Sometimes the book has more answers than the film.
Quentin Tarantino has published his Once upon a time in Hollywood Novel to film. He did the talk show and even released a trailer for the book, and it finally hit shelves today.
Mine was dropped off at my doorstep by my trusty postman, and I sat down to devour it. Among the many insights and nuances on the page, I found something that I wasn’t expecting. The straight answer to whether or not Cliff Booth killed his wife.
As you will recall in the movie, this was an ambiguous detail that forced us to make our own judgments about the characters and especially Cliff’s Arc of Salvation. But there is no room for misinterpretation in the novel.
Tarantino writes: “The moment Cliff shot his wife with the shark gun, he knew it was a bad idea.”
The passage goes on and says the spear “Slap it a little under the belly button and tear it in half, both parts hitting the deck of the boat with a splash.”
That’s pretty gross, but it’s Tarantino. When he gets into Cliff’s head, he says that Cliff “seemed to have despised this woman for years,” but “the moment he saw her torn in two … years of malice and resentment vanished in an instant.”
Of course, Cliff then tries to reunite his wife, but to no avail.
Somehow she survived this mutilation. Tarantino expands the situation and writes: “In these seven hours they told their whole life together.” It’s pretty brutal. Eventually it divides into two parts permanently and falls into the sea.
Cliff sells the incident as “tragic diving equipment abuse”.
Tarantino ends with the ultimate question: how did Cliff get away with it?
Tarantino writes: “Easy. His story was plausible and could not be refuted. Cliff felt really bad about what he’d done to Billie. But as much regret and remorse as he felt, it never crossed his mind Not to try to get away with murder. ”
So there you have it. The answer to a question that has been a lot of fun for a year.
Since all of this has been left out in the film, it can be said that it is not canon and therefore the film should be judged on its own. But it is in the book, and now that I’ve read it I’m not sure I can separate them in my head.
It also begs the bigger question of what this means as a metaphor for Hollywood. Is it about how Natalie Wood disappeared at sea and people think Robert Wagner might have been involved in her death (with Christopher Walken as an accessory) or could it be Roman Polanski who we know did something terrible? has, but who thinks it is necessary? forgiven after all these years? Or maybe it’s about something else.
What do you think of this change? Does it add to your reading of the film?
Let’s get it out in the comments.