These screencaps (with the exception of the last) represent three sequential shots from the ‘Escher Room’ scene in Labyrinth. In order to form an argument on what’s happening in these shots, I will start with a hypothesis: the entire ‘Escher Room’ scene is far more concerned with Jareth and his emotions than it is with Sarah rescuing Toby. For a start, the song dominates the first half of the scene and is completely concerned with Jareth’s dawning realisation that he wants Sarah but cannot have her. After the ledge-flipping antics early on, Jareth and Sarah are separate: the scene becomes a sequence of disorientating looks, and these screencaps exemplify that.
The set design is, of course, all about distorting perspective: up is down, down is up, and so on. Because the set doesn’t conform to your normal spatial boundaries, the way scene is shot doesn’t either. The first two screencaps above are a great example of cinematic trickery, even if the ‘trick’ is only to fool the viewer for a moment: the shots are framed so as to make you think that Jareth is looking ‘down’ at Sarah and she is looking back ‘up’ at him. Only when the next shot - of Toby looking ‘up’ - comes do you realise that Sarah is paying absolutely no attention to Jareth. For the rest of the scene, there is no interaction between them whatsoever: indeed, there’s a complete shift in focus from Jareth and Sarah to Toby and Sarah. When Sarah’s frantic race to Toby becomes the focus, the song starts to fade away, irrelevant and forgotten.
To stray into song interpretation territory, I will say it’s interesting to remark that the line “I can’t live within you” isn’t uttered until right at the end of the song. ‘Within You’ starts as a series of threats, bombastic statements and endearments, but the last line is almost gasped as if Jareth can hardly bring himself to sing it. The delivery is faltering and stilted, and it’s sung from the shadows. He knows Sarah isn’t listening, so he no longer has any need to hide his vulnerability and his longing behind bombast. He’s exposed, and his vulnerability means he becomes the most intriguing element of the scene. He should be our villain, but our empathy lies squarely with him because the scene is at pains to exemplify that he has been rejected and is suffering. That, my friends, is what makes Jareth so interesting.
Agree? Disagree? Have further thoughts? Let me know!