The Sliding Doors by Peter Howitt Essays

The Sliding Doors by Peter Howitt Essays

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Peter Howitt’s Sliding Doors (1998) is a film that explores the events that unfold in Helen’s (Gwyneth Paltrow) life after she simultaneously makes and misses her train. Throughout the film, sliding doors appear as a motif and signify that an important event is about to occur or has occurred in Helen’s life. By manipulating the range of story information and mise-en-scene, Howitt is able to juxtapose Helen and James (John Hannah) with Gerry (John Lynch) and Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn) to ultimately create a stronger allegiance between the audience and Helen and James.
Each of the four central characters, Helen, James, Gerry, and Lydia, can be recognized by individual and distinct traits that differentiate them from each other. The protagonist, Helen, is a hardworking woman with relatively low self-confidence who is often skeptical of people and good news that comes into her life. After losing her job, Helen works many part-time jobs in order to make ends meet and, in a parallel time line, starts up her own PR company. James is a nice, successful man who tries very hard to cheer up Helen and also has his own company. However, James isn’t entirely honest with Helen, because he hides the fact that he is married to Claudia. Gerry, in contrast to James, can be characterized as a fickle man who is both dependent on Helen for support and deceitful. Gerry’s inability to choose between Helen and Lydia, persistent lying to Helen and even Russell, and lack of income are all factors that contribute to his characterization. Lydia is the polar opposite of Helen. She is an aggressive and conniving woman who is emotionally dependent on Gerry. Her constant phone calls, plots to inform Helen of the affair, and stalker tendencies all add to her “li...


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...ry and Lydia, while simultaneously causing them to cheer for the relationship between Helen and James. Elements of mise-en-scene, such as lighting, clothing choice, and setting all help further this contrast. Though the film represents a relatively short period in Helen’s life, many life-changing events occur during this time. Howitt punctuates these major events with the image of sliding doors, thereby driving home the film’s central theme of chance, possibility, and change. Our allegiance with Helen is inevitable, because we follow her story and are made to understand her motivations and agree with them; therefore, it is the allegiance, or non-allegiance, to the other characters that Howitt must work the hardest to elicit in the audience and he does so by manipulating the actions of each character to suit his needs and obtain a certain reaction from the audience.

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