Once Upon a Time in Tarantino

I saw Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood two weeks ago and it’s still haunting me. Yes, because of the violence (the old American trend). But also because it’s revising history, a recently American trend which – just like violence - serves no one, only creates more chaos.

Yes, I knew what to expect from Tarantino, but after I read about the fantastic reconstruction of 1970’s LA, was I was willing to deal with some (even lots of) blood for the sake of being plunged into LA history. I stopped watching Tarantino’s movies because I just can’t, and don’t want to, deal with violence. As a child, I went through a very brutal back surgery and I think this – plus being in Croatia during the war - is why seeing blood and physical suffering has a very disturbing, deep, physical impact on me. I’m just unable to detach myself from the pain on the screen. So Tarantino did what Tarantino does and yet again had enormous fun splashing blood on the screen and sending body parts flying around the room. Which wasn’t the worst. The worst was the audience’s reaction - the whole cinema was laughing. The sheer ignorance and detachment from suffering both by the author and the audience made me feel very uneasy.

Feeling uneasy turned into pure horror when I read the news the next morning. That weekend, there was not one but two mass shootings. While audiences across the country were laughing at Tarantino’s violence on the screen, 31 innocent people were killed in Texas and Ohio! But it gets worse – I was shocked to see how blasé the country has become about gun violence in the nine years I’ve lived here. While media used to scream about it, and people used to protest on my Facebook wall, this time I haven’t found one singe post about it. Actually, I did – someone from Europe posted the insanity that’s gun violence statistics in the USA. Europeans are more worried about Americans killing each other (and even worse, each other’s kids!) then Americans?

I really have a very rough time trying to divorce these three things in my head: the audience laughing at the blood bath on the screen, the two young men killing dozens of people just like that, and the country not reacting.

How did Tarantino sleep after those mass shootings?

Shouldn’t something be done? If not about freedom to buy guns (which seems to be impossible to change), then about the amount of violence Americans are exposed to? (And as entertainment, nevertheless!) Does no one really care about anyone here any more? Is being “the land of the free” a card blanche to just let the worst of human nature run wild?

And yes there’s a point about artistic freedom and freedom of speech and not censoring things just because they might be disturbing to some people. Yes, I heard about law professors who aren’t allowed to teach rape law because female students say it’s too disturbing for them. And yes, you can interpret Tarantino’s love for violence in hundreds of different ways and give it this meaning or that. But you know what? No. This country is committing self-genocide!

And then, as if it wasn’t bad enough dealing with the monstrosity of gun violence becoming an every day thing in America, I just can’t get rid of Manson murders. Because this year is commemorating 50 years of that monstrosity. And even if I want to forget what I’ve seen – or haven’t seen – in Tarantino’s movie, I just can’t escape. Sharon Tate’s face keeps popping up on my screen. And Manson’s too. Knifing a woman nine months pregnant is horrendous beyond words. And it just won’t stop disturbing me that Tarantino used these murders (five adults and one baby died that night) to make and promote his movie. (And even worse – enjoy yet another blood bath.)

Because to be honest, while the rest of the movie is gorgeous and clever, it is also so shallow and empty and boring. The whole story is driven only by the inevitable horror of real events in the end. That does not feel right. And what’s even more disturbing is that his movie, and its violence, only have a point because he gave a fake meaning to a real act that was especially horrendous because it had absolutely no meaning. (No, Manson murders had nothing to do with violence in movies.) Why wasn’t he brave enough to stick to the truth and trust the audience to make their own conclusion?

So many questions for Mr. Tarantino.

The discord between Tarantino’s version and reality of Mason murders just feels wrong. It feels like he took the horror of the reality out of the movie to justify making it.

When I returned from my European trip a few weeks ago, my American husband told me he watched a Swedish (or Danish?) TV show about a mafia boss and how it was “cute” because the worst thing this mafioso did was knife a guy. And then the cop who killed him felt very disturbed he had to do it. “Cute”? We just see, watch, experience, consume, allow violence in a very different way in Europe. WE don’t indulge in violence. Maybe because only a few decades ago we went through that horrendous war and the real physical suffering is still fresh? I don’t know.

I just know something is very wrong with America today. And maybe Tarantino should grow up and help his country. He’s old – and famous – enough.

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