Fritz Lang, USA, 1955, Théâtre du Temple


This sequence allows John, the young boy, to explore this space between spaces. It is a sort of open-air antechamber, semi-wild and overrun by vegetation and nature. It’s not quite the outside world, nor is it the interior world of the manor - the former home of his mother, it is the liminal space between the two. To enter into the space you have to pass through a gate, which seems somehow impractical as the boundary of the space is both enclosed, yet full of gaps. Taking advantage of his youth and slight shape John manages to sneak through. The camera movement connects the shot on the side of the road to the garden, travelling with John through to the other side. This place is associated with a certain Mr Fox. John’s late mother has charged him with finding Fox, who she said would befriend him. The emotional stakes for the young boy are very high in this scene as he is determined to meet his mother’s last wishes. Inspite of this Fox proves to be distant in this hostile place, battered by loud and powerful winds. The music accompanies his slow, cautious progress, as he looks with great import at his surroundings. Here we see a classic film trope, signifying the discovery of a location: A tracking shot through the space, as if from the character’s perspective, which concludes with the character stepping into the shot, lit from behind. The space is defined by a series of precise and remarkable design elements, much like in a theatrical set, which is appropriate as this scene was filmed in a studio. The stairs, for example, and the gothic style door that John steps through before turning, on hearing the music that will lead him to Fox. We then see another cinematic trope in the exploration of a space by a character, where John enters from the lower portion of the screen while the camera pulls steadily back, and he advances forward into the shot. Keen to get on, John moves increasingly faster and faster, as the source of the music gets closer and closer, playing to a rhythm that hints at a discovery to be made. He stops beside the window, the camera then allows us to see what’s going on inside the room, without connecting between the space and his point of view. We are now inside the room and no longer seeing from John’s perspective. It is a place of lust and sexual desire. It belongs to the adult world, which John cannot access. Fox remains distant and separate from the young boy. Yet another threshold must be crossed before John and Fox finally meet.