When most people leave a cinema their thoughts linger on the excellent visuals; the breath-taking performances; the outstanding direction; and be it good or bad, the narrative. One area often neglected is the script. The actual words spoken by our beloved characters. After watching Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film (Kill Bill as one movie) The Hateful Eight, it is clear this should not be the case: in many ways dialogue is an entity unto itself, and nowhere is that more apparent than in a film written by Quentin Tarantino.
But what is so special about his dialogue? Most scriptwriters pre-Reservoir Dogs saw dialogue as a necessary evil. It was a device to move the story onward. Exposition and nothing more. Obviously, this is somewhat of a generalisation, but in the most part this generalisation has credibility. No one had written for the big screen like Tarantino. As a result, when his two debut films charged into cinemas, with all the velocity of a nuclear missile, audiences were awestruck. Iconic critic Rodger Ebert had this to say in his 1994 review of Pulp Fiction: ‘A lot of movies these days use flat, functional speech […] But the people in Pulp Fiction are in love with words for their own sake. The dialogue by Tarantino […] is off the wall sometimes, but that’s the fun.’
The veteran director/screenwriter is able to craft scenes in which discussion revolves around topics that remain detached from the actual plot, but are talked about in such a way that they somehow become relevant. For instance the tipping scene in Reservoir Dogs is a perfect example of this. Here, lines are delivered at a Mamet-esque pace, and through every interjection, comment and expletive we learn more and more about our protagonists. This means that crucial information is conveyed subtly, and audiences are rarely overloaded by characters directly telling other characters what kind of person they are or what emotions they are feeling. We are along for a verbal ride.
The most common criticism of Tarantino’s work is his use of taboo language. When the Oscar nominated Django Unchained was released in 2012, some viewers were appalled at the film’s 115 uses of the n-word. Furthermore when the Hateful Eight was first screened to America audiences last year, many claimed that its treatment of women is misogynistic. This has resulted in some people labelling Tarantino a racist and a sexist. Although this is subjective, and people should be allowed to be offended, I cannot help but disagree. I believe that one should always dissociate the creator from the work, and judge the use of potentially offensive material in relation to whether it has relevance to the character, situation or era that is being depicted. And in regards to both Django and The Hateful Eight its use is justified. Would it not be more offensive to omit the sexist and racist nature of the Nineteenth-Century, rather than honestly reveal the disgusting side of human history?
Thankfully The Hateful Eight is not a disappointment. It is by no means Tarantino’s best film, but due to its locked room setting and Agatha Christie murder mystery style, it is perhaps his most unique. An excellent blending of Reservoir Dogs with Django Unchained that at times feels more like a stage play than an actual film. The performances are fantastic, but centre-stage is Tarantino’s writing: his use of dialogue in this film is exceptional, and his characterisation is flawless. Throughout his filmography Tarantino has always delivered wonderful dialogue, and because of his consistently bold, edgy style it is no surprise that he is consider one of Hollywood’s greatest screenwriters.