What are the best scenes shot through windows? Or glass? Or other materials, in the case of some of our lists? But the idea is that characters, or the audience, are separated by glass for some reason that’s important.
In Raging Bull, Scorcese and Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus strove to give each of the fight scenes a different texture and energy. For one of them, I forget which, they lay down fire pans and shot the scene through the heat waves rising from the flames.
For me, that stippling on the images helped convey the confusion and almost dreamlike quality of boxing: moments of disorientation, punctuated sharply and violently by a brutal, crystalline moment of clarity; your attention buffeted like a ships rigging, snaps back into tautness for a moment, then is gone again, away.
High Anxiety - This movie actually has a couple of great scenes filmed through glass. There’s the great scene of the antagonists plotting and drinking tea with the camera looking up through a glass tabletop, and the scene filmed through a window (with surprising results) which was so good that Mel used the same joke in Men In Tights.
3. E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial
The scene where Eliot talks to dead E.T. through the little porthole of the raised Alien coffin. Yeah, it’s a little cheesy, but it’s worth going back to watch this again to just see what an amazing child actor Henry Thomas was. The scene isn’t cloying or maudlin at all, it’s just really true.
2. The Usual Suspects
There’s a brief scene about three quarters of the way through, after Benicio Del Toro has been killed, where the heroes go to Kobayashi’s office building to assassinate him. He turns the tables on them though, because he’s got Gabriel Byrne’s girlfriend there. I don’t know quite how to describe this, but there’s a quick shot through some glass of Gabrial Byrne looking at Suzy Amis, where his face is only visible because of her shadow cast on the glass. So the shot is kind of his face circumscribed within her and Kobayashi’s shadow? It’s just a bit of a throwaway image, but I’ve always remembered it.
1. The Pianist
This whole movie is really about watching horrible things happen through windows. But the scene that I remember is the one where the nazi’s dump a wheelchair-bound man out the building across the street, while we are forced to watch through a window.
Wayne Campbell proclaims his love for Cassandra Wong by interrupting her wedding in Wayne’s World 2. The church has a balcony walled off by an enormous window, and Wayne bangs on it so everyone hears him. It’s a powerful moment, and at any moment the giant window could shatter onto the congregation below. This is also the absolute last time in his career that Christopher Walken is believable as a romantic rival to the protagonist. Surprisingly this is also the last time Tia Carrere gets to be the hot girlfriend in her career (except for apparently Jury Duty, but no one saw that).
This is a sendup of a scene from an old movie called The Graduate. The Graduate didn’t have James Hong and Christopher Walken.
Krayzkrok and Athryn picked Spock’s death scene in Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan. I’m tempted to replace it with another movie where the main character watches a friend succumb to radiation poisoning through a protective window: Project X, where William Shatner is replaced by Matthew Broderick and Leonard Nimoy is replaced by a chimpanzee.
Taxi Driver has many scenes where Travis Bickle is looking though his car window or windshield at the filth in his city, hoping for a real rain to come down and cleanse. The one that immediately sprang to mind features Martin Scorcese in a director’s cameo. He is telling Robert De Niro that his wife was having an affair in the building in front of which they’re parked. De Niro looks through his car window up at a silhouette behind another window, so that’s really a scene which is shot through two windows. Score!
[edit: looks like Taxi Driver made it as a runner up for the professional 3x3ers.]
You’re missing a big one – Doctor Zhivago has several big “scenes shot through windows” that earned a lot of acclaim (including one where the ice on a winter window is gradually melted by a candle - a metaphor for the scene’s events). There are several other key scenes shot through windows, including the opening scene and the departure from the Ice Palace at the end.
This 3x3 didn’t much impression on me so all I can come up with is Remo William: The Adventure Begins, where Remo is stuck in the room with the poison gas, and can’t break through the bulletproof glass, so instead beats up the henchman with the diamond in his tooth and then uses his face to cut through the window. I think some shots were through the window, so maybe it applies technically. Or not.
But! I did like the discussion about Salem’s Lot a bunch. I totally forgot about the scene with the gravedigger opening the casket to find the vampire staring back at him. I remember that scene being so much better in the book, because you can follow the gravedigger’s internal monologue where he is increasingly convinced that the person in the casket is awake and staring at him through the lid. It just consumes his thoughts until he climbs down, opens the lid, and …