The Lady From Shanghai Themes

The Lady From Shanghai Themes


Love is one of the central themes in the movie. Michael ends up falling in love with a dangerous woman who plans to use him in order to get what she wants. Love, however, blinds Michael and prevents him from seeing who she really is. Because of her, Michael agrees to help Grisby thinking that he will use the money he will get to run away with Elsa. For Michael, the love he has for Elsa clouds his judgment and stops him from thinking rationally. Because of this, the love between Michael and Elsa is a destructive one and Michael suffers the most because of it.


From the beginning of the film, the viewer is thrown into a world where it is unsure what is real and what is not. Every character plays another role and at the end of the movie, every character transforms into who they really are. Elsa is the one who at the end of the film shocks the audience when she reveals that she is the one who wanted her husband dead and that she is the one who killed Grisby. Through this, Elsa metamorphoses from a naive girl, seen only as a child and vulnerable, into a fame fatale capable of doing horrible things in order to get what she wants. The whole film is based on the idea that one can never be sure is a person is who he or she pretends to be or if that person hides behind a mask.


There always seems to be a question of what makes a man powerful. At the beginning of the movie, one of the sailors who accompanies Mr. Bannister and Michael to the café talk about what makes a man have more power and the other and one of the sailors mentions that an edge is what makes the difference. The ‘edge’ can be psychical power, intelligence or money and we see these types of edges in the film. There is a big difference between Michael, who has physical power but is not able to use his power because he is controlled by others and Elsa who is well aware of how she can influence others and does it perfectly.

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