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Secret Beyond the Door…

Screening on Film
Recently Restored
Directed by Fritz Lang.
With Joan Bennett, Michael Redgrave, Anne Revere.
US, 1948, 35mm, black & white, 99 min.
Print source: UCLA

Belonging to a flurry of gothic romances in Rebecca’s wake, Secret Beyond the Door… may present a Freudian funhouse of mirrors, rooms, corridors, keys and a rich complex of floral MacGuffins, yet for Lang, the real objects are more frightening and resonant than any inherent symbolism. Elucidating her emotional states through an enchanting, noir voiceover, the charming, lonely Celia is quickly drawn to the dark mystique of a handsome stranger whose unusual hobby is collecting rooms haunted by events their very design has instigated. As Celia follows her strange husband into the intricate and surprising depths of an ancestral mansion rife with fairy tale allusions, horrific tales and a coterie of enigmatic characters, the architecture of Lang’s plot develops a bizarre, hypnotic dream-logic of its own. Much like the tumultuous production which included the stars running through rooms actually on fire, the film’s twists and turns, false endings and misleading corridors at times truly seem to personify the contradictory cruelty and confusion of love, heartache and irreconcilable obsession. 

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