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Separated by the Wall

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A stock visual metaphor, if you will. Some people (usually a couple) are separated by a wall or other barrier.

The wall is obviously an obstacle — the couple is prevented from uniting by physical separation. It's usually also a metaphor for another obstacle — or some form of emotional separation, like a relationship problem.

Yet, while the characters are separated, they're still sharing a scene. On either side of the wall they're paralleling each other. There's still a togetherness, a connection, and the audience can see that even though the characters can't right now.

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.

Sister Trope to Window Love, where parties are separated another physical barrier but can see each other through it. See Closed Door Rapport for when one party tries to talk to the other after being shut out, and Tragic Intangibility, where a character is too metaphysical to touch and it's sad.

Compare Symbolic Distance, where a large distance symbolises a yearning for another.

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


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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.
  • Chapter 359 of Berserk has a tree variant with Star-Crossed Lovers Guts and the recently cured Casca. Due to Guts being a Trauma Button for Casca's extreme PTSD, Guts hides from her behind the tree so they can't properly reunite, but Casca still wants to talk to him and puts her hand on the bark of the tree to have some physical connection between them.
  • 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.
  • 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 upper-class 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 
  • In Frozen (2013) when the sisters' parents die, Anna slumps against Elsa's room door, deeply hurt by the recent loss of her parents and her sister's continued refusal to come out and speak to her. At the opposite side of the door, Elsa does the same, while her room is encased by ice. Obviously, she does want to be with Anna, but is afraid to hurt her again with her powers.
  • That scene in The Simpsons Movie 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.
  • In Turning Red, shortly after the climax, Ming and Mei end up on different sides of the portal from the spirit realm, since the latter has decided to keep her Red Panda form. Mei admits she's afraid her choice will take her mother away from her, to which Ming soberly empathizes with, but gives her daughter her blessing. This is meant to signify how Mei's choice to be her own person (outside of perfect little "Mei Mei") will indeed change the dynamic of their relationship.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 Silence of the Lambs of course has Clarice and Hannibal get very close to each other while still separated by the PERSPEX glass. Later on when Lecter is a bar cell and Clarice hands him something their fingers touch, in the book it's described as being like an electric shock.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest the almost-wed Will and Elizabeth are separated by prisons bars when Elizabeth is imprisoned and only can get their hands through to stroke and embrace each other as Will bids farewell.
    Will: And then I intend to return here to marry you.
    Elisabeth: Properly?
    Will: Eagerly, if you'll still have me.
    Elisabeth: If it weren't for these bars, I'd have you already.
  • 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.
  • William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet has the two first see each other while looking through opposite sides of an aquarium note .
  • In Bright Star, the Brawne family moves into the other half of the house Keats occupies. In separate but adjoining bedrooms, Keats and Brawne each place a hand on the wall, giving the visual effect that their hands are touching. Neither of them knows that the other is doing this at all, yet their hands still align perfectly.
  • During the climax of Casino Royale, James Bond and Vesper Lynd are separated by some old fashioned elevator sliding doors in a rapidly sinking building in Venice. After the elevator is submerged Bond manages to get his hands in and Vesper kisses them as repayment and a Call-Back to him for sucking her hands clean when she was traumatised at being a Guilt-Ridden Accomplice, Vesper drowns before Bond can get the doors open.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: The Distant Duet "One of Us" features Sophie and her husband Sky sulking after they've just had a fight on the phone. They're countries apart — she's in Greece and he's in New York — but the camera depicts the walls of their room as the same wall. They share the screen as they both mournfully lean against the shared wall. "One of us is lonely," they each lament, imagining that they're the only sad one here, when their partner is — in fact — feeling the exact same thing.
  • In Scream 2, as Gale runs away from Ghostface, Gale manages to hide herself in a room. Dewey enters the same room and finds Gale in the room and calls out for her, but she can't hear him due to the window being soundproof. Then Ghostface shows up and stabs Dewey in the back. Dewey manages to catch Gale's attention by using a microphone. Gale turns around and ends up agonizingly watching Dewey slide down the glass and bleed.

  • 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.
  • A Chance Of Sunshine (pictured above) tells the story of a young man and woman who fall in Love at First Sight with one another after a chance encounter, but never manage to cross paths again despite living next door to one another. One day, they manage to cross paths and go on a date, after which they exchange contact details. But because of the rain, they lost the number, leaving them to pine, but unable to reach, the other, unaware that they are actually closer to each other than they think.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow. In Season 2, Oliver Queen discovers that Sara Lance is Not Quite Dead, but she refuses to let her family know as she doesn't want them to see what she has become. At once point when Oliver is talking to Sara, her father turns up to talk about his other daughter's problems with alcoholism. To prevent him coming inside, Oliver goes outside to speak to Quentin, with Sara listening to their conversation from the other side of the door.
  • 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.
  • In the season 2 finale of The Bear (2022), Carmy and Richie (one of the show's central friendships) have an argument while Carmy is in the walk-in fridge. Their fight, unlike Carmy's impromptu breakup with Claire minutes earlier, is shot perpendicular from the fridge door with them on either side.
  • 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 (who is inside the TARDIS) and Older Amy (who is outside). If Rory opens the door, Older Amy will be safe but he'll remove her younger self from existence.
    • 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".
  • Iron Fist (2017). In a flashback to his time in K'un-Lun, Davos is denounced by his mother for losing the Iron Fist to Danny Rand. When he decides to leave K'un-Lun to find Danny and bring him home, Davos realises he might not survive the journey and approaches the chamber where his mother is meditating, asking from outside of the door if she has any Last Words for him. His mother approaches the door, but can't bring herself to speak before Davos leaves.
  • 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 revolves around a man attempting to form a metaphorical wall between himself and the outside world after a traumatic upbringing, unintentionally trapping himself in the process. The idea came from Roger Waters jokingly suggesting that the band literally build a wall between themselves and the audience after a touring incident where he angrily spat on a fan during a show.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • In Dear Evan Hansen 's "Waving Through a Window", Evan uses the metaphor of feeling like he's separated by a window from the rest of the world.
    On the outside always looking in
    Will I ever be more than I've always been?
    'Cause I'm tap-tap-tapping on the glass
    I'm waving through a window.
  • 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.)
  • Legally Blonde: After Elle tells Emmett she's decided to drop out, Emmett tries to convince her to reconsider before Elle locks herself in her room. They sing the final verse of "Legally Blonde" separated by the dorm room door, as Emmett begs Elle to stay. They both lay a hand against the door, expressing a desire to reach out to each other, but this is a BSoD Song and Elle won't open the door and actually reach out in this moment.

    Video Games 
  • In Fallout 3 as a Heroic Sacrifice to kill The Dragon Colonel Autumn, James the Player Character's dad unleashes a massive amount of radiation inside the Project Purity control chamber, his final moments are him with a one hand on the protective glass between you and him begging for you to run before collapsing to his knees and dying.
  • Played with in Final Fantasy VII Aerith is alone in her cell after being captured by Shinra and in a change from her usual cheerfulness is miserable and frightened — until Cloud in the cell next door hears Aerith and alerts her to his presence. Overjoyed, Aerith hugs the wall dividing them, reminding Cloud of the date she owes him for being her bodyguard. At this point Tifa who was relaxed on the cot in the cell she's currently sharing with Cloud, makes her presence known as well, to Aerith's great surprise... and jealousy.
  • Silent Hill 2 has the iconic and haunting scene of James Sunderland finding Maria who resembles his dead Mary sitting behind the bars of a jail cell. After alternating between Mary and Maria personas, she gets up and strokes James's face telling him that she's warm seducing James into temptation. By the time James gets into the cell however, Maria is dead.
  • In Resident Evil 2 (Remake) survivors Leon and Claire have a intimate moment upon reuniting at the police station after the truck crash, only separated by a tall chain link fence as they express how pleased they are to see each other. In Claire's scenario, she actually keeps sadly holding onto the chain link even after Leon walks away from her to escape getting munched on by the swarming alerted zombies.

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

    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.
  • Looney Tunes Cartoons: "Shower Shuffle" features both Porky and Daffy taking showers in their respective apartments. The gag is both showers are situated on opposite sides of shared wall. Much chaos ensues as the pair each attempt to adjust their showers only to inadvertently undo the adjustments of the other.
  • 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 
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


He's closed the breach.

Rose and The Doctor press themselves against the same wall of Torchwood, but in parallel universes.

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Main / SeparatedByTheWall

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