Pulp Fiction and law: contamination and multidisciplinary, the new challenges of legal thought

by Adriano Izzo, civil lawyer and President of the Gennaro Santilli Foundation

Let’s try to see the law, its current output and the challenges it faces through the lens of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece film “Pulp Fiction”.

The parallelism may seem risky, almost provocative, but it is a useful narrative device to introduce the topic of this article.

The analysis of the American director’s film allows us to identify an element that made the film successful and which, with the necessary precautions, can and must be used to describe the new frontier of law: the theme of interdisciplinarity, contamination, of the development of new legal forms of reading and writing reality.

Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994, Oscar winner for best screenplay, Pulp Fiction mixes genres and styles, sublimating them in a masterful narrative within which space and time lose consistency, grotesque characters come to life between iconic dialogues and legendary music.

The result is that of a real revolution in the way of making cinema and, above all, in the cinematographic language which, thanks to Tarantino, has changed forever and has inspired new generations of directors.

How all this was possible is easily explainable in the light of the brilliant mind of its creator, an almost obsessive cinema lover (let’s also remove the almost), a profound connoisseur of the cinematographic medium, of its dynamics, of its potential and of its role as a thermometer of society and its aberrations.

The success of the film, which has become a cult object, is essentially due to Quentin Tarantino’s ability to bring his boundless knowledge of cinema to the screen and elaborate it, giving life to a new genre which is the synthesis of multiple genres.

Godard, Hitchcock, Fellini, Leone are the masters who inspired the American director: iconic and now engraved in the collective imagination is the scene of Uma Thurman and Jhon Travolta’s dance at Jack Rabbit’s Slim to the tune of You Never Can Tell. It is believed that this scene was inspired by a classic of French cinema, Bande à Parte, a 1964 film by Jean Luc Godard and by the famous dance sequence that goes down in history as The Madison Dance.

This mosaic of genres, characters and music distinguishes the revolutionary scope of the film and reveals an aptitude for the contamination of styles which, in turn, demonstrates a capacity for observation, in-depth analysis, and openness to external influences functional to a new narrative.

By creating a parallel with legal science, we can use Tarantino’s film to open a reflection on the importance of law in our time and on the need for legal thought to open up to contamination, in its positive meaning of overcoming a static identity, and to interdisciplinarity.

The main role of law is to translate a determined conception of the world into social action, but also to prevent and resolve problems that require transversal knowledge.

The task of the jurist, in particular of the legislator and judges (and, why not, also of lawyers), is therefore to be able to look beyond the boundaries of the legal discipline and open up to contamination with other sciences in a world that is increasingly interconnected and complex.

Legal issues are often intertwined with other disciplines such as economics, politics, ethics, social and behavioral sciences. Drawing on these disciplines, on their evaluation and analysis models, is a necessary prerequisite for law to be able to impose itself not only as an aseptic system of rules but also of ideas and values capable of influencing a specific vision of the world.

In an era like the current one dominated by environmental, economic and social problems, a capacity for adaptation, resilience and proactivity is required and, above all, a holistic vision of things for which law can become a vehicle and instrument of diffusion to give adequate responses to challenges that these problems entail.

Returning to Pulp Fiction and Tarantino, prophet of a new cinema which is the sum of many cinematographic genres, the hope is that at the basis of normative production and legal thought there will always be a multidisciplinary approach open to influences deriving from the knowledge of other disciplines and capable of synthesizing the most effective and innovative methodologies and interpretations into unique knowledge.

Let’s just think about how fascinating and useful it would be to address the topic of neurodiversity with a vision that incorporates but at the same time knows how to go beyond the medical gaze, which draws on behavioral sciences (such as pedagogy and anthropology) and knows how to encourage a criticism of the model dominant deficit that defines behaviors and attitudes in terms of lack and normality.

Let’s imagine a law that promotes this vision and is able to give effective protection to the rights of neurodiverse people (for example, autistic people), guaranteeing their real coexistence in the economic and social fabric of a society and hindering the spread of a culture based only on on ableism that excludes those who have different ways and times of learning.

When we talk about contamination and interdisciplinarity we must mean precisely this: uniting the knowledge of different scientific and academic disciplines in a single and harmonious vision of the world. To generate more effective models and solutions and hope for a better future.

Photo: Eric Robert, Getty images, protagonists of the movie Pulp Fiction

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