I’m the foot fuckin’ master. — Jules, Pulp Fiction.
The third arc of Re:Zero -Starting Life in another World- begins with a tedious grind of forced misunderstandings and annoying displays of male chauvinism from the protagonist, but it also contains my favorite scene in the anime thus far: the foot fetish scene.
After an establishing shot and several tilts, pans, and close-ups setting the environment and the characters, we get to the crux of the scene: Priscilla demands that Subaru lick her foot in exchange for her favor.
Of note is the following sequence:
Cut 1. A medium shot of Subaru sitting on the ground, Priscilla’s foot looming above.
Cut 2. A low-angle shot with a dutch tilt of Priscilla that tilt-up from her foot along her figure.
Cut 3. A two-shot variant of Subaru and Priscilla’s foot
Cut 4. Another low-angle shot with a dutch tilt of Priscilla, this time, over the shoulder of Subaru.
In just four quick shots, Re:Zero effectively illustrates the dynamic between the two characters. The sequence prominently employs the low-angle shot on Priscilla. From this camera angle, she fills the screen and her large presence eventually dominates the sequence.
These shots are reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s trademark trunk shot and its variations.1 In Tarantino’s films, the subjects of low-angle shots (typically in a wide frame) hold power and authority. For example, Jules of Pulp Fiction retrieves his Mr. 9mm—the shepherd to his righteous authority, or the power to his tyranny. In Inglourious Basterds, Aldo Raine holds the knife that enforces justice over Hans Landa. Likewise, in a characteristic low-angle shot in Re:Zero, Priscilla raises her feet, the tool she uses to impose her power and perceived moral superiority over the selfish and greedy Subaru.
Shots of Priscilla are interspersed among medium shots Subaru, a sequence which juxtaposes Priscilla’s domineering character with Subaru’s mediocrity. Indeed, in both medium shots of Subaru, he is either below Priscilla’s foot, or at best, at level with her foot. In the over-the-shoulder shot, he has to look up to see Priscilla’s sneering veneer. The use of dutch tilts on Priscilla from the point of view of Subaru also emphasizes Subaru’s disoriented, wretched state.
Furthermore, as much as this is a display of Priscilla’s strength and morality, it is also a display of her sexual power. Not only can feet be inherently sensual, Priscilla’s language adds to the eroticism: shame, humiliation, lick, suckling, mother’s teat, etc. In an ironic reversal of Subaru’s male chauvinistic tendencies—for several episodes, Subaru has felt that he is owed something from Emilia for his self-imposed knightly role—we have in Priscilla a more outspoken parallel: Priscilla strips Subaru of sexual agency and orders him to perform a sex act for her help.
Spliced into this scene is a momentary flash cut of Emilia, which reminds us of Emilia’s dignified rebellion against Subaru’s aggressive insistence in an earlier episode. The contrast emphasizes the lowliness of Subaru at this point, such that we both want and expect Subaru to fail. The resolution of this scene is thus highly satisfying. When Priscilla is disgusted and throws Subaru aside for his prostituting his own dignity, the uncomfortable sexual tension and our disgust with Subaru is released in a violent, cathartic climax.