Secret Window Essay

Lambo, Ellonah Mei B. PSYCH 1 (7:30-10:30 TTH) BSBA 2 SECRET WINDOW The movie is about writing and the insanity of writers. For those of you unfamiliar with the process… imagine spending months or even years of your life working on a painting that you yourself can never see. You become so close to what you create that you have no idea if it’s any good, and the growing doubt of your own ability along with the fear of wasting so much time and effort will most definitely have you pulling your hair out.

Johnny Depp plays Mort Rainey, an odd-ball writer with hair that looks like a mop, and a delightfully slovenly appearance, undergoing a painful divorce from a wife who he found cheating. He has locked himself away in their vacation cabin deep in the woods, talks to his nearly blind dog, taking long naps, smoking, and apparently experiencing writer’s block and tries to placate Mr. Shooter. He also spends a lot of time on the phone, mostly with Shooter and with his disconsolate wife. Depp deserves credit for handling this very difficult role decently; however, this is not his usual flawless performance.

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Soon enough, “Shooter” (John Turturro), an obsessive sociopath fan shows up. Mr. Shooter claims that Rainey stole one of his stories, and demands that he re-publish it with Shooter’s name and that he “fix the ending. ” In Shooter’s version of the story, the protagonist kills his wife and buries her in her ‘secret garden’, which can be seen from the ‘secret window’ of their house. Mr. Shooter, it seems, will go to any length to ensure that his will is carried out, and is particularly adept at connecting Mr.

Rainey, but not himself, to all of his dirty little deeds. These two succeed in transforming every scene in which either of them appears, with the help of some clever directing and camera work, into something surreal and memorable. One of the most convincing aspects of this film is the way it shifts from the otherworldly weirdness of these two to the very ordinary lives of all of the other characters. Mort is crazy you see. The first scene establishes that Mort has multiple selves and experiences a trauma. Then we start the movie proper.

We have the by now ordinary shot over water, up to a house and in the window, then we go down the stair partway. The stairway shot is directly out of ‘Psycho’ and in fact that starting sequence of zooming through the window to a bed was used to begin the “remake”. And as we go directly into a mirror where the entire film takes place. In fact, we see the reversal later in that same mirror when Mort sees only the back of his head. That’s how a mirror would work in a reverse world, reverse. The story is the film itself. The secret window is the mirror and so on.

And of course, as the story goes on… we get a full exploration of the affects of immersing yourself in a fictional world. It goes on to show the paranoia and madness that can come from men when they don’t have the steady influence of reality to keep them anchored. If I remember the original story correctly, the ‘secret window’ becomes something of a metaphor for the later action of the story. This is not really explored in the film, and any in the audience might end up wondering what the title of the film really means.

Overall, “Secret Window” is a moody and generally fine thriller enhanced especially by the splendid performance of Johnny Depp with a major story twist. Pacing is slow. There’s lots of waiting for something to happen, which enhances a sense of foreboding. And Depp’s performance is terrific. Casting and acting are fine. Production design is great; love that cabin where Mort lives. Camera work, lighting, special effects, CGI, and editing are all quite good. Just be aware that one’s reaction to this film likely will depend on one’s perception of the story’s major plot twist.


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