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The ‘Pulp Fiction’ Dance Scene: Tarantino’s Masterclass in Subtext and Tension


You know the scene, we all know the scene, it’s the iconic “Pulp Fiction” dance scene involving Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega. Vega’s ordered by his boss Marsellus to take his wife out for a night on the town while he’s away.

Though loyal to his boss, Vega finds the task to be daunting, given he’d just heard about how Marsellus had actually thrown a guy off a four-story roof for giving his wife a foot massage, and he’s afraid of meeting a similar end if sparks begin to fly between the two.

This great video on YouTube actually breaks the scene down cut by cut to show how director Quentin Tarantino can establish tension through framing, angles, composition and the film’s soundtrack.

What’s interesting is that I’d make the argument that both this scene as well as “Inglourious Basterds'” opening scene manage to evoke the same kind of tension — and one of those films actually involves a Nazi soldier hunting down a Jewish family, which one would expect to be the most pulse-raising one of the two, but I think both are equally effective.

Watch the video here, and obviously watch both “Pulp Fiction” and “Inglourious Basterds” if you haven’t already.

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