In A Lonely Place (1950): A Psychic Prison

In A Lonely Place (1950)

After my post of Aug 4, In A Lonely Place (1950): The “Creative” Outsider, I watched In a Lonely Place again last night, and found more to say about this intriguing movie. James Naremore in his book, More than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts(Berkely, 1998), quotes two post-war French auteur theorists on director, Nicholas Ray:

François Truffaut wrote that the essential theme of Ray’s films was “moral solitude,” and Jacques Rivette argued that Ray was concerned with “the interior demon of violence, which seems linked to man and his solitude.” (p. 26)

These themes are clearly evident in In a Lonely Place, where a creative outsider is imprisoned by his interior demons. The mood of the film is alienating too, with the protagonist kept at an emotional distance from the audience. The Bogart character is not only lonely, torn, and alienated, but amoral in his self-obsession. He leaves the hat-check girl to find her own cab alone late at night on the streets of LA, and so is partly responsible for what happens to her. When he learns of her murder the next morning, he cannot connect emotionally with the event – even when he is shown graphics photos of the crime scene – and he has no real remorse. As an afterthought he callously orders some flower to be sent to the girl’s home, but can’t be bothered to find out the address himself.

Nicholas Ray uses powerful imagery to visualise this alienation. Dixon Steeles’ apartment is on a lower level to his lover’s. He must walk up to see her and when he leaves for the last time, he must walk out and down a stairway. The strongest imagery is in the design of Steele’s apartment where prison-like bars are virtually everywhere – even in the patterns of curtains:

In A Lonely Place (1950) In A Lonely Place (1950) In A Lonely Place (1950)

And in almost all interior scenes having the view from windows obscured by the lateral bars of closed venetian blinds reinforces the mood of alienation.

In A Lonely Place (1950)

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