Friday, May 15, 2015

Favorite Scene Friday! Inglorious Basterds: The Bear Jew

This week's scene - another in this month's series on character introductions - is by Nick from French Toast Sunday!

There are many great scenes that encompass Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. One of them is the introduction of Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth). As words escape the gravel pit of Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), we can hear tapping from a long dark hallway. Raine explains to the Nazi soldier under interrogation, that if he doesn’t give the Basterds the information they need, he’s calling out the Bear Jew. But who, or what exactly is the Bear Jew? Stories amongst the Nazi soldiers tell of a golem who crushes his enemies with a club. Is that true? Maybe this soldier has a death wish, for he refuses to disclose information that the Basterds need. As Raine calls out for Donny to “oblige him” we continue to hear the tapping. The Bear Jew's solid wood weapon of choice knocking along the cinderblock walls of some type of stronghold. The music begins, a light flute coupled with a curiously tense piano. Choir voices join in, almost as if they're offering a prayer for the soon-to-be-deceased soldier. As the score builds, we see the reactions of the other Nazi soldiers. One fighting back fear as tears pour out, while the soldier under interrogation begins to accept his fate. He’s stone faced until just before the Bear Jew appears. We see a slight twinge in his eyes. Has the fear gripped him? Does he know of the horror to come?

Alex Pardee via Upper Playground and GeekTyrant

As the Bear Jew emerges from the shadows, the horn regally declaring his arrival, the Basterds go wild. They know what’s about to happen, the soldiers think they know what’s about to happen, but even when it does happen, we're still shocked. Sgt. Donny Donowitz approaches the soldier, asks if the medals he wears were achieved from killing Jews. The soldier replies, “bravery”. That's interesting unto itself. It’s a two-sides-of-the-same-coin situation. The Nazi soldiers see their heinous acts as a necessity to further their ideals and reward each other for such acts, whereas everyone else in the world sees the extermination of a race that needs to be stopped. We almost feel the flames of bloodlust explode within the Bear Jew’s eyes as he lowers his bat to the soldier’s shoulders. The Bear Jew is measuring his prey. He winds up and it’s a homerun. A gut-wrenching, horrifying homerun. Really it’s a grand slam as the music abruptly ends while Donowitz smashes the soldier's head in. You can have all the monologues you want. You can have plot twisting reveals. You can even wait until the last minute of the film and switch up your walking style. But until you come out to a myth-making score from Ennio Morricone and then brutally vanquish your enemies, you’re still in the Minor Leagues, slugger.

What's your favorite scene from Inglorious Basterds?

What's your favorite character introduction in a Tarantino film?


  1. The Bear Jew could have been a legendry creation had he been mute and secondary not been played by that grinning goon Eli Roth, who manages to kill any mystique the character might have had as soon as he opens his mouth. A flawed yet still great scene

  2. Great scene, Nick. Django was a bit of a misfire for me, so this was his last good film in my opinion. Pitt is really great in this scene. Gravel pit is a great to describe the way he talks. Elwood's not really wrong - Eli Roth is sort of a "seen but not heard" kind of guy - he just sounds kinda silly after he smashes his head. I wonder how Adam Sandler would have turned out if he had been able to take the role.

    There are so many good scenes in Basterds - I keep meaning to feature the Italian scene towards the end of the movie - so hilarious. And the bar shootout, aka, Fassbender's great scene. Thanks again!