I was prepared for the worst.

Jakub Piwoński

1 July 2023

Attention, the text reveals important elements of the plot of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

Tarantino is a genius. Cinema genius. That was my first thought after seeing Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. And a lot could be said about what influences such a clear, in my eyes, review of the latest work by the creator of Pulp Fiction. Say something about an homage to cinematography, with bravura performances, period vibes, cultural quotes and Margot Robbie’s natural flash of beauty.

But the fact that Once Upon a Time… will stay with me for longer was determined by one more feature. After seeing the film, from a spiritual point of view, I felt cleaner than I ever felt standing at the ticket offices. what’s the point? The answer is none other than Aristotle himself.

I’ve been reading a lot about film structure lately. What interests me most, however, is its story aspect. I have always believed that in this particular case, as a story carrier, film is an exceptionally perfect art, because creatively supported by audiovisualization mechanisms, it can carry our senses towards experiences that no other art can provide. However, like any narrative art, it also has its rules that it must follow in order to draw us into the game, keep our interest and provide the necessary satisfaction in the end.

Pewnego razu w Hollywood

I came across a book by Katarzyna Bonda entitled A typewriter in which our native author of detective stories lectures readers on what she thinks you need to do to become a good writer. The book is a great read, it is written in a simple, yet very concise and to the point language, which is the best proof that the author knows exactly what she is talking about. One of the main conclusions he makes is related to the concept of catharsis. Let’s give the voice to the author herself for a moment:

In life, we avoid conflicts, we try to mitigate critical situations, we minimize the dangerous and uncomfortable ones. (…) The plot requires that the characters throw obstacles under their feet, make relationships difficult, infect them with diseases, deviations, obsessions, lead to misery, destroy relationships, hyperbolize fears and desires, and then unscrew and fix it all. What for? It’s about catharsis. (…) Purification is the key to the story.

In this case, the term catharsis refers to one of the basic features of ancient art. A long time ago, in his Poetics, Aristotle used this term for the first time, pointing out that the purpose of art is to shock the viewer as a result of making some tragedy visible. This, in turn, is supposed to ultimately lead to a soothing cleansing of the soul from negative emotions and sensations. Freud later became interested in this syndrome in his psychoanalysis. The most important thing, however, is to take into account that this feature is the foundation of the plot. The foundation that we do not see, but which, as recipients, we need very much.

Do you already know what I’m getting at? Yes, that’s the kind of catharsis I felt during the screening of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. Tarantino has mastered this principle to perfection. It had happened to him before, but perhaps only now he emphasized it in such a strong way. For this story could not be given a more burning meaning.

Perhaps the emotions during the climax of the film affected me in such a way because of the fact that I’ve been messing around a lot lately. I’ve been reading about the crimes of serial killers, enriching Mindhunter Season 2 (and giving it to you). I was getting closer to the character of Charles Manson, as if preparing for the screening of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood. I was prepared for the worst. To stab a pregnant beauty in the belly with a knife. On the gushing blood. And finally, to face the feeling of overwhelming sadness, thanks to experiencing the tragic events of August 1969 firsthand.

However, I received a surprise. And it’s one of the biggest movies I’ve had in recent times. I knew Tarantino liked to play with my habits, but somewhere while watching those nostalgic Hollywood postcards of those years my vigilance was effectively put to sleep. And good. Because with it, the trauma I was prepared for gave way to true cleansing. Seeing the fate of Tex Watson and co. hypnotized by Manson, I felt an indescribable satisfaction. Hearing Sharon Tate’s safe voice over the intercom was a tangible relief. I’m good with it.


Cruel, high-profile murders recorded in police files are wounds that in the social consciousness never heal. We may be able to recognize them as belonging to the past, but it is much harder for us to completely forget them. They are meant to be a clear warning. By giving a very unpleasant testimony to a man, they make it clear that he is a flawed being, marked by fears, obsessions and desires. Often succumbing to the gusts of these currents. There is, therefore, no higher-class conflict confronted by a hero like the crime that once shook the world.

Tarantino knew exactly what to expect when watching a film based on tragic events. So he knew that I would expect a finale that would not leave me indifferent to what had happened to Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and her friends. And that’s why he dared to do the opposite. Just to give me a sense of purification as part of the magic of cinema. Because Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood is nothing more than a beautiful fairy tale – about people immersed in melancholy, living in fiction, being part of a world built on the facades of happiness and prosperity. A fairy tale teaching the bad wolf a lesson.

And even if it’s only in the imagination, it’s damn nice to be able to show the middle finger to this persistent injustice that marks the world with suffering. For that, Quentin – thanks.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

See other posts from this author >>>