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The spiritual component in Quentin Tarantino′s films

Quentin Tarantino has sometimes declared himself an atheist or agnostic but has generally wanted to reserve for himself the privacy of the deepest details. His relationship with Catholicism and Protestantism was quite unique during his childhood, which is just the time period he pays tribute to in his latest film ′Once Upon a Time in Hollywood′. The theme of religion in any case, appears again and again in his films, confirming the fact that it is undoubtedly one of the themes that has most concerned him over the past 30 years.

Article by Pablo Fernández from Barcelona on Saturday, May 23rd 2020 ·.·★ Reading takes 19 minutes or 3785 words.


Religion when is considered as an institution generally has very few friends outside of its strict area of ​​influence. Quentin Tarantino is part of that majority that seeks spirituality outside of religion and perhaps participates in the same contradictions. ′Movies are my religion and God is my patron′, he said. When asked directly in 2009 by the famous journalist Howard Stern about more details in his beliefs, Quentin Tarantino doubts if his writing talents could be explained by some kind of past life. But of course, he is not sure. Which Scientific proof could you use for this?

The prestigious institution of the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma awarded him in 2011 the Honorary César, which is reserved for a few such as Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard or Walt Disney. Make sense that in gratitude he later declared ′Cinema is my religion and France is the Vatican′ A recognition in the form of a medal, a cup or a statuette is clearly something objective that can be touched, owned and even exposed to the sight of others. Nobody would doubt about those awards but faith... What do have faith to compete at that level?

The earth was messy and empty

Cinema began thanks to the use of electric light from the machinery invented by the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière in France. They made their first public showing in 1895. By 1960, however, Hollywood had taken the lead in movie production. Connie McHugh, a future nurse from Tennessee and of Irish descent, was visiting the city of Los Angeles at the age of 16 when she met Quentin′s father. Tony Tarantino was of Italian descent and gave his son no more than the name of a television character . Then right after he abandoned them both. Tony Tarantino left them actually to pursue a disastrous acting career.

Quentin Tarantino was born on March 27, 1963 and was sometimes raised by her mother, sometimes by her grandparents, and sometimes by her bohemian stepparents. Connie introduced him very soon to the world of comics and horror movies, worlds of fantasy and adventure that little Quentin absorbed like a sponge. When he was 12, in the absence of a transgression that bothered her mother the most, Quentin Tarantino says that he spent nearly a year attending an evangelical church in Palos Verdes with her best friend Kevin Minky.

When he was living with his grandparents in Tennessee, Tarantino came up in his own words to be born again, baptized and everything in between. As time went by, however, it was not clear to him the amount of truth there was in those experiences, he recently declared. “Actually, now I don′t know if I believe in God, at least not in that type of Santa Claus that many seem to evoke. Oddly enough, it is funny that despite everything, I think it is God who gives the talents. I honestly believe that some people have received the talents that they have, that have been given to them”. Quentin Tarantino was very talented but was unable to adapt to the educational system that had come his way, especially that of the strict Catholic Hawthorne Christian School. He had returned to live with his mother in Los Angeles, and many would have thought he wasted his life working at a video store or movie rental store when Robert Kurtzman met him.

Robert Kurtzman had saved some money in 1990 by working on the makeup and special effects of dozens of great horror productions such as ′A Nightmare on Elm Street′, ′Evil Dead′ or ′Misery′ by Stephen King. A Kurtzman′s friend mentioned a then unknown Quentin Tarantino as a possible script writer for a movie he had in mind for the modest price of $ 1,500. Quentin Tarantino had turned 27 and had no car at that moment. Robert Kurtzman remembers that he had to go pick up Tarantino himself at his mother′s house. You don′t have to stay long in Los Angeles to really understand how useless a pedestrian can feel in a big city. There is practically nothing that you can do without a car. Literally. During the 1970s and 1980s even theaters were intended for movies that only could be watched from the inside of the cars. That idea of ​​drive-in or cinemas for cars is just the idea that Robert Kurtzman transmitted to Quentin Tarantino and the idea that later inspired the title of ′From Dusk Till Dawn′ (1996).

When Quentin Tarantino was a teenager and visited these cinemas, the sense of privacy and liberality of some users had become an immoral scandal for others. “From Dusk Till Dawn” was the text that during that golden age was displayed, in the form of posters at the entrance to the cinemas. The posters cited a type of audience with less scruples later in the night, where in many cases there was hardly any censorship when selecting movies. Quentin Tarantino listened carefully to the idea of ​​Robert Kurtzman and with unexpected doses of genius made a completely different script. Robert Kurtzman would have his vampires perfectly well made up at the end of the film and was also completely convinced of the changes. He was especially pleased to see the skill with which this young man carried out his particularly overwhelming dialogues.

Cinemas open until dawn

Only for those few who do not know, I will briefly point out that Quentin Tarantino′s characters are perfectly capable of containing racism, xenophobia and homophobia in one sentence. Actors in ′Django Unchained′ (2012), for example, use the word ′neeger′ a total of 110 times. In his first movie, ′Reservoir Dogs′ (1992), Michael Madsen aka Mr. Rubio stages a reference to the gospel episode in which Peter cuts off a soldier′s ear. The scene is so unpleasant that on the day of its presentation, about fifteen people left the hall of the horror film festival in Sitges. Film director Wes Craven, creator of ′The Swamp Thing′, ′A Nightmare on Elm Street′ or ′Scream′, was included among those who couldn′t bear the scene. Quentin Tarantino assured the press that he had nothing to regret since these scenes were especially premeditated and developed to produce precisely that particular reaction.

Cartoonists like Joseph M. Monks, Joseph Michael Linsner or Frank Frazetta are clearly behind the most aesthetic part of ′From Dusk Till Dawn′. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez commissioned some of the creativity from Frank Frazetta and the result is very reminiscent of his famous work ′Cave Woman′. The idea of ​​Frank Frazetta is implicit in the erotic dance of Salma Hayek, who is called Santanico Pandemonium in the film. Originally the name is from a 1975 Mexican film that Quentin Tarantino had met while working at the video club and that had the pretentious title of ′The Sexorcist: From Christ′s Bride to Satan′s Slave.′ It was planned that in ′From Dusk Till Dawn ′There was so much blood running that, to avoid censorship, director Robert Rodríguez decided that the blood should be green. Reading the Bible verse that he will later do with his gun Samuel L. Jackson in ′Pulp Fiction′ (1994), was already included by Quentin Tarantino in the first script of ′From Dusk Till Dawn′.

The scene of the Bible reading was so good for Tarantino that it is even part of the movie′s soundtrack. The character actually adds before four sentences of his own invention but finally ends with the literal text of Ezekiel 25,17: ′And you will know that my name is Yahweh, when my revenge falls on you!′. The Bible and the comic cooperating with the terror and the comedy had only been put in such a crazy way by one of their better camouflaged neighbors. Jack Chick lived in Rancho Cucamonga and is now recognized as the world′s most widely read comic book author. According to Billy Ireland, these little Jack Chick booklets deliberately left in any corner of the city ′don′t discriminate in their discrimination.′ ′I am always asking my secretary if we have received new hate messages in the mail,′ said Jack Chick. ′If she says there isn′t, then I worry and start thinking that maybe I′m doing something wrong.′ ′I want to shock people,′ he said on another occasion. ′I want them to literally go bad when they see my comics. I want you to feel the pain that Jesus suffered when He was crucified. ′

Tarantino′s predecessors in the comic and the Bible

Tarantino takes advantage of each of his films to pay his particular tribute to the world of comics and in ′Once Upon a Time in Hollywood′ in particular he uses an imagined cover of the MAD comic to recreate the time when he was six years old. Daniel Clowes was then eight years old and was with his comic ′Devil Doll′ in 1989 one of the first to parody another Los Angeles citizen named Jack Chick. The parody was curiously published just a year before the writing of the script for ′From Dusk Till Dawn′. Today Clowes is one of the most recognized authors of Comic Underground, especially since the film based on his book ′Ghost World′ was nominated for an Oscar in 2002. Daniel Clowes assures that during the 1980s he found nothing more shocking in the world of comics than Jack Chick. Speaking of Clowes, his biographer Daniel Raeburn said: ′Perhaps the attraction to religion is the result of a very intense absence of it in your childhood. For a son of Marxists like Daniel Clowes, religion was the forbidden fruit.′

′I had a lot of friends like me who converted to Christianity′ - said Daniel Clowes himself. ′They hated the idea of ​​having been raised all their lives within strict geometric limitations′. Daniel Clowes goes on to tell how he was tempted to do it himself, how he literally went to a bookstore to buy a good number of those comics, and how he finally came close to repeating the famous ending sentence. According to Harry S. Robins, who is a contributing author to Robert Crumb, a famous collector of the Jack Chick tracts, and a member of the Church of the SubGenius association, this kind of religious conviction is ′particularly possible if you read a good number of these comics by late afternoon. ′

The most ambitious parody of all the many that have been made of the work of Jack Chick is undoubtedly ′Little Nicky′. Quentin Tarantino and his regular mate Harvey Keitel are working on it not without a reason. Adam Sandler got the idea by watching ′The Heart of the Angel′. They had 85 million dollars to make this comedy and as Fandango′s criticism points out, the entire result points directly to Jack Chick. Quentin Tarantino himself, who plays the role of the persistent blind preacher, confirms this, especially when he screams madly on the street one of the most common insults in those comics: ′Beast is above us and I can smell an evil slut!′ The story shows with an ingenious sense of humor the very varied forms of sin, behind which there are always demons. It shows the religious hiding their demon form behind the pulpit and of course the crowds of people continually falling on the flames of hell.

The role of the bad guys in redemption stories

Many ′Little Nicky′ patterns are ultimately very similar to the ones Tarantino had followed ten years earlier in the script for ′From Dusk Till Dawn′. The final performance of ′From Dusk Till Dawn′ in turn follows many patterns from ′Cape Fear′ (1991), which in turn followed the patterns from ′Night of the Hunter′ (Charles Laughton, 1955). Stories where terror and religion are closely related in the search for redemption. It is a pity that many have passed over this vampire film written by Tarantino, ignoring the interesting redemption story behind the makeup and acting as a backbone.

All human beings without exception are evil. That′is an axiom of the gospels confirmed by Quentin Tarantino′s films. We have recently seen it in ′The Hateful Eight′ (2015). Richie Gecko, the character who reserved himself for himself in ′From Dusk Till Dawn′ (1996), however, goes a little further. The intention of that character is to occupy that place reserved for those who are considered particularly bad. Many reserve that place for well-known dictators such as Adolf Hitler. Others reserve it for a relative who abused them when they were in their care.

Tarantino as Jack Chick enjoys redeeming extremely horrible people and taking them to heaven as it happens in his comic entitled ′Lisa′. Quentin itself aka Richie Gecko has kidnapped, raped and, with the blood of his innocent victim, has covered the walls of the room. His brother then shoves him angrily against the wall. Richie is at a clear disadvantage when George Clooney aka Seth Gecko passionately asks him to stop doing such outrageous things and embracing his promises that the day of his redemption is near.

Redemption however will not come until the end of a long night. Terrible things must happen before that expected dawn in the promised land of Mexico. Meanwhile, even God′s favorites have lost faith. ′What are you?′ -Seth Gecko asks the Baptist pastor who plays Harvey Keitel, to encourage him to fight against the evil that comes upon them. ′A preacher without faith does not help us at all ... Are you a preacher without faith? Or a bastard and a mean servant of God′. Jacob then lowers his head and mutters, ′I′m a @! Mm **! Servant of God!′. Finally the lost pastor, with his significant name Jacob, is armed with courage and advances against the monstrous hordes, evoking the text of the Gospel of Matthew 4.16: ′those who walk in darkness must see the light.′

Redemption is for the bad guys

Everything is locked in that place that opens until dawn called Titty Twister, full of wicked men who take off their masks and show their true devilish faces. The same thing happens at the end of many Jack Chick comics, when the demons are revealed to exclaim: You were wrong !! ′. The stage reserved for the rock group has been slidely filled with monsters as described by a concert by Rock preachers like David Wilkerson, Jeff Godwin or Jack Chick. How to deny the descriptive, detailed and visual value of all those books from the 1980s. You don′t even need to know how to read to understand what exactly you have to stop doing! Quentin Tarantino′s original script often identifies monsters as hybrids between vampires and demons. Monsters′ reaction to the exposure to light is classic: they burn like torches! The many bullet holes in the walls will allow the light of dawn come in. The light of the Sun, finally, announces then the end of the night and the beginning of a new life!

The idea of ​​′dawn′ also naturally evokes the famous George A. Romero film series. Romero was a descendant of Spanish, Galician emigrants and was tired of shooting television commercials when, in his words, he felt a great thirst for the strange. ′The Night of the Living Dead′ (1968), which ends its plot also at dawn, is actually based on a Los Angeles vampire novel by Richard Matheson titled ′I am Legend′ (1954). As in many of those fantasies of their time, the authors had a clear intention of overcoming by denouncing racism, capitalism and hedonism. EC Comics, for example, grouped many of those young authors into comic series like ′Tales From The Crypt′, until censorship forced them to close on one of the darkest pages in the history of the United States of America. We have seen it in this same magazine when talking about the comic ′Someone Loves Me′ by Jack Chick. Under the excuse of fighting crime, the government was shutting the voice of the citizens who pointed to the lack of humanitarian sensibility of the government.. ′The night of the living dead,′ however, was so well received by the public that the return on his investment was its expenses multiplied by 250.

Quentin Tarantino′s films have had a huge influence on society. Today many fans include in their tourist routes key locations of their films, such as that chapel that is in the middle of the Mojave desert of Hi Vista called Calvary Baptist Church. The small building is surrounded by nearly two hours of endless miles of dust and Joshua Trees driving from Los Angeles. In the 19th century it was a meeting place for Baptists but now it is known as ′The Church of Kill Bill′. Uma Thurman aka Black Mamba is celebrating her wedding in this chapel when the famous Bill - the villain who gives the title to the ′Kill Bill′ saga appears to slaughter them all. The ubiquitous crucifix in ′The Hateful Eight′ and all its other explicit references to religion always speak, in short, of that common misfortune that oppresses men.

The contrasts between light and its reflections

Religion, like any other element under the Sun, is also subject to the effects of sin and can hardly by itself provide a real solution to the problems we face. It is striking that both the chapel in ′Kill Bill′ and the crucifix in ′The Hateful Eight′ are both surrounded by vast uninhabited landscapes. Far from civilization and ignored by men, they are already part of a long forgotten past. The Christian conversions of George Clooney in ′From Dusk Till Dawn′ and Samuel L. Jackson in ′Pulp Fiction′, however, also have features in common. They are produced from risky experiences that they have lived being particularly enemies of God and where the supernatural acts as an undoubted seal of guarantee.

Cinema has the ability to recreate reality in a line very similar to that used by religion. Comics, scripts, and movies are scenarios of impossible realities such as religion. It is easy to confuse light with its reflection or be impressed by mirages. This is why we often confuse Jesus Christ with religion. Jesus Christ may seem religious to many, especially from the distance that separates us from the facts. If we pay attention to the historical details, however, we observe that according to the oldest accounts, the religious were the ones who most opposed Jesus. After their first reading in the synagogue, the religious literally wanted to kill Jesus. It is therefore not an accident that the Romans were pressured to finally kill him three years later. Jesus insisted until the end with the same message that he read that first day, disgusting because of that mainly the religious: ′The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and sight to the blind, to set at liberty the oppressed, to preach the Lord′s acceptable year. ′

′Who will accuse God′s chosen ones?′ asks the apostle Paul shortly after. ′God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died; moreover, the one who also rose from the dead, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written: Because of you we are dead all the time; We are numbered as slaughterhouse sheep. Before, in all These things we are more than conquerors through the one who loved us. For which I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor the present, nor the coming, nor the high Neither the deep nor any other created thing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord ′.


This is an short translation of the original article published in Spanish by Entrelíneas: Revista de Arte as El componente espiritual en las películas de Quentin Tarantino


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