Mort Rainey, so magnificently portrayed by Johnny Depp, provides us with a powerful metaphor of the human dilemma. Which is: each of us determines, in a substantial way, the ending of our own story, whether we want to think so or not.

(2004) Film Review

This page was created on March 11, 2004
This page was last updated on March 13, 2004

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Dial up modems will take a few moments


Directed by David Koepp
Novel by Stephen King
Screenplay by David Koepp

Johnny Depp .... Mort Rainey
John Turturro .... John Shooter
Maria Bello .... Amy Dowd Rainey
Gillian Ferrabee .... Fran Evans
Timothy Hutton
Richard Jutras .... Motel Manager

Produced by
Gavin Polone .... producer
Ezra Swerdlow .... executive producer

Original Music by Philip Glass and Geoff Zanelli
Cinematography by Fred Murphy
Film Editing by Jill Savitt

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, sexual content and language
For rating reasons, go to FILMRATINGS.COM, and MPAA.ORG.
Parents, please refer to PARENTALGUIDE.ORG

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Four Past Midnight
by Stephen King

Four spellbinding tales of evil.
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Though he knows he should be at his computer writing another book, or at least walking his dog along the sparkling lake outside his dingy cabin, successful author Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is sleeping on his favorite sofa for up to 16 hours a day. He is in the midst of a painful divorce and everything about the breakup has turned messy and unpleasant. It has sapped his energy and siphoned away his creativity, leaving him with a monumental case of writer's block that renders him incapable of even stringing a simple sentence together.

Then, when it seems as if things can't possibly get worse, a psychotic stranger named John Shooter (John Turturro) shows up at his doorstep, accuses Rainey of plagiarizing his story and demands satisfaction. Despite Rainey's efforts to placate him, Shooter becomes increasingly insistent and hostile, intimating a twisted sort of justice that could include cold-blooded murder.

Forced into a mind-bending game of cat and mouse, Rainey discovers that he has more cunningness and gritty determination than he ever imagined. In the end, he realizes that elusive Shooter may know him better than he knows himself.

Columbia Pictures presents A Pariah Production Secret Window starring Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton and Charles S. Dutton. The film is directed by David Koepp from a screenplay by Koepp based upon the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King. The producer is Gavin Polone. The executive producer is Ezra Swerdlow. The director of photography is Fred Murphy, ASC. The production designer is Howard Cummings. The film is edited by Jill Savitt, A.C.E. The music is by Philip Glass.

Secret Window has been rated PG-13 for Violence/Terror, Sexual Content and Language by the Motion Picture Association of America


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“The most important part of the story is the ending.”
Mort Rainey, so magnificently portrayed by Johnny Depp, provides us with a powerful metaphor of the human dilemma. Which is: each of us determines, in a substantial way, the ending of our own story, whether we want to think so or not. And, each of us contributes to the life stories of others. We are all responsible for the outcome of our lives and for the lives of those that surround us.

Mort Rainey is the human condition personified.
There are, to be sure, preordained moments in life—God moments—that just happen. Predominately, however, we control our destinies as we impact those around us.

Additionally, we are our own worst enemies. Especially when you consider our stubborn practice of denial and unconscious decision-making —as Rainey to pointedly makes clear.

Welcome to the human race.
It is exactly these truths that the Stephen King story illustrates. And as usual he does it in such an interesting and entertaining manner. I think part of the reason for King’s popularity is his ability to nail the reality and dilemma of human nature.

Life has happened to Mort(ified) Rainey and he is living in a state of total depression for the past 6-months. He has been living in this hellhole since he discovered his wife’s love affair with another man. The pain is heightened by a deep sense of rejection —Amy has chosen this other man over him and is now trying to get him to sign divorce papers.

He has allowed his life to come to an end, emotional speaking, and everyday is a “Rainey” day. His isolated cabin-in-the-woods has become his gravesite, his couch is his coffin, his whiskey is his embalming fluid, and his bathrobe is his burial gown.

Mr. Mortified needs to have a rebirth, resurrection and a new life. He needs redemption. But how can he experience new life when he cannot let go of the past. The past needs to be deleted --taken out of the way --torn out of the book, as it were.

The desire to deny the past is replaced with a desire to change the past —the ultimate denial. This desire made manifest, when John Shooter (shoot-her) shows up at his cabin door. “You stole my story” he accuses Mort, and demands that he change the ending of the story. King’s stories are always so clever.

There are two hats used in the film: (1) Mort’s knit hat. (2) Shooter’s tall brimmed hat. The hats represent different personas. The tip off comes at the beginning of the film when we hear Mort talking and debating with himself in his car. In true chiastic form, Mort’s dual voice (persona) is featured again in the concluding scenes of the film. In his deep moods of depression and sleep he wears neither —perhaps indicating a third personality.

Whenever Mort gets up from his couch of depression to do something he puts on his going-out knit hat. Shooter’s hat is, at first, kept at a distance, but begins to close in on Mort as the story progresses. The first actual physical contact he has with the hat is with a plastic bag to prevent intimate touching.

The shooter's hat gets closer and closer until he finally wears it.

Divison and unification. Later when he actually places the hat on his own head. As he does the “secret window” of the dark inner workings of his soul are revealed. In fact, his dual persona is underscored vividly as the house splits right down the middle (in his mind, of course).

His need for one home (a unified life) was demonstrated as he torched his former house that he shared with his wife. The reality of the second hat points to the fact of not only the divided home (divorce), but also to his divided inner self and to the depth of his unconscious inner turmoil.

With his two personas consciously merged into one, he can now put an end to his current situation by killing off all those who are in his way. He has become the ultimate storyteller. He has reconstructed “the story” of life itself. At the beginning of the film he could not write a story, at the end of the film, he is happily writing again.

New life always comes through death and resurrection. Kernels from a plucked (dieing) ear of corn can be planted (buried) in the ground resulting in new life (resurrection). This literally happens in the film. However, new life at the expense of others is wrong. Real new life happens only through the dead of one’s old self. Mort never did put to death his evil self. Instead, his “new life” was through the death of others, including Amy, his wife. In a word, he chose evil. It has always interested me that in the English language “evil” is “live” spelled backwards. Mort chose the former over the latter.

And where did Mort bury the dead? Care for a piece of corn? Go ahead take Amy piece.


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