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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 10, 2015

Lang’s Gertrud? His last Hollywood film looks a little bit like going through the motions, like ennui or even exhaustion. Or maybe it’s just to-the-bone efficient, representing an old man’s understanding or communication of the essence of things. The framing, the subtle and yet emphatic camera movements are razor-exact, such that the somewhat tired narrative goings-on don’t end up mattering very much. That is some concluding twist. The Wrong Man did it after all! (Is a dream just a lie when it don’t come true, or is it something worse?) Didn’t Siegfried Kracauer (1947) say that Lang and Erich Pommer forced that compromising, nearly fatal change on Janowitz and Mayer’s Caligari script (film released in 1919)? In other words, they introduced the bookends, which made it so the psychosis was localized, atypical, even exceptional. Thus the intended apocalypse became an affirmation of the institutions and the status quo. Here, at the other end of an amazing, contradictory career, a more organical and acceptable reconciliation is tossed completely onto the ash-heap. The implausible and oh-so comforting conclusion to Lang’s masterful The Woman in the Window (1944) becomes something like the assassination of the arch-duke. Cold, cruel, amazing—the old reprobate!