Pictures of people standing in front of a window tend to attract the viewer instinctively. People at a window who dream, laugh or simply don’t see.
A dreamer, for instance, is the Figure at a Window where we see Ana María, Dalí’s sister, standing in a desolate room, absorbed in the contemplation of a beautiful seascape. Dalí was only 21 years old and, despite his youth, he shows talent to create a mysterious pictorial, spatial and melancholic atmosphere, in addition to his perfect handling of the paintbrush, which manifests itself in the simple fusion of the ambiguous character in the window with his surroundings by means of colour, the subtle transparency in the left curtain, the exterior reflections in the only window, the folds of the white cloth on the windowsill and the softness of the painting. In this case, the character in the window looks outwards in the hope that a better life awaits her there.
This is not the case of Women at the Window by Bartolomé Murillo, where, in contrast to the previous portrait, the spectator sees the face of the characters who form an unsurpassed symbiosis of technical perfection and overwhelming expressiveness. Do they represent an impudent lady and her maid or a young harlot with her mocking madame or simply a lively young woman and her governess that contemplate, amused, a street scene? The fact is that, in this painting, the mystery lies not so much in the true identity of the people pictured as in the street event that inspires their laughter and mocking expression.
Back to Dalí, he and Luis Buñuel created a silent film considered a masterpiece of surrealist cinema, the Andalusian Dog, based on autobiographical memories of the painter. Apart from the famous opening eye scene, one of my favorite parts is when the two protagonists (Dali and Ana Maria?) look out from the window. On the street there is a frightening scene, but the actors Simonne Mareuil and Pierre Batcheff are unaware of it. They only had to simulate the emotions Buñuel asked them to express while the director’s camera was focusing them from below, on a lonely street. In such conditions, one must surrender to the interpretative talents of the characters who do not see the plot that is being filmed but perfectly adapt their gestures to the scene and requirements of Buñuel.
And I promise you, we’ ll’ talk about Hitchcock’s Rear Window sometime soon.