Open and Closed Form in Film
Films present the visible world in two major ways, the closed (Lang style) and open (Renoir) form. These two possibilities are to be understood as ideal types. The closed form relies par≠ticularly on pictorial and architectural traditions; the open form on theatrical and novelistic origins.
The two modalities involve different ways of seeing the world, different ways of experiencing and feeling.
"The motion picture frame of a closed film makes a statement about the inconclusiveness of the film. All the characters and all the objects in such a film are controlled by outside forces, ultimately by the director himself . . . In the closed film there is no escape from the logic of actions and events, while in the open film characters may well walk off the frame to some section of the world the camera specifically does not define . . . .
"The films of Lang and Hitchcock are filled with deadly coincidences, and the entrapment of innocent bystanders. The closed film director does not elicit order from the world; he imposes order upon a world perceived basically as a chaos of people and things. The imposition may resemble ritual, allegory, fantasy, romance--or dreams . . . .
"The counterpart in closed films . . . is the involuntary enclosure, the physical prison and the prison of the self. Both Lang and Hitchcock are fascinated by the courtroom, the closed context of judgment in which the audience and the jury are identified. . . . The accused in the courtroom, the traveler in the haunted house, the innocent in the prison or the insane asylum are all variations of the basic closed-film situation. Like such characters, we in the audience are trapped without the possibility of transcending or understanding why this has all happened, unless we identify with the director who has brought this world into being."
(from Leo Braudy, The World in a Frame [Garden City: Anchor Books, 1977])