Timeline of Pulp Fiction: Actual Version and Chronological Edit (2023)

Timeline of Pulp Fiction: Actual Version and Chronological Edit (1)

Figure 1: four shots from around a third into the film. Left is original edit, Right is chronological edit

During the Fall of 2013, I analyzed Pulp Fiction with my students in my Video Art Class for the School of Visual Arts at Penn State. One of their assignments was to produce a video and then re-edit it to tell the same story but in different order, and therefore explore how aesthetics play a role in experiencing a narrative. We went over a few examples that would give them ideas, some of the links I provided as resources included Pulp Fiction and Memento. I share them below:

Infographic of Pulp Fiction in Chronological order:
http://visual.ly/pulp-fiction-chronological-order

What Watching ‘Memento’ in Chronological Order Can Teach About Story Structure:
http://nofilmschool.com/2013/06/watch-memento-in-chronological-order-story-structure/

(Video) Pulp Fiction Actual Chronology in 6 minutes

Timeline for Memento:
http://www.thehighdefinite.com/2012/02/the-timeline-for-memento/

Memento Chronological Order (make sure to watch the original film before viewing this):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ishi0TyiBrs

We also viewed a chronological version of Pulp Fiction which was available on line but, unfortunately, was taken down. And I also presented in class a two column set of still frames of the two versions of the film (figure 2) of the way it was edited by Tarantino (left), and the chronological order version (right). We discussed how the film has a particular open-endedness due to the fact that its beginning and ending appear to be the middle of the story. This is fairly well known but it becomes more than evident in the two column visualization I provide below that the editing of the film is not as simple:

Timeline of Pulp Fiction: Actual Version and Chronological Edit (2)

Figure 2: Pulp Fiction, original on left, chronological on right.

(Video) Pulp Fiction Actual Chronology in 13 minutes

To generalize that the ending is the middle is a misconception, once we take a careful look at the visualization above, because we can notice that both versions of the film are actually almost in the same order for the first 10 minutes more or less. Notice that the early crime scene in the apartment happens almost at the same time in both versions. It is when Wallace’s wife is introduced that real changes can be noticed. But this is a bit difficult to grasp because the two opening scenes for the original and chronological versions provide diverging intertextual framings to engage with the characters as they are introduced throughout the film: to view a scene at a coffee shop and a scene of a boy and a Captain offer contrasting contexts for the next scene of Jules and Vincent.

One can argue that these scenes are different because in the chronological version the scene with Captain Koons is taken out of the original order in which the film was edited. This is important to note because aside from this scene, all that Tarantino appears to have done when he edited the film to have the middle as its beginning and ending is to develop a conventional story that is told chronologically. It is Captain Koons’s scene, then, that appears to stand out in the chronological order, because it functions as a flashback of Butch’s early childhood–notice that in the original version of the film the very next scene is Butch waking up from a dream before his boxing match (hence linking him to the flashback).

To stay true to a chronological timeline the scene with Koons has to be moved to the beginning of the film because this moment happened much earlier than all the other events. And this makes Koon’s scene the only exception to an otherwise minimal shift in the middle becoming both the beginning and ending of the film. But the flashback could be considered part of the chronological order because it is really Butch who is reliving something in his dream, and this reliving can also be considered part of his present. This then complicates the basic premise of the middle of the film being the ending and beginning of an otherwise chronological edit. What follows shows how the film would appear if we took the now conventional notion that the middle is the beginning and end:

Timeline of Pulp Fiction: Actual Version and Chronological Edit (3)

Figure 3: Pulp Fiction, original on left, chronological on right. Sequences visualized to trace the chronological ending of the story.

(Video) Storygraph - Pulp Fiction - Infografic Animation

When we look at this visualization we notice that the chronological ending of the film does not fall in the middle of the original film as is commonly argued. This means that the story is further edited. When breaking it down in more detail with color-codes, we can notice the following differences:
Timeline of Pulp Fiction: Actual Version and Chronological Edit (4)

Figure 4: Pulp Fiction, original on left, chronological on right. Actual editing of chronological sequences for both original and chronological versions.

We can see that the original film does not fully follow a chronological order that was simply edited to make the middle of the chronology the beginning and ending. The chronological ending of the film takes place about two thirds of the way into the film, while the ending of the original does fall more or less around the middle of the chronological version. But even when this happens we can notice that parts of the chronology are moved around to enhance the experience of the story. For instance, the opening of the original takes place just before we reach the middle of the film, meaning that this part of the story is part of the ending, of course. We can look at each of the other segments and notice have they are shifted to tell the story in a way that will be more interesting than it being simply chronological.

If we number the order of the original edit and juxtapose it with the chronological version, we get this:

1 | 4
2 | 2
3 | 6
4 | 1 & 6
5 | 3
6 | 5

(Video) Pulp Fiction In Chronological Order

I numbered 1- 6 the chronological sequences of the original version (left column), and repositioned them into the chronological version of the film (right column).We can notice that the two opening scenes are different (diner and Captain Koons), but the very next scene is the same (Jules and Vincent in the car on their way to do a job). The second sequence in the original version is then split in order to turn it into the final chronological sequence (6, Jules and Vincent finishing the job to end up back in the diner), this is why 3 and 6 match about a third of the way into both film versions. Notice that six then comes together with sequence 1 to end at the very middle of the chronological version and match sequence 4 (Vincent and Mrs Wallace) in the original edit. It is sequence 5 (Butch fighting, escaping, running into Vincent, and Mr. Wallace, confronting the gimp, and the eventual get away) that is the actual chronological ending of the story, but we see that in the original edit this one is followed by section 6, which is the scene of Jules and Vincent at the diner, this is also sequence 1, as we know.

So, to say that Tarantino merely took the chronological development of the story and split it for the middle to be the beginning and ending is really not correct–this is what appears to be commonly assumed by some people when they think of the middle of the story being the ending and beginning of the actual film. There is much editing at play which makes this film more complex formally speaking.

But the editing is not so radical because going back and forth between closely related timelines is quite common in films. What is peculiar of Pulp Fiction and some other films by Tarantino is that they are edited as though things are happening now, there is no clear hint for the audience to acknowledge that we are going back and forth in time. Viewers must acknowledge this as they try to make sense of the story. This approach by Tarantino challenges the cinematic aspect, because the audience must remind themselves that they are viewing a film and they must make sense of its sequences. The audience must try to make them fit so that the story comes together; but this must take place in the viewers’ minds. Pulp Fiction, arguably, is a reflective exploration of how we come to engage with films, how the process of editing can become a form of communication that also questions how we try to make meaning of the content being experienced.

Another challenge of the film is the cultural stereotypes it presents, and how viewers must question them as well. This aspect of the film is more open ended, and Tarantino has been accused of promoting certain stereotypes, particularly of African Americans. Those questions are very important to discuss, and must be. And I take the time to discuss them in actual class. For this post, however, I focused on the formal aspects of Pulp Fiction.

FAQs

How does the timeline in Pulp Fiction work? ›

The Pulp Fiction timeline's three stories are divided across seven nonlinear episodes, told over the course of two days. Although this greatly factors into why the characters and stories are so memorable, it can be difficult to make sense of the stakes, context, and chronology of the succeeding events.

What time period is Pulp Fiction supposed to take place in? ›

'90s Los Angeles, California. Yes, believe it or not, this is the '90s. The music and cultural references might trick you into thinking the film takes place in the '50s but we're in the '90s and we're in Los Angeles.

Is there an edited version of Pulp Fiction? ›

In the United Arab Emirates, a completely different version of the film was released theatrically. The film was re-edited so that each story was told without intercutting.

Why is Pulp Fiction non chronological? ›

Quentin Tarantino utilizes non-linear narrative in Pulp Fiction primarily as a tool to introduce the characters multiple times, through different character's perspectives, in all three timelines.

Does Pulp Fiction have multiple endings? ›

As Pulp Fiction's scenes tell its story out of sequence, it effectively has two endings: the chronological one, and the literal final scene of the film. The film's epilogue scene shows the resolution of the hold-up in the diner, and serves as the ending for Samuel L. Jackson's Jules.

What is the point of the first scene in Pulp Fiction? ›

The first scene of the film ridicules violence despite traditional views on it. The film shows violence as part of the narrative and an integral element in the revelation of characters. The first scene sets the mood for the whole plot and reveals the overall meaning of the film.

What is the most important scene in Pulp Fiction? ›

Pulp Fiction (1994) – Jack Rabbit Slim's 'Twist Contest'

No doubt one of the director's most iconic scenes, the moment when Vincent and Mia, played by John Travolta and Uma Thurman, jump up on stage for Jack Rabbit Slim's 'Twist Contest' in Pulp Fiction is an influential moment of cinema.

What movies came out at the same time as Pulp Fiction? ›

Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption and Jurassic Park were all shown at movie theaters in October, 1994.

How old was Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction? ›

Uma Thurman was only 24 years old when she starred in Pulp Fiction as Mia Wallace, the wife of gang boss Marsellus Wallace who seamlessly dances the twist, overdoses on heroin and takes a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart all in one night.

What is the message of Pulp Fiction? ›

The Theme of Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction is a cacophony of violence and redemption. Its themes are not so easily categorized, but I think it all boils down to fate. Each of these characters are put into a situation where they are forced to choose something based on fate or happenstance.

Is Marilyn Monroe in Pulp Fiction? ›

Pulp Fiction (1994) - Susan Griffiths as Marilyn Monroe - IMDb.

What is the original Pulp Fiction? ›

Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American neo-noir black comedy crime film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino that tells several stories of criminal Los Angeles. The title refers to the pulp magazines and hardboiled crime novels popular during the mid-20th century, known for their graphic violence and punchy dialogue.

What is a prequel to Pulp Fiction? ›

Tarantino did indeed consider a prequel for arguably his most beloved offering; reportedly, it was to be called Double V Vega, concerning the Vega brothers – Vincent from Pulp Fiction (played by John Travolta) and Vic from Reservoir Dogs (played by Michael Madsen).

Does Pulp Fiction have a prequel? ›

The 'Pulp Fiction' Prequel Never Made: Tarantino Details the Amazing Premise. The prequel to the director's Palme d'Or would've been set over a single weekend in Amsterdam.

Are Quentin Tarantino movies connected? ›

From early on in his career, fans of Tarantino's work have been picking up on little details that seemingly connect his films together. In a 2016 interview with the Australian talk show “The Project,” Tarantino confirmed that his movies are indeed intertwined - although it's a bit more complex than you might think.

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