Quentin Tarantino has always been my idol simply because he tells the best stories, stories that suck you in, toss you around and spit you out as a changed person. The best thing aobut his movies is that he’s always looking to find a new way to tell a story, and so that’s why “The Hateful Eight” got a special roadshow release on 70mm film. Now, this is a big deal. Firstly, not many theaters have the equipment to screen films shot in 70mm, because it actually requires analog projection, not digital. I knew I had to see this, and so on a cold December morning, abandoned by all my friends who figured they’d just watch the regular version, I boarded bus 6 and began a long journey(1 hour) to Edina just to see the roadshow version, and it was really worth the effort. Sure, it cost $16(little more than the regular price), but it was totally worth it. It felt special, right from the moment I got a special program. Who gets a program when you watch a movie? Here’s a pic of the back cover.
The movie was the uncut version and stretched for over 3 hours, but I did not notice the time pass, and the audience was never restless. The movie cleverly uses the intermission(yes, it had an intermission. How awesome is that?) to advance the plot by having one of the characters poison a pot of coffee(the narrator explains that this happened during the intermission). This was a very novel story telling technique.
The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone was playing when I walked in, and the presentation felt so unique and new. Listening to the soundtrack really sets you in the atmosphere, and right form the very first scene, where the camera pans gloriously onto a snowy road in the middle of nowhere, you know that you are actually stuck in a blizzard somewhere in Wyoming with all the whacky characters in the film.
The movie is in the “mystery western” genre, and is about a bunch of unlikely characters who end up stuck in a cabin in the middle of a horrible blizzard. Threats, murder, ambushes and hangings ensue in typical Tarantino style. What’s interesting is that the whole plot hinges around a woman, Daisy Domerguegue, an outlaw being taken to the nearest town by a bounty hunter. The story revolves around the attempt by the members of her gang to rescue her, so in a way,it is possible to argue that the movie grants a lot of agency to women, especially given that the time period it was set in was one in which women had very little agency, while exposing the way women were treated in the past.
In this scene, a number of characters laugh together at a funny line, but Kurt Russel’s character(John Ruth) jerks his bowl of stew into Daisy’s face, irritated by her laughter. There are many troubling things with this scene. Firstly, John Ruth is clearly irritated by everybody’s laughter but he chooses to take action only against the female character, Daisy. His surprisingly violent and intense action comes out of nowhere, shocking the audience, and is a clear assertion of his power over her. “The women operates as a projection of male fantasies and fears,” says the text on structuring a language of theory(McCabe, 2004), and this is clearly demonstrated here, with John Ruth using Daisy as a tool to assert his displeasure over the laughter. This was an accurate representation for men could shout at women and make their displeasure toward them known, while doing the same to another man would result in confrontation.
Another important reading of this same scene would be that Daisy doesn’t stop laughing even when John Ruth jerks his soup into her face. In a way, she is exerting her agency by refusing to be dominated by Ruth. She gives the impression that the whole scene is a joke to her(tying in with the plot because she knows she is being rescued and John Ruth is going to die) so she is really asserting her agency in this scene.
The movie also makes a lot of effort to give agency to a character of color. Major Marquis is a central character in the story, and as demonstrated in the above scene, he exercises a great deal of power over the other characters. He provokes the racist general, playing with him by telling him how he dishonored and punished his son. This scene is problematic because Major Marquis makes a number of phallic references. This makes it appear that he only has power because he is a Man of color, and uses his phallus to overcome the strictures placed on him by racist men. There is a deep implication here that women of color cannot fend for themselves. This is further reinforced in the plot line where, the female proprietor of the inn, depicted in the typical mammy stereotype, is shown to have been killed by the members of Daisy’s gang. Hollinger speaks of how it is necessary to disrupt stereotypes of black womanhood: ‘disrupt conventional racist and sexist representations of black womanhood” and unfortunately this movie fails to do this.
Another important scene is the final scene of the movie when Daisy Domergue is hanged by Major Marquis and another character(Sheriff Mannix) , and the male gaze is employed here to assert their dominance over Daisy. Daisy is powerless in their hands, and they lounge back on a bed to watch her hang. They derive pleasure from looking. “The power to subject another person to the will sadistically or to the gaze voyueristically is turned onto the woman as the object of both. Power is backed by a certainty of legal right,” is particularly appropriate when applied to this scene(Mulvey, 1975). As Mulvey says, the two male characters derive pleasure from looking at Daisy, and it is all right because Daisy takes on the role of the criminal in the movie. This appears to justify the implied sadism and voyuerism exhibited toward women. Unfortunately, this would be an accurate representation of the time period this movie was set in, as women were really subjected to such voyueristic use in society in the past.
All in all, Tarantino’s movie are always tough to read for he does tend to use problematic and controversial themes in his plots. His movies do make powerful statements about the treatment of women and people of color, and “The Hateful Eight” was no different.