Children, who would be terrified to encounter the real thing, will happily play with toy tigers. Creatures with pointy teeth, multi-brachial monstrosities – they shrink to manageable fears when we can manipulate their forms.
Turns out love works that way, too.
In Ernst Lubitsch’s delightful silent comedy The Doll, we follow a young bachelor’s convalescence from acute gynophobia. Through the handling of a manageable simulacrum, he becomes capable of an actual embrace.
At the beginning of the movie, our protagonist’s fear of women is so overpowering that he shelters in a monastery to avoid getting married; by the end, he is happily betrothed, trysting in a locus amoenus. What happens in between? Well, it involves a mechanical doll, men in…