There are numerous spell-binding moments in the 2003 Quentin Tarantino directorial Kill Bill: Volume 1. However, my favourite is the long fight sequence featuring Uma Thurman’s The Bride and Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii.
It is a dramatic style of filming that pays homage to the ancient art of Samurai sword fighting. What also hightens the effect of the splendidly choreographed and directed sequence is the background score. As is well known, Tarantino painstakingly chooses the music that goes into every feature. Here the music that plays is “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Santa Esmeralda.
Backgrounder: The Bride is betrayed, and she presumes her child dead; she has been hoodwinked by her boss (who also happens to be her lover) and her colleagues/friends. The Bride wants revenge and so she makes a kill list. One such person who prominently features in her list is her former friend and skilled sword fighter O-Ren Ishii. O-Ren Ishii had been waiting for the Bride. Ahead of their fight, O-Ren makes fun of the Bride and belittles her skills with the sword. However, by the end of the sequence, the Bride proves her wrong, which prompts O-Ren to ask for her forgiveness. “For ridiculing you earlier, I apologise,” O-Ren says.
If you take a look at it closely, the fight itself is divided into three parts. In the first part, O-Ren is smug and the Bride is tense. O-Ren manages to wound the Bride severely and makes light of her situation. However, tables turn in the second act of the battle when the Bride manages to injure O-Ren in the leg. Ahead of the final and third part of the fight, the two acknowledge each other’s prowess in not so many words. And we all know how the battle ends: O-Ren looses her head, literally and figuratively.
Sequence of note | October | Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone | Masaan | Love Actually | Taxi Driver | Tamasha | La La Land | Swades | 96: Trisha tells a story | Rang De Basanti’s ‘Koi Future Nai’ | Inglourious Basterds’ strudel scene | Delhi 6’s Dil Gira Dafatan | The eerie conversation from Get Out
It is in this sequence that we notice the Bride has evolved, both as a warrior and human being. She hasn’t let go of the past, but she learns to forgive. And despite all its bloodiness, we see almost a silent acceptance on both O-Ren and the Bride’s part, that this is how their relationship is at present. Like a break-up of a romantic relationship, but done with style, grace and a strange sense of compassion.