The American Film Institute has released a list of the top one hundred films of american history. But what do these films have in common?
Coming in at number 95, is Pulp Fiction, directed by Quentin Tarentino. This movie explores the Nihilism found in 80’s culture, showing scenes of graphic violence, drug use, and sex. Nihilism is based on German philosopher Frederich Nietzsche’s belief that the American enlightenment had destroyed the concept of a God. His famously quoted “God is dead”, reflects this belief well. Pulp Fiction shares the story of three sets of characters, each one with a wicked goal ahead of them. The main characters, Vincent and Jules, are hitmen taking an order from their boss. Jules makes frequent references to Christ, fully believing that God will save him from the person he has become. At the end of the film, Jules decides that he is his own shepherd, and will guide himself out of the valley of darkness.
This theme of Nihilism can be taken two ways; in one sense, nothing matters and never will, so why live? In another, nothing matters, so I am in control of my life; everything will be okay in the end.
This theme also reappears in possibly the greatest story of irony of all time, A Clockwork Orange. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, but based off of the book by Anthony Burgess, this film tells the story of teenage delinquent, Alex DeLarge, and his self-destructive path. It is divided into three parts. The first part very much parallels Pulp Fiction, as it shows the story of Alex and his droogs apathetically destroying everything in their path. Alex later finds himself in a reformatory program, where he is drugged, and forced to associate this sickness with violence and sex he views in films. Upon release, Alex finds himself in the hands of his old droogs, who have become police. They beat him and drive him out into the country, where he meets an old victim of his, now blind & handicapped, who tries to help avenge him.
These movies, among others, heavily demonstrate the themes of nihilism, and how it can reflect on American culture. Lakewood student Madyson Kelly says she enjoyed both of these films, but never noticed the connection between them.