Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Behind the mirror

Earlier on, I talked about how Mario Bava played with darkness and shadows to instill primal fear in "La ragazza que sapeva troppo".

This was an interesting way of building on the "classic" model of the crime scene : it always happens in the dark. Darkness means fear, danger, violence, crime. In the darkness reality is blurred and obscured, faces are out of sight, threat can come from anywhere. Darkness makes you feel insecure because you can't see and that makes everything possible, even the worst.
Safety is back only when the lights are turned on again, or when the day is back.

In a crucial scene from "The bird with the crystal plumage", Dario Argento turns this classic model upside down.

Look at this picture: this modern art gallery is the crime scene.
Yet there's a frame. There are large glass doors. The room is brightly lit. The dominant colour is white. Every single detail is clear and visible. It actually feels like the only safe place in an empty and dark street at night where Sam Dalmas, the main character, is walking to go home.

The moment after he will be the eye-witness of a brutal attack involving a mysterious man dressed up in black and a beautiful young woman in white in this very gallery.
He will be able to see, but unable to do anything as he's trapped between the two glass doors which have been locked.

This fascinating inversion is at the core of the movie, and will later be referred to in many occasions throughout the scenario, as Sam Dalmas keeps on thinking there was "something wrong about it". How could there be something wrong when everything was apparently so obvious and visible?

Probably because it happened behind the mirror.

You can watch a slideshow of this scene on the excellent darkdreams.org website, dedicated to Dario Argento (in the film reviews section).
More on this film from this blog there.

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