeded by a sequel; Kill Bill: Vol 2 (2004),however I intend to primarily focus on the first Kill Bill and analyse thenarrative structure and argue that the non-linear narrative style and ensuredresolution still holds entertainment value. Theopening sequence opens with the quote “Revenge is a dish best served cold” itremains black and white, close up to the blood covered Bride (Uma Thurman)which instantly aligns us to the protagonist as we are sympathetic for hersuffering and understand her motivation of revenge as shown in Figure 1.
Thisbecomes the driving force of the narrative as well as a constant reminder thatshe won’t be stopped until she kills Bill. Thenext scene titled “Chapter One” portrayed by misleading lighting suggests abetter time for the Bride, before the attempt on her life contrasting against theblack and white filter of the previous scene. However,we are deceived by Tarantino who has given us a glimpse to the events after theending of the film, confirming that the Bride will survive after the events ofthe film. This is signified byticking Copperhead AKA Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) off the listand having previously killed Cottonmouth AKA O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu).
When thedoor opens and we see the home owner, the camera zooms into an extreme close upof the Brides eyes and super-imposed with the memory of her attempted murder (Fig2). The tight framing of her eyes would indicate the reality of the time andspace of events as being after the wedding attack, and not before. Ultimately Kill Bill is a two-partRevenge saga. Tarantino uses pastiches notably from Hong Kong cinema and…however Tarantino radically transforms the core revenge narrative.Specifically, in Kill Bill, theprotagonist ability to win against all odds is reversed the pattern where therevenger dies as a consequence of her vendetta. The Febula exists separate tothe Syuzhet across the two films as the use of flashbacks influence our understandingof events and makes us as the audience reflect on events and characters.
Kill Bill also remains abstract anddistorted to Tzvetan Todorov’s 3 act structure. The equilibrium at thebeginning of the plot could be considered to be the wedding rehearsal whichisn’t shown until the second film. A flashback to an equilibrium where theBride is ready to be united with her husband and be happy. However as seen inthe very first shot, the disequilibrium of her becoming a murder victim and hertransformation into a victorious revenger which is also not a result in the endof the first film but the second. Tarantino also offers a Modular narrative (Cameron, 2008). The episodicnarrative of Kill Bill as the film isdivided into chapters (example shown in Fig 3) reminiscent to the chapters in abook which separates events and assists in pacing the story, this would suggestthat Tarantino wants to palpitate the idea that he is trying to tell a story. Theuse of split screen in Kill Bill is astylistic choice by Tarantino that also makes his work unique.
The scene where the Bride is in hospital asshown in Figure 4 as an assassin later known as Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah)attempts to poison her using lethal injection. The juxtaposition between thetwo shots side by side offers a non-verbalised insight into who is the intendedvictim and who is the killer is. This is suggested by the ominous whistling byElle Driver which originated from TwistedNerve (1968) which along with her infiltrating nurse costume. According to Cameron in his 2008 book on Modular narratives; I’d agreewhen he suggests that films such as KillBill that use modular narratives “aggressively foreground the relationshipbetween time and narrative making temporal codes” and this is important to an audience’spleasure. Using Film theorist Gerard Genette (1980) as another way of analysingKill Bill, there are 3 ways of analysing narrative in film. The first being thefibula, the story can be summarised in being fantasy revenge where the Bridehas been murdered by her former lover and boss Bill. Yet she survives and goeson a revenging rampage to kill the DeadlyViper Assassination Squad including Bill.
Comparing this to the narrativediscourse or the plot. The order of events isn’t chronological and interlacetogether with the second film for the full narrative. The frequency of theseflashbacks is only present when the Bride chooses to recollect a memory or tellthe audience a story. That links into the idea that the Bride is telling thestory as a narrator, having a strong influence on the story itself and evenhaving the ability to bleep her name out when speaking to Vivian Greensdaughter. The “Hand of the Narrator” used by Film theorist Tom Gunning (2004)could also be used to look for the “marks of enunciation”.
There are 3 mainmarks. The first being pro filmic. Meaning anything in front of the camera. Iwould argue that the hiding the identity of Bill until the second film adds tohis threat to our protagonist and projects the idea that he is unreachable.
Theshooting of Kill Bill suggests thatthe bride is portrayed as a victim of her own murder, Tarantino lights thebride flatteringly and can be seen to show his fondness for the actor which wasno secret. The editing such as using the split screen and the super- impositionof the Bride’s murderers further suggests that the bride is in a Hong Kongaction movie where this kind of editing is conventional. Representation KillBill stars Uma Thurman as “The Bride” in revenge for her old Boss formerlover Bill (David Carradine) who attempted to assassinate her.
Uma Thurman’scharacter completely undermines all the stereotypes of women. To summarisearticle called “women and news” it said that Some of the violence committedagainst the women characters has an unnervingly voyeuristic feel to it. itfurther suggests it may be a depiction of his own sexual fantasies. Furtherarguing that Tarantino is sexist, the LA Times suggests that, “women in Tarantino films are shown wearingsexually revealing clothing, and further that Tarantino would be anti-feminist. However, I would argue forTarantino being a feminist film maker. It has been reported that Tarantinohalted production on Kill Billbecause Uma Thurman was recovering from a pregnancy. He also came up with theidea for Kill Bill whilst workingwith Thurman on Pulp Fiction and was insistentthat he filmed with only Thurman as the lead. Quinten was raised by his motheralone, which could be a link to the way he views women.
In the world of Kill Bill, it isclearly not like our own, it portrays women as being the dominant sex, beingthe ones who do all the killing and ultimately defeating the oppressive,overshadowing male figure. Further suggesting that Tarantino is a feminist filmmaker would be in an interview he embraces the title the online community hasgiven him and particularly makes the example of the Brides hero journey and herconflict with so called “warrior women” and “true bitter warriors” and suggestshe drew inspiration from Hong Kong cinema and Japanese movies which have”pop-culture heroes” who are similarly on vengeance journeys. Tarantino alsoaccompanies his influence on cinema as suggesting after Kill Bill there was a”plethora” of female centralised films. Kill Bill reproduces the “orientalist” images of Japanese peopleyet set some new sets of stereotypes. The men are seen as fantastical, sadistickillers, and masters of samurai wisdom as seen by the “Crazy 88”. While thewomen have a mysterious exotic allure as shown by O-Ren Ishii and her bodyguardGogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama).
However, the dislodgement of the Japanese “Orientalist”images is shown through the hierarchy of the Japanese mafia which is led by O-Ren a woman. Thisunconventional hierarchy is reflectively challenged by one of the mafialeaders named Boss Tanaka (Jun Kunimura) who rejects her leadership for being aJapanese-Chinese-American woman. Which is swiftly followed by his decapitationas shown in figure 5. VladimirPropp’s (1928, 1968) character functions are apparent in Kill Bill and thenarrative functions… the hero archetype is clearly the Bride, even though sheis on a rampage of revenge, we are sympathetic to her suffering and loss and itis the equilibrium of the second film where she is reunited with her daughter.The clear choice for the donor should be Hanzo who provides the Bride with theonly sword he has made since his retirement 26 years ago and is said to be thegreatest sword in the world. He could also be considered to be the helper whichin the fibula of the narrative could be tied with Pai Mai (Chia-Hui Liu) of thesecond film.
The villains would be the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and themain villain would be Bill. The princess of the narrative could be consideredthe daughter of the Bride yet the Bride isn’t aware she is alive until thesecond film.Flashbacks Flashbacks play animportant part in Tarantino’s work. Filming in an anachronic order adds weightto each scene.
The most memorable flashback narrated by the Bride herself isthe origin of O-Ren Ishii. The style of Japanese anime as shown in figure 6 isused to represent Japan and its unique culture. The animation was produced incollaboration with “Production I. G” who had previously worked on Ghost in the shell (1995) and Blood: The Last Vampire (2000).Tarantino expressed interest to work with them and met the production team inperson to profess his idea. Tarantino even acted out the choreography of theanimation.
The production took over a year just for the animated sequence andhad a sizable impact on the films budget. The inspiration for the animatedscene came from the Tamil language film “Aalavandhan”(2001) where the hand drawn, expressive style resonated with Tarantino and shows the level of detail he wanted to expresswithin these flashback scenes. The overall impact of a scene such as this addsto the sympathy we feel not just for the hero, but also the villain. Thenarration by the Bride and the parallelism O-Ren has to the Bride beinghell-bent on revenge really impacts the overall climactic confrontation betweenthe two in the final battle in the snowy Japanese garden, as shown in figure 7as they have both suffered and are both fighting for a new equilibrium. Conclusion To conclude, the narrative structure of Kill Bill remains iconic in its structure being able to create agripping and strongly aligned narrative following the Bride even if the outcomeis revealed early on in the films fibula.However, the events before therefore become more centralised and more grippingto an audience as we become more aware of the characters motivations,struggles, conflicts, and destiny.
The representation of characters within thefilm contradict the images presented to us previously specifically women andhelps to influence cinema and culture. KillBill offers incredible storytelling and action sequences that remainconsistent throughout its duration. KillBill therefore manages to offer great entertainment value with itsexceptional story telling style, narrative structure, and cinematic effects.