Reservoir Dogs (1992) is a neo-noir American heistthriller film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The selected sequenceof five minutes and eleven seconds show the famous Mr Blonde torture scenewhich had many people walking out of the film’s screenings due to the intensityof the scene. While the scene does not actually show much violence such as the cuttingof the ear, the cinematography, sound work, and mise-en-scene all combine tocreate a sense of horror.
The sequence begins with a close-up of Mr. Blonderetrieving a blade from his boot while talking to Marvin Nash about a radiostation, by having Mr. Blonde take the razor blade from his boot the charactersintentions are made clear as he is clearly prepared for a situation in which hewould use the blade. A far shot shows Nash sat in pain while Mr. Blondecontinues to fiddle with the radio, the mundane task juxtaposes the events thatare unfolding around Nash. A continuous shot follows Mr. Blonde walking over tocheck Mr.
Oranges shot wounds, as Mr. Blonde walks past Nash he makes eyecontact while using the blade to shave, this shows the audience how he knowsthe purpose of the blade yet is thinking of a way to use it as a means oftorture. The song ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ by Stealers Wheels begins toplay, this song is chosen specifically by Quentin Tarantino to coincide withthe events of the scene.
The song is the scenes main auditory focus rather thatNash’s screams, this lack of other sounds allow the audiences focus to be onthe music lyrics and the dialogue. “Tarantino has said that he feels the musicto be a counterpoint to the on-screen violence and action”, the song is upbeatwhereas the scene is horrific and violent. Kirk Baltz who played the characterMarvin Nash commented that “it was that dance that had the audience believinghe was psychotic and about to commit murder” (Mail Online 2018), the dance isiconic to the film as the sound of the psychopath shuffling around in a bizarreway adds to the strange nature of the scene.The location of the scene is an empty warehouse whichseems to be a perfect setting for torture, this creates a sense of horror asthe audience assumes that the events which will unfold within the bleak stonewalls are that of violence.
The location and the handheld style of filmingcreates a new experience for the audience as the film is viewed as though weare there being silent observers to the torture. The lighting of the scene increasesthe sense of horror as metal lights hang down from the ceiling glowing dimlywith most of the light source being from the high up windows of the warehouse.This is a reminder to the audience as well as Nash that this scene is notisolated from the rest of the world but in fact is just out of reach ofcivilisation and freedom. This is further explored when Mr. Blonde leaves thewarehouse and enters a street where children can be heard outside.
It is significant that Quentin Tarantino wouldsensor the violence of the scene by choosing to hide the amputation, thisallows for room for imagination and stronger/intense visualisation (people mayimagine it to be worse than it was), similar to why Tarantino holds back fromshowing the heist itself. By holding back from showing the action, Tarantino isable to highlight other elements such as dialogue and music as well as push theaudience to notice the surroundings of the room such as the spray paint graffition the wall which reads ‘watch your head’ which is humorous and ironic as thismessage comes into focus as Nash is having part of his head disfigured. A longcontinuous shot follows Mr. Blonde outside into the ‘normal world’ where soundssuch as children and cars can be heard, this shows the stark difference betweenthe events outside and the events unfolding within the warehouse.There is ajuxtaposition between the events of the interior and exterior of the warehouse.This juxtaposition increases the sense of horror which comes from watching thescene, this was Tarantino’s main aim as he “wanted that scene to be disturbing”(Web.
archive.org, 2018) and for it to have an effect on the audience. Thisproved to work as many people walked out of screenings such as “special makeupeffects Rick Baker” (En.wikipedia.
org, 2018) who “told Tarantino to take thewalkouts as a ‘compliment’ and explained that he found the violence unnervingbecause of its heightened sense of realism” (En.wikipedia.org, 2018). Thesoundtrack starts up again when he re-enters the warehouse, signifying that thehorror is starting back up and the torture is not yet over.