Review: The Hateful Eight (2016)


Quentin Tarantino’s 8th film, The Hateful Eight is a fascinating revisitation of his central thematic fixation, which fundamentally grows into a budding new form of expression for the black-humoured and highly cineliterate auteurist.

Tarantino’s exploration and presentation of the self-appointed persona are very much ingrained in the fabric of the film. Many of the title characters are taking on personas when staying at “Minnie’s Haberdashery.” In fact, one could infer that each of their roles is Tarantino’s illustrations of different approaches to performance. Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) feels like an exercise in over the top scenery chewing. He perhaps tries too hard in attempting to convince people of the illusion. Meanwhile, Joe Gage (Micheal Madsen) feels like a purposeful side character, as he keeps to himself and does not comment on the boiling political tension in the cabin. Finally, Bob (Demián Bichir) feels like someone who is attempting to play a part, but you can see through the act and persona straight away as he is extremely one-note and reactionary.

This idea of the self-constructed persona takes on richer thematic resonance with a twist near the end of the film. It’s established that the audience has been witnessing a constructed representation of “Minnie’s Haberdashery” as the day before the current events of the film- Jody Domergue (Channing Tatum) and his gang kill everybody in the secluded place and lie in waiting to rescue Dasiy Domergue. (Jennifer Jason Leigh) In this stretch of ten-fifteen minutes, the audience witnesses the expensively bountied bandits attempt to construct a conniving scene. Jody even makes a case for letting General Sanford “Sandy” Smithers live due to how it will make the scene feel more authentic as opposed pity for the old man’s life. These moments represent an evolution for Tarantino.

While his pictures have always been novelistic in structure, which is most evident by the chapter headings and the use of time feeling like paragraphs. In The Hateful Eight, Tarantino has made a film that is inherently stagey, which fundamentally feels of a piece with the themes and structure of his films. For example, the previously mentioned scene seems like Tarantino creating a new theme of the self-constructed scene, which greatly synthesis with his typical narrative set up of the aftermath of a significant event, such as a robbery, massacre or death.

Despite the staginess of the film, Tarantino inherently adheres to some of the axioms of the cinematic medium. In his use of Ultra Panavision 70, Tarantino reminds the viewer that cinema can be incredibly potent and powerful because of its focus on faces and the effect they have on us. The use also punctuates his newly minted theme of the self-constructed scene as it adds detail and texture to the scene in question. It is also a firm reminder of the experiential and voyeuristic nature of cinema. Rather, then witness an abstract scenery change like one would get on stage, we observe the real-time making of a scene, which in some way makes us complicit as viewers.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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