A Wing-Back chair is designed to reflect back heat from the fire to keep the sitter warm. This chair is in a hallway – a warm hallway at that – leading to individual apartments. It really has no purpose except to make the hallway seem more homely*.
No one is going to sit on it on the way out – because his or her mind will be on the destination to which they are heading. And no one is going to sit on it when they return, because his or her own apartment is calling.
I think of it as a chair of emotional upset.
When someone has just opened a letter and received terrible news, or has just had a conversation with a visitor to the main door that has left him or her cold with dread, then they might sink back down into it in deep reflection.
I tried to think of it as a chair of happy stupefaction, as when someone opens a letter to discover they have won a million pounds, but I just can’t see it. They might sit down dazed for a second, but then they would be bounding up the stairs to tell someone.
So for me it is a chair of poignant times, such as happens in the film Clear And Present Danger.
Clear And Present Danger
I love a good adventure film that has an intelligent narrative. Clear And Present Danger with Harrison Ford as a US intelligence agent is the story of drug cartels in Colombia and complicity in vengeance at the highest levels of the US government.
But for all the adventure, there is one short scene near the end of the film that I find very moving.
Harrison Ford has just had a showdown with the President. He is on his way to bring everything out into the open and he is met in the corridor by the National Security Advisor who was up to his neck in the illegal goings on.
The National Security Advisor asks to have a word, and Ford says he does not want to have a word, and walks on.
And the National Security Advisor walks dazedly a few steps and then sits down heavily and wearily in a chair in the corridor.
Now in the setting (a corridor in the White House) it is kind of obvious that no one ever sits in that chair. They are too busy going to see the President or on some other important business.
The chair is just a decoration – except on this occasion.
I have always thought it is a masterful moment and wonder whether it is in the book from which the film was made, or whether it was the director’s idea, or the actor’s idea, or someone else’s.
*Homely is British English and the equivalent of the American English word homey. With thanks to Teresa Silverthorn for mentioning this 🙂