The Kiss Before The Mirror (1933)

the kiss before the mirror review

The Kiss Before The Mirror (1933) Directed by James Whale

It is so ethically wrong, it hurts. James Whale directs this unpleasantly ruthless 1933 film about a desperate, jealous man who under his galvanizing psychosis kills his unfaithful wife in cold blood; lawyer Paul Held played by an obsessive and creepy Frank Morgan defends his friend, the confessed murderer. Rather than for professional or amicable reasons, his advocacy has a morbid inclination, the also desperate Paul, desires to murder his wife for being unfaithful. It is awfully awkward to have to judge a film where its unromantic and obsolete male and female perspectives on the subject at hand are based solely on, legally and morally, giving cathartic justification to the murder of a woman for the mere fact of having committed adultery. Nevertheless, Whale’s camera conducts the infamy of these frivolous bourgeois in an artificial, expressionistic Vienna with fabulous fluidity, gliding through the corridors of their hypocritical lives, focusing its optical curiosity on mirrors and how they reflect the duplicity of their perfidious protagonists. The Kiss Before the Mirror could easily pass as psychological horror, although objectively its narrative and stark reality specifies more of a psychological drama; however there is something suspicious, subversive and ominous that cinematically gives it a more horror film attitude, perhaps the fact of using the M (1931) factor, like imparting empathy to the sleaze, gives it the advantage of being an organically terrifying film. But let’s not forget that this is a James Whale film, and as such, it’s expeditiously humorous when you least expect it. More than likely this isn’t the right material to put his camp tendencies into practice, and evidently that shows in how ambiguous the film is with its unintelligible objectives, but let’s just say it’s still one of the most radical productions James Whale had in his legendary collaboration with Universal Pictures in the 1930s.


Matteo Bedon
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When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them.
Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.