Deserted island or phone booth: Films with a claustrophobic bent
After weeks of the coronavirus shutdown, many are wondering: What happens when people are confined to a defined, perhaps very small, space? Movie fans have the answer. Here's a selection by DW's film buff, Jochen Kürten.
Alfred Hitchcock: "Rear Window" (1954)
Jeff (James Stewart), a photographer, broke his leg and is confined to a wheelchair, so he can't leave his apartment. His girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) is the only person who visits him. So what to do but look out the window? Hitchcock's classic "Rear Window" is probably the most famous film that keeps its protagonists within their own four walls - but is still full of suspense.
Luis Bunuel: "The Exterminating Angel" (1962)
The movie made by the Spanish-born filmmaker Luis Bunuel in Mexico in the early '60s is mysterious. "The Exterminating Angel" shows people at a dinner party who can't leave the premises of the mansion. The reason is unclear. That's what's so perfidious about this Bunuel classic: He challenges the viewers - a philosophical masterpiece.
Roman Polanski: "Repulsion" (1965)
Roman Polanski is another world-famous director who radically reduced the settings for his protagonists. Three years after Bunuel's "Exterminating Angel," "Repulsion" hit the movie theaters. It's a frightening study of a young woman (Catherine Deneuve) who cannot leave her apartment. To a degree, Polanski also leaves the audience in the dark as to why.
Sydney Lumet: "12 Angry Men" (1957)
Director Sidney Lumet, on the other hand, presented a compact courtroom drama in his first feature film: A young Puerto Rican is accused of murder; a jury deliberates his fate. The twelve jurors retire to a room they are not allowed to leave. Lumet turns the situation into a minor masterpiece that effectively moves the protagonists closer together.
Tevfik Baser : "40 square meters of Germany" (1985)
This lesser-known film also takes place in a very confined space. The brilliantly successful debut by the Turkish-born German director Tevfik Baser is about a Turkish emigre and his wife in their apartment in Hamburg that becomes a kind of prison for them. The topic has lost none of its relevance.
Duncan Jones: "Moon" (2009)
In science fiction movies, people often experience claustrophobia, seclusion and isolation far away from home. One of the most effective is "Moon," the debut movie by David Bowie's son Duncan Jones. The story is about a technician who has spent three years all alone in a moon station. It's an incredibly haunting film about spatial confinement.
Wolfgang Fischer: "Styx" (2018)
Life at sea can be just as lonely as in outer space. Vastness can be confining too. The Atlantic Ocean becomes hell in "Styx," which shows Rike (Susanne Wolff) alone on a failed holiday cruise. Her world has shrunk to a few square meters of boat - frightening.
Robert Zemickis: "Cast Away" (2000)
The ocean is omnipresent in this Hollywood movie as well. A castaway on a deserted island, the protagonist is cut off from the world for years. Films of people stranded on islands, often with Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe in mind, show humans thrown back on their own devices. The film starring Tom Hanks was a box office hit.
Joel Schumacher: "Phone Booth" (2002)
Director Joel Schumacher drastically reduced the space his protagonist inhabits to the dimensions of a telephone booth. The plot of the thriller focuses on its main character (Collin Farell), who, threatened by a killer, practically never leaves the booth throughout the film. Clever entertainment, almost a cinematic experiment.
Chris Columbus: "Home Alone" (1990)
Finally, this confinement classic. "Home Alone" was a worldwide success in 1990: a family goes on vacation and forgets eight-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) at home. Kevin rediscovers his home as a place where you can do as you please. But then disaster strikes — in the shape of two burglars. The comedy is great fun.