How the bear exemplifies the anxiety and beauty of the restaurant world
The hit summer series from FX and Hulu, the bearcreated by Christopher Storer, is a hurricane of intense emotions. As young chef Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) returns to his family’s Italian sandwich shop after spending time in the New York foodie world, Storer and his team use a variety of techniques to heighten both the anxiety and the beauty of being a chef. Indeed, Carmy grapples with a stubborn staff, a painful family history, and her own trauma while focusing on the survival of the restaurant. However, as the series progresses and the inner lives of other characters are slowly revealed, the pure love and joy of cooking is also shown, giving a complete insight into this unique profession.
The series’ opening sequence is a masterclass in building tension and anxiety through the use of the composer’s carefully crafted sound design. Jeffrey Qaiyum. In a surreal foreground, Carmy slowly approaches a bear on a bridge. Everything around him is almost silent except for the ambient noise of the streets as he walks slowly towards the growling animal. Suddenly, Carmy abruptly wakes up from the dream in the restaurant and the first rapid notes of a heavy metal song begin to play. This striking contrast between silence and an intense guitar riff sets the tone for Carmy’s new restaurant routine: it’s fast, it’s intense and it’s anxiety-provoking. Carmy clearly doesn’t have a moment of peace as he begins his day, as Storer suddenly increases the tension with sound.
The intensity of the opening does not cease as Carmy sits in his office talking on the phone with someone regarding the restaurant business, which Qaiyum layers with the sounds of a vintage arcade game in the background. plan. As Carmy tries to play it all like he’s been keeping the restaurant afloat since his brother’s death, the sound of the “dying” arcade game plays subtly. When Carmy hangs up the phone, the kitschy sound of the game plays again. By drawing parallels between these sound effects and the emotional moments of Carmy’s dialogue, Storer makes it seem like Carmy’s sanity is on a countdown. This makes the opening even more tense as it becomes clear that Carmy needs to move past those emotions and get through her day’s work. A mix of trumpets and guitar in the background play as Carmy sprints around town simultaneously trying to make a sale with her used jeans and making sandwiches for the kitchen. The music suddenly becomes a disturbing mixture of triumphant and chaotic. Adrenaline is clearly what keeps Carmy going, but at the same time he’s weighed down by his traumatic past. This combination of sounds perfectly captures both the anxiety and excitement of Carmy’s workday.
While the series pilot reflects the anxiety of the restaurant world through sound design, later episodes do so as well through a brilliant use of unique camera moves. When Sanitary Inspector Nancy Chore (Amy Morton) arrives to give the restaurant a review based on their code violations, Carmy desperately tries to reason with both her staff and Nancy. Storekeeper and director of photography Andrew Wehde managing to make the whole scene, which only lasts about three minutes, feel like a panic attack.
As soon as Nancy gives a rundown of their list of infractions, the diligent new Sous Chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) and stubborn, longtime cook Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) start screaming and talking to each other. Suddenly, Wehde steps closer to the camera, making the whole conversation abruptly claustrophobic. As the staff members begin to yell at each other, Storer whips between them, no longer using steady, measured movements. The camera goes dizzying in its fast, messy shots as Richie and Carmy almost viciously fight over Nancy’s grade. When Richie leaves, Carmy looks at the paper marked “C” on the floor, a marker of the restaurant’s slow descent. As he picks it up and looks at it, the camera swings in and out of focus, reflecting the utter mess of his state of mind as he tries to keep it all together. Wehde’s mix of whipped-up casseroles, quick cuts and close-ups makes for an extremely anxiety-inducing part of the episode to accentuate the difficult reality of maintaining a restaurant. Plus, the scene is brilliant because it encapsulates the turbulence of Carmy’s world as he struggles to keep his dysfunctional family from seeping into the status of the restaurant.
Despite the amount of anxiety Storer exemplifies in the world of restoration, he also conversely shows the beauty behind it all through his use of montage. In some of the most unexpected moments, the editors’ distinct cut choices Joanna Naugle and Adam Epstein reinforce the idea that food and cooking are not just an anxiety-inducing part of the job. Instead, they are a source of pure joy for many staff members.
Later in the season, there is a sequence where Sydney prepares the food for the day. Over time, she peels carrots, sears beef and chops vegetables. While the loud sound of the clock continues, creating a sense of anxiety, it’s Storer’s smooth, poetic use of crossfades that exemplifies Sydney’s sense of peace and serenity as she cooks. Later, Sydney rushes into the restaurant, dealing with hostile and frustrated staff members. Tina (Liza Colon-Zayas) in particular expresses intense animosity towards her. Sydney is overwhelmed, but then begins cutting onions by herself at her station. Storer and the editors put together a beautiful sequence of her cutout, layered with crossfades that create a vignette around her and the food, combined with light, soothing music in the background. The contrast between this scene and the previous scene of his fight with his colleagues makes this scene even more peaceful. The distinct use of editing in this sequence shows audiences that for Sydney, cooking in the restaurant world is a beautiful escape.
Likewise, Storer uses this technique to reflect Marcus’ growing passion for baking. The opening of a later episode displays a stunningly cut-out montage of a batch of donuts being made. The edit is slow and ethereal as it is layered over a soft acoustic track. Marcus stares through a window at a tray of donuts, completely amazed. Indeed, Marcus’ character reflects the beauty of the restaurant world, as he views the food he and his fellow chefs prepare as complete works of art. In a later moment in the episode, Tina and Sydney argue, where the tension between them continues to boil over. The immediate next sequence is of Marcus frosting a cake. Everything around him is silent except for the sounds of the sugar spilling and the whisk spinning around the bowl. Like Sydney with her cooking, Marcus frees herself from the tension of her colleagues with her baking.
While the series depicts the deeply difficult realities of this world, Storer also shows the purest form of love that comes from the kitchen. Throughout the series, Storer cements a clear dichotomy that underscores the show: the beauty of food preparation often collides with the anxiety of working in a restaurant. It’s been an emotional journey watching Carmy and her team evolve over the episodes, and it’ll be exciting to see what lies ahead when the bear Return.