Martin Scorsese´s Lockdown and Burt

Matin Scorsese reflects on lockdown. He uses superb images from Hitchcock´s The Wrong Man of Henry Fonda being locked up, unjustly, bewilderingly, frighteningly, shadowy bars encircling Fonda´s handsome face. Scorsese uses a similar trope on his own face at the beginning, shadows from the blinds in front framing his face. Behind him, the video monitor offering a choice of films to project. He then reflects on what we can learn from this lockdown about our loved ones, the value of existing, of merely breathing, if we can. The images he chooses to end his lockdown diary are from Siodmak´s The Killers with Burt Lancaster´s Swede, in jail after having taken the rap for Kitty (Ava Gardner) holding on to her green kerchief with the harp on it, dreaming of her. The sequence begins 4.20 min into the film with the Swede asking Reardon (Vince Barnett), his cellmate, how come he knows so much about the stars. An interesting sequence to end the lockdown diary with.

You can see a longer version of the scene, and in better quality below. Significantly, the scene begins 48m16 seconds into a film that that is 1h44m long, i.e. almost bang on in the middle of the film. It´s Reardon´s flashback, and his equanimity is not shared by the Swede, feverish with anxiety and worry about not hearing from Kitty. Scorsese´s choice of ending and beginning gives a particular resonance to his lockdown musings. But those who know The Killers will know that the Swede comes out of jail only to have all his hopes dashed, to walk into another type of prison, and that he´s lonely, forlorn and hopeless, in a situation with no way out. After the Swede´s first jailing, his first lockdown, the only solution he can find for his problems is to wait for someone to come and kill him.


With thanks to Andrew Moor for bringing Scorsese´s lockdown short to my attention.


José Arroyo

Leave a Reply