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Shadow Of A Doubt Review

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Shadow of a Doubt

The film I chose to view and write about for this paper was Shadow of a Doubt, starring Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright. The movie, released in 1943, opens with credits rolling over a static shot of ballroom dancers waltzing around in a continuous, ever-looping circle. When the film started, I thought this was going to be the opening plot scene, but after the credits are over, I realized that the movie opens in an entirely different place. In fact, our characters never once step foot inside a ballroom. However, this opening shot of waltzers repeats itself three more times in the course of the film.

The waltzing shot shows up again after Uncle Charlie puts a ring on young Charlie's finger. The juxtaposition of the two shots suggests a strong, eerily incestuous love between the niece and uncle. The next time the dream-like waltz shot appears is when young Charlie is in the library and discovers the article about the Merry Widow Murderer, realizing that Uncle Charlie is the killer. She looks to the ring, realizing that it was the ring of Uncle Charlie's last victim. The montage of these two shots together gives a much creepier, foreboding feeling. It gives the sense that the love young Charlie shared with her uncle might be a sham, that it is as unreal as the dreamlike waltzers that appear in the film, that she has been lost in this dreamworld of optimism and love her whole life.

The last time we see the waltzers is near the very end of the film. Uncle Charlie tries to strangle young Charlie, who, in the struggle, throws her predator out the moving train door and into an oncoming train. This combination of shots acts as a metaphor showing that the nightmare is over and she is free from Uncle Charlie. It shows that her world can go back to the state it had been in. However, there's a bittersweet tinge to the song now, as there always was in the title, "The Merry Widow Waltz." From now on in young Charlie's life, the song will remind her of both how much she loved her uncle, and how much she hated him as well.

These waltzing images, I believe, are in the mind of young Charlie; a look into her subconscious dreams. I came to this conclusion because, with the exception of the opening credits shot, young Charlie is the only one present (and alive) in all the scenes leading up to and following these dreamlike transition shots of people waltzing. At one point in the film, Uncle Charlie tells young Charlie that, "you wake up every morning of your life and you know perfectly well that there's nothing in the world to trouble you. You go through your ordinary little day, and at night you sleep your untroubled ordinary little sleep, filled with peaceful stupid dreams. And I brought you nightmares."

This again hints that young Charlie is in a naive, dreamworld, and that Uncle Charlie has come and destroyed that notion of perfect life she had in her head. In addition, this quote, in conglomeration with the waltzing shot in young Charlie's mind, could also be used to explain why she was so bored with her life at the beginning of the film. At that point in her life, everything was cheery and simple and peaceful, like the waltzers. Yet she felt stuck in the monotony of the life, in the repetition of the constantly circling waltzers in her head, as if on a set track in life, unable to get out.

Another point of interest in the film I found was with the doubling of images, personalities, etc. We went over much of this in class: the town versus the city, the apartment versus the house, the windows of each, Uncle Charlie resting versus young Charlie resting, and so on. But the doubling I found most intriguing was in the end, at the death sequence. There are two trains in the scene: the one



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