Home > Movies, Reviews (Movies) > [Review] The Woman in the Window (Lang, 1944)

[Review] The Woman in the Window (Lang, 1944)

The Woman in the Window, coupled with Scarlet Street, form a formidable duo in Lang’s mature American style. The director who may have singlehandedly developed the style that would come to be known as “noir” never relented. Even his latest Indian films are forceful and dense with Lang’s characteristic fatalism. He may be more recalled for his work in erecting German cinema, but his cross-pollination with American studio mandate produced a series, from Fury to Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, containing some of the most influential and memorable films from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.

Underneath an ideal surface example of the “noir” construct, Lang interjects a deft psychological evaluation of the increasing voyeurism in American culture — perhaps encouraged by cinema? Robinson’s plunge into fate’s grip is all suggested by his fixation on a portrait. Here, Lang smartly plays on the same construct on which Hollywood operates — the relationship between image and audience. Most potently, he understands that this relationship is a sexual one. A connection between idealized and unreachable models cinema has taught us to build. The kind of kernel that has been gnawing away self-image for a century. However, instead of glorifying and capitalizing on this relationship, Lang inverts it and demonstrates how it can hijack common sense. House by the River shows the same obsession with the human connection with ideals and sex. Furthermore, it introduces a concept key to Lang’s greater ideology — sex and death are forever entwined as basic necessities.

We must immediately forgive the ending, like we must do for countless other pictures of this era. It is remarkable that Lang even managed to cultivate such an unforgiving portrait of Americana. In fact the ending only serves to further his evaluation of the viewer’s fatal, sexual relationship with art.

Like they would repeat in Scarlet Street, Robinson and Bennett turn in a fine chemistry. Robinson is not an attractive man. But he rejects our need for such a character by inspiring the bumbling, nervous moments of idiocy that we all know in ourselves. There is something about the way Bennett lights her cigarettes that signal danger. Woman in the Window does not present her as the appalling bitch that she would be in Scarlet Street, but the smoke hovers around her like an evaporating halo. And her youthful power complex is just right for dragging Robinson into the abyss.

Lang managed to be so damning and so hateful while simultaneously constructing a new American style. So many of these films demand a viewing and so few of them get one. A renaissance of this formidable cycle is needed.


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