What Was in the Briefcase in Pulp Fiction?

Anyone hoping the briefcase contained something special on set will be sorely disappointed. According to Gavin Edwards’ book “Bad Motherf***er: The Life and Movies of Samuel L. Jackson,” the actor has given a demystifying description of the inside of the briefcase in the past. “When I looked inside, between scenes, I saw two lights and some batteries,” he revealed.

That answer may take the wind out of the sails of viewers looking for a simple explanation, but as Tarantino told Rose, the movie belongs to each viewer. “If I tell you at this table what that is [in the suitcase], you’ll throw that away, and I don’t want you to throw that away,” he explained. “That’s your movie.” The lights and batteries were Jackson’s version of the movie, but they don’t have to be ours.

While Tarantino encourages individual interpretations, it’s also worth noting that, as with all of his films, he likes a good reference. The briefcase is in the broadest of terms a reference to the idea of a MacGuffin, an object that exists only to move the plot of a story along. The prop is perhaps the purest example of a MacGuffin around, since it ties together the film’s disparate plotlines and does nothing else.

The shiny visual accompanying the briefcase also has precedent; in the 1955 noir film “Kiss Me Deadly,” multiple people chase after a box containing a “great whatsit.” At the film’s end, a woman named Gabrielle (Gaby Rodgers) opens the box, which emits a blinding light and a shrieking noise. According to The A.V. Club, Tarantino says the “Kiss Me Deadly” MacGuffin didn’t inspire his own, but we know it definitely had a long legacy, with films like “Repo Man” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” paying homage to it.

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