Secret Beyond the Door Reviews
The story of a woman strangely drawn to this mysterious but undeniably dangerous gentleman she meets on her travels abroad.
Filled with strange & psychoanalytical performances the story can hide it's many holes.
However is has some stunning shots with near perfection lighting, so the look of the film is top notch.
The biggest problem with this film is the explanation of why Mark wants to kill Celia. She reminds him of a childhood trauma that his mother inflicted on him, which was, wait for it...she locked him in his bedroom when he was ten for a few hours, which clearly means he has harboured feeling of deep loathing for his mother ever since. Turns out it wasn't even his mother who locked him in, but his sister. This whole explanation as well as the thinly veiled hits dropped by the psychoanalyst during a tour of the murder rooms makes it so unbelievably implausible that the fairly strong opening is undermined.
Unlike "Rebecca" this film lacks rationale or even a plot that makes sense, but its odd mixture of chick flick, thriller, Freudian study, philosophical work, and above all, its excellent cinematography, give it an eerie vibe which far transcends the merits of the film on its own.
In short: it shouldn't be any good, but by a stroke of luck and/or genius, it bloody well works.
Lang's intimate breakdown of the Rebecca story visualizes Mrs. Danvers as a saturnine secretary using warped pretenses to guarantee continual employment, not to mention Lang's painstaking surrealism---circle of candles around a wishing well, brick wall behind a velvet curtain---is to the advantage of an dream-like conflict between female and male delusions. The bride's daydream is an hacienda honeymoon with trembling blades, the groom's is a post-modern oration before judge and jury---"You can't try a man for his thoughts!"---both are at the pity of a world floating between the deterministic and the arcane. A work of doorways and passages, facades and shrouds and people unexpectedly too diminutive for the spaces and images they find themselves drifting into.
The opening in Mexico is packed with circular architecture and images: We first see the Mexican church through a semi-circular archway. The wishing well is first seen as a ring of candles. It unites two of Lang's classic images: circles and fire. The wedding ceremony has an important circular wedding ring. Next we see a round fountain. The lovers on the hammock are seen through a semi-circular arch. A pet bird is on a circular ring. A balcony has curves, its railing full of domed ringlets. We also see the heroine on the hammock, against the backdrop of a round portico. After the heroine goes up to her bedroom, the circular imagery essentially ceases. When she runs downstairs in fright, the architecture is principally rectilinear. In the transitory finale, the couple return to Mexico. The heroine has a blanket teeming with circles.
As soon as the film alters its issue to the husband's psychological troubles, the circles vanish. In their place, we see the heroine moving through an elongated rectilinear hallway in the Mexican hotel, searching for her husband. Later at the mansion, there will be several more rectilinear corridor shots. These will often be tense, overflowing with shadows or at night. The rooms have triangular or oblique imagery. Bennett makes circular light when she inspects.
A character gently submits some Freudian shtick at a house party. Soon, a psychology student will earnestly rationalize psychoanalysis, and says it could cure the acute emotional tribulations illustrated by the murders associated with the rooms. The film does wind up giving rather pat Freudian justifications of violence. Controlling mothers and big sisters are seen as the sources of male brutality. This can be regarded as underestimating this issue, and pardoning men of the guilt.
But as a fan of Fritz Lang, film noir and German Expressionism, I was interested less in the soapy plot than the unusually sweeping use of not only the low-key black-and-white moodiness but madly idealistic, geometrically bizarre sets, in company with patterns painted on walls and floors to denote lights, shadows, and objects, doused with symbolism. As in all of his films, Lang's sets and the transparency of their silhouettes form a metaphysics of structural design, which occasionally speaks volumes but is constantly ominous, and meant to illustrate the bare, exposed and elemental core of things.