This scene from Star Trek Into Darkness pits Captain Kirk against… well, somebody. A mystery man. John Harrison, was it?
That scene has a few close cousins, a couple of which are actually rather recent. Below are clips from The Avengers, Skyfall and The Silence of the Lambs that all play with similar set-ups to similar effect.
Using glass cages is obviously effective. We know there’s a barrier there but it’s easy to film through it in both directions. For other scenes in The Silence of the Lambs where there are actual bars on the cages, Jonathan Demme and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto took great pains to frame the shots so that the bars matched up in alternating angles – otherwise the bars really “read” on every cut, and they wanted them to just “go away.” That was obviously time consuming.
The supervillain who must be contained but then continues to fight with his words and his intellect is obviously a pretty popular trope right now. He can’t touch you but he’s right there in every other way – nothing but a glass cage would work that situation so well.
Lecter is a brilliant example of the type, if you we at least grant that he’s a “supervillain.” Perhaps this glass box imagery really did take seed from Lambs.
You may consider the following scenes a touch spoilery if you haven’t seen the films – and then there’s a definitely spoilery clip from Wrath of Khan at the bottom.
I expect the scene it comes from was very much in mind for JJ Abrams and the writers when they dreamt up the Into Darkness exchange above. The old scene makes a very different kind of barrier out of the glass, though – and by using lights reflected on the pane, as well as that unforgettable gesture at the end, keeps that barrier much more present in the mind of the viewer.
Star Trek Into Darkness opens across the UK on May 9th, then in the US on May 17th. Advanced ticket sales are underway now.