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Separated by the Wall

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A stock visual metaphor, if you will. Some people (usually a man and woman pair) are separated by a wall, window, or other barrier. The wall is obviously an obstacle, but not the whole of the obstacle; the couple are prevented from uniting by some other means which the wall represents, either a physical cage or cell of some sort, or some form of emotional separation, like a relationship problem.

In order to make the best of this image, the couple will often press their heads against the same spot of the wall, on opposite ends, and the camera will move around the set to show that they are physically very near to each other, but still incapable of touching. If the couple is lucky, they will have a small hole or window to communicate through.

Not to be confused with any variation of the Fourth Wall.

See Closed Door Rapport for when one party tries to talk to the other after being shut out. See also Window Love.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, clone Sakura and Syaoran are trapped in the same container but have a glass wall separating them. It was the price they paid to save their son, to be imprisoned and unable to touch each other.
  • There's one scene in the second arc of Pokémon Adventures. Red has just shown up, and his Pikachu and Yellow, who have been searching for him, frantically beat at the strange, one-way mirror wall hoping to get his attention. They don't.
  • Dragonaut: The Resonance deserves mention here, during the episode in which Toa has gotten briefly captured by Prince Asim Jamar and Jin goes to rescue her.
  • In one chapter of Great Teacher Onizuka, Onizuka goes into the home of a student whose parents are having trouble with their marriage, and proceeds to knock down the wall between the student's room and her parents' room to make a point.
  • In episode 5 of anime Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Kaito has a meeting with the mermaid Lucia (who he doesn't recognize) when she was in an aquarium and he on the outside. She begs him to find her soon since she cannot tell him who she is unless he figures out himself. Then they kiss with their lips and hands touching the glass.
  • A certain scene from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt has Panty spotting a gorgeous young man ( actually, a well-groomed and dressed Brief) as they look at one another through an aquarium. It's a very clear parody of a scene in William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, featured below.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Great Divide a Gaulish village is divided by a large ditch, with two lovers from the separate sides divided. Author Albert Uderzo has said he was inspired by the Berlin Wall, which still stood at the time this album was written.
  • In issue 50 of The Simpsons, a dispute over a pond between upperclass Springfield and lower-class Springfield, combined with the discovery that the two districts have legally been separate towns, leads to such a wall being built for the duration of the story. According to the narration, years later a moat of a similar nature would be built.

    Fan Works 
  • In Raven Child's The Smurfette Village's third story "How Things Smurf", Hefty, Brainy, Baby, the Smurflings, and the Smurfettes who were with them are trapped outside the village by a magical force field Papa Smurf erected to keep a dangerous Smurf-infecting disease from spreading. Through the barrier, the Smurfs on the outside talk to the few Smurfs that are still barely alive to find out what had happened.

    Films — Animation 
  • That scene in The Simpsons Movie count when the family escapes from the dome Springfield has been put in and Lisa is separated from her love interest (although they could still see each other).
  • The scene in Dumbo when he goes to visit his mother at the cage. She can't go far enough to see him through the window, but they can touch trunks and she even manages to cradle him with hers while singing a lullaby.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Japanese film Kikareta Onna No Mirareta Yoru, translated as "Man, Woman & The Wall".
  • Variant in Hedwig and the Angry Inch- Hansel and Luthor (an American stationed in East Germany) are both on the East side of the Berlin Wall but in order to cross over and move with him to America, Hansel must become Hedwig to marry him. The song "Angry Inch" details the botched sex change operation, and the song "Tear Me Down" explicitly compares Hedwig to the wall itself- "Ladies and gentlemen, Hedwig is like that wall! Standing before you in a divide between East and West, slavery and freedom, man and woman, top and bottom."
  • The famous Siren dance in the original The Wicker Man (1973).
  • Star Trek:
    • The ending of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Kirk is separated from Spock by the wall of the main reactor's chamber, and Spock is dying. The two of them cannot touch, cannot even have a Manly Embrace as Spock dies... which is something of a metaphor for Spock's entire existence. Apparently the scene itself even had the teamsters hanging around watching it bawling their eyes out while it was being filmed.
      Spock: I have been... and always shall be... your friend.
    • In Star Trek Into Darkness, the same thing happens again, with Kirk being the one dying and Spock unable to reach out to him.
  • In the movie It Happened One Night a spoiled heiress runs away from her controlling father. Nationwide manhunt occurs. A newspaper reporter finds her. They are forced by circumstances to stay in a hotel room over night and the reporter hangs a sheet to preserve her reputation. They even call it the Wall of Jericho. And we all know what happened to that wall.
  • In Another Cinderella Story the male lead is teaching a dance class and the female lead is following along on the other side of the one way mirror. At one point they both lean into the mirror in the same exact spot and appear to feel something from it, even though he doesn't know she's there and they haven't properly met yet.
  • Being John Malkovich features this trope in a puppet show about Peter Abelard and Heloise.
  • William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet has the two first see each other while looking through opposite sides of an aquarium.
  • In the Turkish movie İncir Reçeli, the lead romantic couple has only one kiss, and that is from the opposite sides of a glass barrier either of them could easily circumvent. The reason for this is because the girl has been HIV-positive since birth, and does not want to infect the boy. She explains that while there has only been one documented case of HIV infection through a kiss, and only because the transmitter had a heavy case of bleeding gums, she does not want to risk it.
  • In the 1959 German film Sterne, German corporal Walter and Jewish prisoner Ruth are separated by the wiring of a concentration camp.
  • A more action-y variant in The Phantom MenaceQui-Gon and Obi-Wan are separated by a Force-Field Door which prevents Obi-Wan from saving Qui-Gon from being killed by Darth Maul.
  • In the 1978 film Midnight Express, Susan presses herself against the glass separating her from Billy.

  • Pyramus and Thisbe, who can only communicate through the literal wall separating their parent's properties. It comes from The Metamorphoses by the Roman writer Ovid, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
  • In a nod to Pyramus & Thisbe there is something similar going on in the Astrid Lindgren book Ronja the Robber's Daughter although no one dies, and the kids aren't exactly romantically involved.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, Maximilien and Valentine, another pair of star-crossed lovers also have to communicate through a hole in the wall; the chapter is titled "Pyramus and Thisbe".
  • A married couple in Everything Is Illuminated sleep in separate rooms after the husband becomes prone to violent outburst following a head injury. From then on, the couple only communicate through a hole in the wall... although they "communicate" a few children through it, too. Um...
  • Jayfeather and Half Moon from Warrior Cats. Several hundred cat years apart, plus one stinking prophecy. Need we say anymore?
    • Also applies to the physical barrier between the Dark Forest and StarClan, at least for Dark Forest residents. The two territories are separated by a misty border, which StarClan cats can pass through, at the risk of being unable to find their way back out of the Dark Forest, while Dark Forest residents are completely prevented from passing through to StarClan territory. Unfortunately, this means that Dark Forest cats cannot visit with mates or other loved ones in StarClan unless the StarClan cats decide to pass through to the Dark Forest, but this is very rare in the canon.
  • Let the Right One In: Eli and Oskar live in neighboring apartments and communicate through the wall using Morse code. The Film of the Book uses the visual motif for other things like the door to Eli's apartment and them watching each other through windows.
  • The Perilous Gard: Fellow prisoners Kate and Christopher start out as bickering foils, but get to know each other extremely well while talking through a cell wall in total darkness.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lee Adama and Kara Thrace end up sitting back-to-back against a firing-range barrier in Battlestar Galactica in a scene which ends with him telling her he loves her.
  • On The Borgias, one of Cesare's early meetings with Ursula is in a Confessional during which much is made of the wall between them.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of the more romantic scenes in the otherwise Destructive Romance between Buffy and Spike in Season 6 is when Buffy, patrolling the cemetery, is drawn to Spike's crypt. Spike's vampire Spider-Sense tips him to her presence and he touches the stone door, anticipating her entry, as Buffy does the same thing from the opposite side. But when Spike pulls open the door Buffy has already fled.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Doomsday", the Doctor and Rose press themselves against the same wall, which unfortunately happens to be in different universes for each of them. So they manage to occupy the same spot while still being unable to communicate or connect.
    • Happens again in "The Girl Who Waited" with Rory and Older Amy.
    • The Doctor and Clara engage in the Window Love version in "Under the Lake", appropriate for a pairing that is portrayed as intensely platonic/romantic yet never intimate.
  • In Fresh Meat, Howard's and Josie's rooms are separated by a thin plaster board. A little bonus, there's a glory hole through which they sometimes talk through. Howard even does a piece of interpretive drama about this predicament entitled "Wall Man".
  • Jack and Kate do this on Lost when they are captives of the Others and being held separately, after she is brought in to see him while he is being held in a room with a glass wall.
  • Pushing Daisies does this with Ned and Chuck, representative of the fact that they are unable to touch each other. He's lying on the couch in the living room and she's in the bedroom around the corner.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 season 4 episode "Upgrades", Carter and O'Neill are stuck on opposite sides of a force field when the bracelets giving them superpowers fail and the place is about to explode. This sets up everything in "Divide and Conquer".
  • On The Vampire Diaries, in season four, Stefan and Elena are locked in separate prison cells after being captured by vampire hunters. A wall separates Stefan and Elena from being able to see each other. Stefan and Elena start to confess how much they love each other and Elena that she had chosen Stefan before she had drowned and died. Elena then tells Stefan that "she really wishes she could see him right now" while placing her hand on the wall as a form of communication with Stefan, suggesting that she is desperate to see him. Stefan then tells Elena through the cell wall: "I'm smiling".

  • Pink Floyd's The Wall, obviously.
  • The cover to George Harrison's album Wonderwall Music. (Note the hole in the wall).
  • David Bowie's "'Heroes'" is commonly interpreted as being about two lovers separated by the Berlin Wall, which is fine as far as it goes. The song technically never specifies if the wall does separate them (the real people that inspired it met on the same side, if that helps).
  • Lou Reed's Berlin is a Concept Album build around the Berlin Wall and the tragedies taking place there.
  • Elton John's "Nikita" depicts a romance between the singer and a female East German border guard, which ends up being unrealised because the singer is turned away at the checkpoint.

    Music Videos 
  • The video for the Marillion song "Kayleigh," on the other hand, definitely plays this straight, again with the Berlin Wall.
  • Featured in the "Walking After You" video by the Foo Fighters.

  • Parodied with Pyramus and Thisbe from A Midsummer Night's Dream, star-crossed lovers who have only a hole in the wall to talk (and indirectly kiss) through. It should be noted that the wall is a speaking part.
  • The entire first act of The Fantasticks, in which two lovers are prevented from seeing each other due to their parents wishes. (Notably, the wall in this case is represented by a character holding a stick.)

    Video Games 
  • A crucial scene between Alexander and Cassima in King's Quest VI happens this way, down to the two-shot.

    Visual Novels 
  • In The Second Reproduction, one of Lezette's CGs features him and Christina communicating through the church's wall.

    Web Animation 
  • Draw with Me is a textbook example of this, but they find a way to communicate anyways.

    Web Original 
  • Billy and Penny in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Though it's worth noting that they're actually leaning against different walls, but camera tricks make it appear like just one wall.

    Western Animation 
  • In Stanley and Stella in: Breaking the Ice a globe/universe is divided into sky and ocean by a solid crystal barrier. A school of fish swim beneath and a flock of birds fly above. When one fish and bird see each other, they become friends/fall in love, but are frustrated by the crystal separating them. The bird flies to the highest reaches of the sphere and dives down, crashing through the crystal and allowing all the other birds and fish to mingle. The fish who fell in love nudges the prone body, hoping for life, when thankfully the bird perks up and they both embrace face to face.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: At one point in "Volpina", Ladybug and Cat Noir are on opposite sides of a door. After a brief exchange of words, they both press their foreheads against the door longingly before Ladybug leaves through the window.
  • The Simpsons: The episode "A Tale of Two Springfields", has Springfield divided in two by a wall.
  • In The Smurfs episode "Unsound Smurfs", the Smurflings and Puppy are trapped outside the village when Brainy casts a spell that casts an unbreakable soundproof barrier around the village. Fortunately, because the Smurfs obtained the Chekhov's Skill of sign language from Laconia, they were able to communicate with each other in order to tell the Smurflings what they must do to break the barrier.

    Real Life 
  • In the vein of David Bowie's song further up the page, this tended to happen a lot when the Berlin Wall was up. In a History Channel documentary covering this time period and people who tried to get across, about half (at least) of the stories were the Zany Schemes couples came up with to get one or the other to West Berlin.


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