Inivitation scroll

The offscreen space in CAT PEOPLE, by Jacques Tourneur

Cat People (1942), by Jacques Tourneur is a fantastic film whose heroine, Irena, believes she is the victim of a curse cast on the women of her native village: they turn into panthers when experiencing a strong emotion.

In this film, offscreen space is used with remarkable skill and has two main functions. The first, during the metamorphosis sequences, is to keep us in doubt as to its reality, since it we don’t see the change happen. This might lead us to think that Irena is mad, which is the explanation of her husband, Oliver. This uncertainty maintains the story in the realm of the fantastic as long as possible, as defined by Tzvetan Todorov. The second function of offscreen space is to make the viewer feel a special kind of anguish, linked to the unknown, the invisible. The movements from offscreen to onscreen space can add surprise to this tension.

Cat People, by Jacques Tourneur