By the time he reached Magnificent Obsession, the first of his great late romances, Douglas Sirk had achieved a kind of melodramatic perfection whereby emotion was so exquisitely distributed across his mise-en-scene – or his mise-en-scene so artfully ornated and decorated with emotion – that his actors barely needed to enunciate, or even act, since even the smallest and most inadvertent gestures were enough to stir the whole frame into an affective tremble that was all the more convulsive for being so amorphous and mysterious in its yearnings and sorrows. That’s not to say that Magnificent Obsession is any less narratively convoluted or preposterous than his previous melodramas, but that this feels like the first film in which Sirk is confident enough to place and shape his actors more than direct them, turning on their features and gestures as if illuminating them from within, just as they seem to switch on his gorgeous tableaux in turn, electrifying his camera with a rich American romanticism that would only make it a matter of time before he attempted to adapt Walden to the big screen. For all that the story calls for quite a bit of exposition – the most simple version is that it’s about a blind doctor’s widow (Jane Wyman) who falls in love with the billionaire playboy (Rock Hudson) responsible for making her a blind doctor’s widow – something feels forever secreted and concealed from Sirk’s shots, allowing them to establish contact with the “infinite power” that’s introduced early on as the goal of a new transcendentalist life-philosophy in which only the most invisible acts of selfhood can open you up to the full complexity and infinity of emotion around you. For both Hudson and Wyman, that’s tantamount to a new kind of perception, or perhaps a new kind of blindness, but that doesn’t detach them from Sirk’s visual flourishes so much as attune them to their most mercurial moments - moments at which emotion seems to dissociate from individual and even human agency to imbue the invisible, ineffable edge of every space with all the stifling expectancy of a waiting room, until even the most serene domestic fixtures feel like antechambers to some vast apocalyptic catharsis. Far from casting light upon that mystery, Russell Metty's trademark Technicolor conceals it in turn, shrouding each scene in all the colours we can’t quite see, and setting the stage for a romance that just seems to intensify all the pleasures and sorrows of privacy, as Sirk opens up Hudson and Wyman to everything they can’t quite discern in each other, drawing them together alone as they commune with an expanding emotional universe.