Publication date January 20, 2023

Quentin Tarantino genuinely uses food scenes to set the right mood!

Quentin Tarantino is one of the best filmmakers Hollywood has to offer and his films are evidence of his pure genius. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. Quentin Tarantino uses a range of his signature visual motifs such as trunk shots, dancing, and feet shots. Tarantino uses these visual motifs to uplift his storytelling but most commoners might miss out on what is the intention behind adding a shot. For example, Tarantino’s films always feature scenes where the characters are seen eating and drinking. Tarantino does not just add these scenes with food and drinks just because he wants to; he uses these scenes to establish character traits, pace dialogues, and often develop themes.   

Pulp Fiction food scene

Source: Grantland

Tarantino’s films are popular for using food scenes to establish clues about their background. The characters in Tarantino’s films can be often seen munching down or cooking their favorite dishes. When they are not cooking or eating Tarantino will put in scenes where the characters are talking about their food preferences. While some might consider these scenes as merely filler scenes they hold a great metaphorical value.  

In almost every Quentin Tarantino movie he has used food and beverages to better establish his characters. If you take a look at Pulp Fiction, it opens with robbers Pumpkin and Honey bunny planning a robbery over breakfast. That scene established that both men are sociopaths but they were not the only Pulp Fiction characters that established their background with the help of food. The hitman Vincent Vega played by John Travolta was seen telling his partner that in Paris a quarter pounder with cheese is called “Royale with cheese”. What that scene established is that even though Vincent is a dishonorable cutthroat he still enjoys observing and learning simple things like condiments, and cheeseburger names and he also takes interest in food cultures outside of America. I think the way Tarantino goes about establishing his characters is just amazing. 

Tarantino uses food motifs to turn his reel-life characters into more relatable real-life characters. In Django Unchained we could see Calvin Candie has rotten teeth and that implied he loved sweets a little too much. In the film, Inglourious Basterds Tarantino used food to establish the lack of empathy and compassion Lt. Aldo Raine had toward the Nazis. He just put in a scene where Lt Aldo Raine was seen casually eating a sandwich while German soldiers were being executed in front of him.

Tarantino didn’t just use food to establish his characters on-screen, he also used food to establish a strong character dynamic. Out of all of his films Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction are arguably the most food heavy and Quentin Tarantino has very smartly used food to set up strong and distinct character dynamics which led to powerful and memorable scenes. In the film, Inglourious Basterds Tarantino used food brilliantly in a scene where Hans Landa asserts his dominance over Shosanna Dreyfus. Hans orders strudels and a glass of milk just to remind her of the day she lost her entire family on a dairy farm. The scene was very intense and a sense of grief was visible on the face of Shosanna.

Pulp Fiction which might just be Quentin Tarantino’s biggest success also had scenes where the characters would use food to establish strong character dynamics. For example, Jules Winnfield intimidates and asserts his dominance over his boss’s two-faced associate and bites into the Big Kahuna Burger. Also, another scene where Mia Wallace showed Vincent she always gets what she wants by ordering the $5 shake.

Food can be very powerful and has a hold on all our lives. No one could show us that in a better way than Quentin Tarantino with his food motifs. There is no doubt he is a brilliant director but did you know he used food to convey such deep messages in his films? Comment down below. 

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