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File:TheBorgiasCesareandUrsula 3535.jpg

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.

Examples of Separated by the Wall include:

Anime and 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 Special. Red has just shown up, and Yellow and his Pika, who have been searching for him, frantically beat at the strange, one-way mirror wall hoping to get his attention. They don't.
  • Dragonaut 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 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.


  • 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.
  • 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. "I have been... and always shall be... your friend."
  • 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.
  • Bound, with Corky and Violet in adjacent apartments.
  • Being John Malkovich features this trope in a puppet show about Peter Abelard and Heloise.
  • The 90s film version of Romeo and 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 a nod to Pyramus & Thisbe there is something similar going on in the Astrid Lindgren book Ronja the Robbers Daughter although no one dies, and the kids aren't exactly romantically involved.
    • Pyramus and Thisbe themselves, who can only communicate through the literal wall separating their parent's properties. It comes from Roman writer Ovid, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
  • 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?
    • Besides that I cried?
  • 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.

Live-Action TV

  • In the season 2 finale of Doctor Who, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • On The Borgias, one of Cesare's early meetings with Ursula (the main image) is in a Confessional during which much is made of the wall between them.


  • According to some, David Bowie's ""Heroes"" has two lovers separated by the Berlin Wall, which is fine as far as it goes. However, Bowie himself would tell you that it's actually an aversion; the Wall isn't separating the lovers, but rather serves as a meeting place for them.
    • In detail: his actual inspiration (as it turns out) was his (American) producer Tony Visconti embracing his (West German) mistress Antonia Maaß in front of the Wall (both safely living on the Western side, thank you very much). This (it seems) they regarded as quasi-heroic: love next to a symbol of oppression, how romantic! Bowie wasn't impressed (the lyrics are actually quite ironic when you think about it, particularly when you consider the scare quotes around the title), not least because the studio in question was the famous Hansa-by-the-Wall, which was exactly what it said it was: right next to the Wall. In other words: (1) Dude, you're cheating on your wife and (2) you pretend it's all heroic and crap because you're doing it next to the Berlin Wall...but you work next to the Berlin Wall. Stop fooling yourself.
  • 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.

Video Games

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

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

  • An old, 90's era CGI short film had a globe/universe divided into sky and ocean by a solid crystal barrier. A school of fish swam beneath and a flock of birds flew 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.
  • 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. *sniff*

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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