The very architecture of the film, the series of flat surfaces that moves from screen to wall to interior background, suggests that this cinema is an exploration of depth. An imaginary, impossible depth that extends into the screen, that opens behind it, revealing a virtual interiority and distance, far away. Noel Burch describes the sensation of depth this film produces:
Although a wall occupies half the picture, the sense of space and depth which was to strike all the early spectators of Lumière’s films is already present in the contrast between this wall blocking the background to the left and the movement of the crowd emerging from the dark interior on the right.
This “sense of space and depth” is a general feature of all the Lumière films, establishing an axis along which objects (people, animals, and other animate things) move toward and away from the spectator. An extra space, an extra dimension that exists only as an effect of cinema projection. An abyss, mise-en-abîme, abyssal space. The deep space opens only there, in an avisual world, folded from the outside in and the inside out. It has no reference, indexical or otherwise, to any place outside the film, although, as a photograph, it originated somewhere. A space that is not really there. An archive where there is no space. Like the unconscious, like the X-rayed body, an abyss.
“The self is both there and elsewhere, perceived in a troubling ubiquity and depth, at an uncertain distance: we see in a mirror, or rather the image seems to appear behind the material screen, so that the one who sees himself can question whether he sees the surface itself or across it,” and adds, “The reaction causes the sensation of an immaterial underworld to rise up beyond the mirror and invites the gaze to a cross-over of appearances”
P136 THE SPECTRALITIES READER