After a production messed up due to an explosion of issues (inconclusive test projections, elaborate reshoots, Fox’s redemption and Disney’s pandemic context), The Woman at the window of Joe Wright was finally sold to Netflix. The paranoid thriller landed among Netflix’s many other thrillers and horror films, after a long wait for audiences increasingly concerned about the final outcome. So the inevitable disaster or enough psychological shock?
WINDOW ON THE STREET
Reading AJ Finn’s eponymous novel adapted from The Woman in the Window, there is no doubt (the author himself tells this) that the story is heavily inspired by the famous works of Alfred Hitchcock. This is what allows him, in part, to create a highly suspenseful atmosphere, especially through the many films his hero watches, the fiction he eats mingled with his grim reality. And wisely, Joe Wright decided primarily to rely on the Hitchcockian style to direct his feature films.
So, from the very first minute, the director attributes his particular reference to Fenêtre sur cour (movies on TV, mini-panoramas of opposite neighbors, cameras to take a closer look at them …), The House of Doctor Edwardes (quotes on TV, questions about identity) and Cold Sweats (light play, weird atmosphere), even downright Psychosis when the movie actually turns into horror. And that’s without a doubt what the feature film is all about: it creates an anxiety-provoking and oppressive atmosphere.
Suddenly, he watched his neighbor until he witnessed a murder. However, isolated, he mixes his medicinal treatments with countless bottles of wine, regularly disturbing his thoughts. It was hard to tell if what he thought he saw was real or a simple result of his paranoia.
A simple early throw that Joe Wright would smooth out with his staging power. For 1h40, the feature film will never abandon its hero, plunging the audience into his tortuous thoughts and confronting him with his unique worldview (the references to The Passengers of the Night are not trivial, other than the changing faces).
A clever way to force the viewer to hesitate, but also to increase the tension constantly. With closed-frame play, close-ups, very dark lighting and very dynamic editing (very few breaks in the story), this feature film specifically tries to keep up.
FOX DOCTOR’S HOUSE
With a lot of playing with colors – red, blue and yellow in particular –, La Femme la forêt plays with a very confusing aesthetic (an excellent work by French director of photography Bruno Delbonnel) to provide a real stamp, but also to build a constant discomfort.
By following the misery and madness of his heroine so closely, in the heart of a black camera and through an atmosphere filled with paranoia, Joe Wright thus gives himself all the cards to perfect the madness inherent in the story. Well aware of the main role of its decoration, it uses the smallest assets. From then on, he also relied, with a great deal of intelligence, on the sounds of the enormous residence: the dull noise, the door slamming, the television sound in the background or external echoes, all subject to grief, uncertainty and finally panic. .
A palpable panic that owes a lot to the directorial realization of Dark Hours, but which also owes a debt of gratitude to Amy Adams’ invaluable (again) performance. The actress has nothing left to prove with a rich and impressive career, but she manages to deliver a unique and gripping filmography. If Kevin Thompson’s set (the decorator behind Birdman and Ad Astra in particular) and Joe Wright’s staging amplified the tension of the scenario, it’s an emotional heart.
Puffy, no makeup, dressed almost exclusively in simple make-up dresses … the actress was almost unrecognizable in the role of Anna Fox. Through his languid gaze and unconventional expression, he conveys the emotional stress of his character to the audience without ever revealing too much. At this level, the screenplay skillfully plays on the false clues and psychic odyssey of the heroine to adequately blind the audience before a revelation that will upset their feelings.
The highly theatrical atmosphere of certain sequences (screenplay written by Tracy Letts, a trained playwright) also helps spread Anna’s craze. Secondary characters (especially Gary Oldman) go in and out of the field ofteng times in an unexpected way, pushing the boundaries of the heroine’s consciousness. Drunk and drugged, he is unable to see what surrounds him in its entirety, forcing the viewer to endure his lack of clarity and therefore experience his sudden panic and consciousness.
I THOUGHT TOO MANY THINGS
Unfortunately and despite all these great qualities, it’s impossible not to note that The Woman at the Window is a film that is just as painful and torturous as its main character. Forced to skip the reshoot box and on the editing bench after poor public reception from test screenings, feature films will no doubt have to make concessions. Results? “Clarify certain points” of the screenplay, according to Joe Wright himself to make the whole less “confused or blurry”.
And this is clearly where the shoe is stuck. On several occasions, the Englishman’s performance allowed him to do visual experiments (particularly with snow-covered cars) giving his work, more than the Hitchcockian dimension, Lynchian on the air (even Kaufmanien, for those who have seen the awesome Je just want to end it too on Netflix ). Editing also plays with its rather interesting ideas to give the feature film yet another depth in the middle of an ultimately classic scenario.