“They speak English in What?” Jules Winnfield’s rhetorical question in one of Pulp Fiction’s most iconic scenes is almost childlike, a playground taunt. In another instance, the question might be followed by laughter or a “tag, you’re it!” But in this scene, it’s followed by the furious recitation of the foreboding Ezekiel 25:17.
Jules conducts the cold-blooded execution like a dark symphony. Just as a conductor awaits the start of the concert in the wings of the concert hall, Jules waits with assistant concert master (Vincent Vega) in the dingy hallway before “getting into character.” They knock, the door eases open – the curtain is lifted, the symphony begins. The opening movement is tranquil — notice Jules’ maestro-like hand gesture as he eases Brett’s friend back to “keep chillin” on the couch. His tone is calm and the tempo even. The motif develops until Jules draws his baton – a nine millimeter – and fires a single shot. The tempo quickens, the table is overturned, a call and response ensues, and finally the cadenza: Ezekiel 25:17.
There is another, more subtle, element to this scene that adds to the horror. Notice the level of the camera. For virtually the entire scene, the viewer’s eye level is the same as that of doomed Brett. We sit with him at the cheap folding breakfast table (if you study the scene closely, you notice that our seat is directly across from him). We occupy a front row seat as Jules lifts the Big Kahuna burger from its paper nest. We look up toward Jules as he blissfully slurps the last refreshing drop from Brett’s Sprite. And we look up again—minutes later—this time past the silver barrel of Jules’ gun and into his terrifyingly bulging eyes. There is gunfire, and then we fade to black. There is no curtain call.