Essay 4: The Woman in the Window (1944, Fritz Lang) with guest commentary by Girish Shambu

The following is a rough translation of an essay by Michael Baute of the Kunst der Vermittlung project. I used Babelfish and Google Translation to stitch together the most coherent translation I could manage; by no means perfect but hopefully you’ll get the idea:

Michael Baute

Video Essay for 907 (48) »The Woman in the Window« (1944, Fritz Lang) with guest commentary by Girish Shambu

The commentary on this video essay from the ”Shooting down Pictures“ series, written and spoken by Girish Shambu - who among other things operates a widely-read blog - refers repeatedly to Tom Gunnings book” The Films Of Fritz long: Allegories Of Vision and Modernity “and his idea of one destiny machine, which is effected in Lang’s films. This idea of a machine differs by its materialism from the classical concept of ”fate“, to which a protagonist is subjected. The machine is the society: ”For Gunning, Lang's destiny machine is this vast elaborate system, society itself organized as a machine; this giant apparatus reaches into every aspect of human and social life through mechanisms like constant watching and observing and through advancements in science and technology. “Shambu’s comment works to describe in Woman into the Window Lang’s procedure of staging the effects of this machine to describe the film, but also an additional characteristic which is mentioned rather rarely in the opinions on Fritz Lang: humor.

There is a remarkable sequence in the first part of the video essay, which one knows from one’s own practice of looking at films, but is otherwise rarely found in “films about films”. From 3:12 until 3:25 Kevin B. Lee, who produced and cut the video essay, shows the pictures of the film in accelerated speed, as one it in one’s own four walls with boring passages of a film one looks at on DVD. Lee uses this procedure here probably on the one hand, in order to adapt the duration of the pictures of the duration of the commentary, but on the other hand also, in order to insert a small irritation into the expiration of commentary and announce over thereby observations, which Shambu in the second part of the video essay presents.

To see a man, who examines an apartment for traces, is to hear Shambu’s comment in the 23 accelerated seconds, which speaks of the nearly fetishistic accuracy of this tracing, whose comedy is compressed by the high-speed running of the images; ”until he finds what he's looking for.“ With the finding, which is to be seen again in original speed, the first part of the video ends.

In the second part, from 3:45 until 5:43, exemplified by the comment Shambu’s thesis prepared to argue that by image acceleration and compression Lang shows a humoristic course, which one would not associate automatically with him in Woman in the Window. “I find this film in its own ironic and grim way to be quite funny.“ Proofs for it are a scene with a boyscout, and “the sly casting of the actress who plays the professor's wife.”

On the whole film Shambu speaks of its ”inevitability“, which he admires, but at the same time also finds it ”A bit comical“. This center section concludes with a quotation of Andrew Sarris, in which Renoir is compared with Lang: ”If Renoir is concerned with the plight of his character, Lang is obsessed with the structure of the trap.“ As this interest in the “case“ in Lang’s film is staged, the third and last part of the video essay, which emphasizes two things, is produced.

Emblematic for Lang’s interest in the structure of the trap and the inevitability of a regulation is first of all a short moment in Woman in the Window, which Lee and Shambu show and commentate.

”The professor walks through two door frames, the bedroom and the bathroom in order to of wash out the scissors. Not only is the frame a sign of confinement, but the camera is already in the bathroom, which is a sign of inevitability. The camera is ready and awaiting the character to make his way through the doors and the bedroom and into the bathroom. The film is full of little bits of business like this. “

Business like this - to the conclusion of the video Lee and Shambu point secondly an assembly of attitudes of the film, in which clocks are to be seen, which are a constantly present memory of the inevitable work of the trap.

Additionally to the briefly described video essay Lee arranges here an extensive collection of screenshots and refers to on-line available texts for each of its screening entries. In the case of Fritz Lang’s The Woman into the Window, which was screened on 16 January 2007 on DVD, looks this entry in such a way.