There are many filmmakers in Hollywood, and many have the same style, the same techniques, and even the same type of films.
But not Quentin Tarantino.
Quentin Tarantino is the king of non-conformity when it comes to feature films, and in my opinion is one of, if not the, most unique filmmaker of our time. Tarantino uses different techniques throughout his movies, including non-linear storylines, mixed with neo-noir characteristics, homages to Hong-Kong martial-arts films, spaghetti westerns, and blaxploitation films; and of course, the over-indulgence of violence.
But due to his non-conformity to standards of regular filmmakers, his films also exhibit certain aspects of the philosophy of Transcendentalism. In his Oscar-winning neo-noir classic, Pulp Fiction, Tarantino displays Transcendentalism through the character of Jules Winnfield (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson.) Along with his partner-in-crime Vincent Vega (John Travolta), Winnfield is a hit-man, who in the wake of a mysterious yet eye-opening miracle, is forced to rethink his lifestyle. Before Winnfield kills his targets, he recites a Bible passage about the tyranny of evil men as opposed to the weariness of the weak, yet he never really thinks about it’s meaning until a scene where the diner he is eating at is being robbed. He pulls a gun on the robber and forces him to sit down, and then he recites the Bible passage. But this time he takes some thought as to what he says, and believes that maybe the both of them, the robber and himself, are the weary and the weak, and that society is evil. Winnfield’s observations here tie back into Transcendentalism, since the philosophy heavily deals with society corrupting the individual. Winnfield’s character does not need customs or values because society’s corruption kills his individuality.
Also, in Tarantino’s fictional war film, Inglourious Basterds, Lt. Aldo Raine (portrayed by Brad Pitt) and his posse of Jewish-American soldiers organize a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and the hierarchy of Nazi leadership. Hitler’s oppression against the Jewish population is used by Tarantino as the symbol of society’s corruption. Since Transcendentalism wraps back around to the idea that Hitler is an oppressor of the Jews and wants conformity; Tarantino’s story shows that society misguides men, women, and children in many ways, which somehow includes a ruthless demagogue like Hitler. So in a way, Lt. Raine’s quest for vengeance can be thought of as a Transcendental journey in which he fights for the individuality of a population.
Finally, in Quentin Tarantino’s latest work, Django Unchained, Transcendentalism is exhibited through the character of Dr. King Schultz (portrayed by Christoph Waltz.) Set in the Deep South during the year 1858, Schultz is a bounty hunter that hires a slave he frees named Django (Jamie Foxx) to continue in helping him with his line of work. The two of them head out to Mississippi to rescue Django’s wife from ruthless plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio,) but things start to spiral out of control when Candie realizes Django and Schultz’s true intentions. While sitting in a chair at the plantation, waiting to complete the transaction to purchase Django’s wife, Schultz begins to have second thoughts. He has images of Candie’s brutal treatment of slaves flash into his head over and over again, and his intuition is telling him to leave the plantation as soon as he can. This moment is where Transcendentalism comes into the equation. Transcendentalism tells us that our intuition and natural instincts guide us to do the right things. In this instance, Schultz uses his intuition to make the right decision and to leave, but Candie’s corruption then entices him, forcing him to make the wrong decision. The ensuing shoot-out at the plantation only occurs because Schultz does not fully follow his intuition and does not resist the corrupting ways of Calvin Candie.
Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction
Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds
Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained