In the movie Kill Bill Vol. 2, Quentin Tarantino the writer and director of the movie incorporates a vast array of genres such as Samurai, Hardbody, Kung fu and the Spaghetti Western to form not just an action film – but a mixed-genre film. Through the use of the movie as well as a small segment of a fight scene between Beatrix Kiddo and Elle Driver there is evidence of all four genre’s within the movie. These genres can be identified through iconography, themes, narrative structure, cinematography and any other concepts/ideas that are associated with the genres. The samurai genre is portrayed quite strongly in Kill Bill 2.
Especially through the iconography associated in the film. One of the strongest icons in Chambara (samurai movies) is the katana, the traditional Japanese warrior sword. Within the small segment the two warriors battle with the katana. The way some shots are set up to see the fighting from the view of the sword or the slow pan against the sword edge with light reflecting off the blade are ways the filmmakers have highlighted the strong iconography and to bring out the dangerous symbolism within it. In terms of narrative structure, Kiddo follows the profile of the “lone samurai”.
Who in many classic Japanese movies such as “Long Wolf and Cub” is described to be a character on a mission for vengeance, which in her case, is very similar to her journey. Many classic Japanese movies also contain this story of “endless adventure” where the filmmakers produce a long-lived series starring a main character who is so skilled with her weapon (katana) he/she is virtually invincible (relating to the Hardbody genre). How the filmmakers decided to include two volumes of Kiddow’s journey for vengeance is quite similar to how the Chambara filmmakers create multiple volumes of their stories.
Within the iconography and narrative structure also lie the themes of the samurai genre. The main themes that relate to the narrative of Kill Bill are loyalty and honor as well as seeking a place in society. The loyalty and honor theme is evident in most Japanese war films such as Ran, where loyalty and honor to you clan is vital (“death before dishonor”). When Kiddow betrayed the loyalty to the clan Bill’s assassins hunted her because she had dishonored the clan. Samurai’s are often searching for a place in society, somewhere they belong.
Kiddow never really had a place in society, but once she became pregnant she tried to fit herself back into society only to have it taken away by Bill. Features in the genre, particularly on the invincibility of the samurai are very evident and similar to the Hardbody genre. The Hardbody genre is notable for the excessive violence and hyperbolic action sequences, and the hardbodied protagonists dominating these films, perpetrating both the violence and action of the narratives with super heroic glee. The iconography associated with the Hardbody genre is the large strong, battle-beaten character that fights off all evil to save the day.
This is a certain element that was twisted in Kill Bill. Instead of having the large muscular character, it was just a small woman with no strong physical features. However, even though she didn’t contain the strong features she made up for it in attitude. The “kill anything in my path” attitude was exemplified especially when she tore Elle Drivers eye out. Even though she lacked the features of the character she maintained the attitude that created an interesting aspect to her character. Even though she seemed small and innocent on the outside she was a hardbodied warrior with a killing attitude.
The way the filmmakers constructed her ability to survive being buried in a deep grave and continue to battle. During the fight sequence she endured a lot of hits and blows from Driver but Kiddow just shrugged them off and continued to fight. The entire fight scene was an example of the Hardbody genre of how Kiddow was able to take blows and still continue to fight as if they were nothing, and after the fight was over she continued on her journey. The kung fu genre was not as heavily defined like the samurai genre.
However, in terms of iconography there was evidence of traditional Chinese martial arts animal poses used e. g.when Driver struck a snake like position just before she attacked. The fighting was where the kung fu genre shined the most. When they were fighting bits of dust were flying in the air, mixing with the light to create this sense of power. The sound effects as well were also quite loud and effective which is commonly found in kung fu (wu xia) movies such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Even though most of the fighting was with swords play there was one moment where Driver flies through the air with a kick, delivering a kung fu type of unrealistic acrobatic movement with the wires that is commonly found in kung fu movies.
In some kung fu movies such as the ones starring Jackie Chan, there is a certain comedic element. At one point both Driver and Kiddow kick each other at the same time providing a comedic element to the martial arts. By adding this comedic element, the filmmakers are actually not just taking one aspect of kung fu, but incorporating a wide range. The narrative isn’t based on a common kung fu narrative structure, even though she is on a journey of vengeance this narrative structure is pretty much evident in most genres.
However, the theme of a student-master relationship is mentioned in the segment where Driver tells Kiddow that she had killed her master, enraging and upsetting Kiddow. The cinematography also contains kung fu genre elements such as the slow pan of the two woman’s faces as well as weapons before they battle as well as in the beginning when Driver opens the door creating a quick zoom into her head which was commonly found in older kung fu movies, highlighting the comedic approach.
The spaghetti western genre was also evident among the mixture of genres. In terms of iconography the dry and empty desert plane is a strong associate for the western genre. However, I believe the strongest element of the spaghetti genre lies within the sound as well as the one on one showdown. When the time comes for Driver and Kiddow to battle, the shot is composed in a western showdown style. Eyes locked, hands cocked and ready to make a move. At this point the sound comes on.
The spaghetti western type music while the shots cycle back and forth. The music is the typical western one on one showdown, with an opera like soundtrack. The elements within genres such as the samurai genre, Hardbody genre, kung fu genre and spaghetti western genre mix together to form a miced-genre film within Kill Bill Vol. 2. This mix genre is well incorporated, containing iconography, themes, narrative structure, cinematography and other concepts/ideas that are produced by the filmmakers to create an action-packed movie.