Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut, "Reservoir Dogs," is an awe-inspiring film, primarily because of how engaging it is while featuring hardly any action, despite its genre and premise. The film tells the story of anonymous criminals, using colors as codenames, who stage a jewelry heist that goes terribly wrong. Fearing the presence of a rat among them, what follows is a tense and concise 90-minute thriller filled to the brim with powerhouse performances that carry the film. One of the most fascinating things about "Reservoir Dogs" is that the audience never gets to see the actual heist happen. Only the events leading up to it and the disastrous aftermath are shown.

The fact that "Reservoir Dogs" is mainly comprised of characters standing or sitting around talking to each other was a factor that undoubtedly played into the struggle Tarantino went through to get his first feature film made. Perhaps even Tarantino had known the unlikelihood of someone financing the project, as he originally planned on funding the film himself with a shoestring budget, along with shooting it in black and white, not dissimilar to his lost work-in-progress film "My Best Friend's Birthday." And while the structure of Tarantino's script gave some the impression that the film would be better as a play, the filmmaker felt it told a simple but highly effective story that could still be cinematic, if properly executed.

An Eye For The Cinematic

In an interview published in the 1994 issue of Film Comment, Quentin Tarantino spoke of how certain people who read his script assumed that "Reservoir Dogs" could be realized more effectively as a live stage play. After all, much like a play, the film largely takes place in a single location (the warehouse where the characters are constantly coming and going), save for a key flashback. However, Tarantino knew his own script better than anybody. Moreover, although he had yet to make a name for himself in the eyes of Hollywood, he was confident in his ability to translate his written words into potent cinema through the lens of a camera. He explained:

"People would read it and go, 'Well, this isn't a movie, this is a play, why don't you try and do it in an Equity Waiver house?' I was like, 'No, no, trust me, it'll be cinematic.' I don't like most film versions of plays, but the reason I had it all take place in that one room was because I figured that would be the easiest way to shoot something."

Sometimes less is more, and that's especially the case with "Reservoir Dogs." The film may never show guns blazing in massive police shootouts or car chases, but such a crime's emotional and physical aftermath is explored to its fullest. Add in a level of distrust and the idea that the characters could be found out by the police at any moment, and you have a level of tension that couldn't have been recreated with any actual heist.

Playing With 'Theatrical Elements'

Despite its limited locations and budget, "Reservoir Dogs" did boast impressive camera angles. The technical elements, along with its soundtrack and non-linear storytelling, all take what could've been an exciting stage production and transform it into a riveting feature film. It's these hybrid aspects of Quentin Tarantino's script for the film that please him the most, as he explained in the same interview:

"To me, the most important thing was that it be cinematic. Now, having said that, one of the things I get a big kick out of in 'Reservoir Dogs' is that it plays with theatrical elements in a cinematic form — it is contained, the tension isn't dissipated, it's supposed to mount, the characters aren't able to leave, and the whole movie's definitely performance-driven."

While the script for "Reservoir Dogs" may have confused Hollywood then, that certainly wouldn't be the case for future films that Tarantino would end up writing. Over 20 years after his first feature, Tarantino would write a script similar to "Reservoir Dogs" with its one-location setting: "The Hateful Eight." A dark film with surprisingly resonant themes, "The Hateful Eight" explores the same concepts of distrust and also sees the director tapping into the tension a single-location film can bring. The more intimate and intense films like these show Tarantino's versatility as a director, crafting large-scale movies and stories that could essentially be stage plays. Despite the director's intent on retiring from film directing after his tenth film, there may yet be a future for him on the stage when all is said and done.

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