Interviewers lacking in mental accuity like to ask of creative types: "Where do your ideas come from?" As if there is some well somewhere at a secret location that they could be convinced to reveal. Where does Woody Allen get his ideas? Well, in the case of Shadows and Fog, I know the answer. It's based on a play he wrote in the 70's called "Death." This is probably why it feels different from other films of this era. It harkens back to his old style of comedy. He takes the typical Woody Allen character and plops him down in the middle of a German Expressionist film. I'm not sure if I read this somewhere or if it's my own thought that this movie is an homage to Fritz Lang. And yet, despite his using older material and referencing older directors, Woody still continues the theme he started in Alice. "He's frightened of his freedom," John Cusack says.
We're right in the middle of Woody Allen's career and at the tail end of his relationship with Mia Farrow. So maybe it's natural that he's thinking about the future and the things he might want to accomplish without the baggage of a family. And maybe he is frightened, which makes him lean against old props. But, you know, I think Shadows and Fog is one of his better lesser-know films. I really would recommend it.