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REVIEW – Stranger on the 3rd Floor (1940)

July 7, 2011

Videovista have my review of Boris Ingster’s Stranger on the 3rd Floor, which was co-written by Nathanael West of Day of the Locust fame.

Another slice of film noir goodness, Stranger on the 3rd Floor is one of a number of films from that era that flirted ideas of madness and surrealism before eventually surrendering to the strictures of the genre. The root of the madness, in this case, is guilt.  Guilt for participating in an unjust system and guilt over feelings of hatred so intense that it is easy to imagine why someone would stoop to murder:

Mike’s guilt is so intense that it seems to take on a physical form as Mike stumbles across a strange man leaving the neighbour’s apartment. Was the man there? Is the neighbour actually dead? Did Mike murder the old man while drunk? Mike’s guilt and self-doubt are so intense that, without actually checking to see whether the old man is dead, Mike is already dreaming about the possibility of being rightly executed for being a murderer.

Part of what makes this surprisingly short film so satisfying is the fact that despite the film ending in such a way as to dispel the possibility of projection, the resolution is ambiguous and strange enough that we are left with more than enough critical space in which to dream.

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