Hitchcock’s Rear Window: Dream Analysis Essay
Among the outstanding filmmakers of the twentieth century, Alfred Hitchcock stands out for his exceptional talent for creating an unprecedented atmosphere of suspense and developing the plot through a range of complicated psychological turns. Hitchcock’s interest in psychoanalytical ideas brought forward by Sigmund Freud finds its reflection in the film Rear Window (1954). At first sight, the action unfolds through the eyes of Jeff, a photographer who watches various courtyard scenes of daily human life.
However, from the point of view of psychoanalysis, the film can be considered as a representation of the photographer’s dreams revealing his inner impulses and fears. The interpretation of Jeff’s dreams according to Freudian theory of dream symbolism discloses the photographer’s fear of marriage based on the primary castration anxiety.
Jeff’s unwillingness to marry his girlfriend Lisa reveals itself both explicitly and latently. The open and unambiguous explication of Jeff’s negative attitude to marriage is stated at the very beginning of the film when the photographer is talking to his employer: “If you don’t pull me out of this swamp of boredom, I’ll do something drastic. […] I’ll get married” (Rear Window).
And after this statement, a whole range of symbols unfolds in support of Jeff’s negation of marriage and his emphasized commitment to his masculinity.
On the one hand, Jeff’s leg is broken: a broken bone, according to Freud’s interpretation of dreams, symbolizes a broken marriage vow and suggests the photographer’s initial inclination towards infidelity in marriage (Freud 256). On the other hand, Jeff constantly employs the main instrument of his work, his photo camera with an enormously long lens.
In Freud’s dream symbolism this lengthy object stands among the male member representations and becomes a necessary support for Jeff in assertion of his masculinity (Freud 230). Other symbols are scattered through various scenarios of courtyard life representing the possible developments Jeff envisages for his relationship with Lisa.
The first and the main scenario that unfolds in the courtyard is the situation with a married couple, where the husband gets so much tired of the wife’s constant complaints and demands for attention that he decides to kill her. Since the very beginning, Jeff shares the husband’s aversion towards female fragility. In his talk to his employer he refers to a wife as “nagging”, and his mental image of a nagging wife is immediately reflected in a visual perception of a scene in the opposite window (Rear Window).
Thus is created the link between imaginary and existing, dreams and reality. The events that take place further on illustrate Jeff’s fantasies on what might have happened and what might have been the solution of the situation when the husband is plagued with his bothersome wife.
The two key symbols of Jeff’s dream over the wife’s murder become the knife and the handbag. According to Freudian theory, the knife, as a sharp and elongated weapon, serves as a representation of a male member (Freud 230). Assaulting the wife with the knife symbolizes the victory and the triumph of the male dominance over femininity. On the other hand, the purse, as any container, is symbolic of female organs (Freud 230).
Thus, it is no mere coincidence that the murdered wife’s purse attracts so much attention both from the murderous husband and from the people trying to solve the mystery of the murder. The significance of a purse to a woman is paralleled in the handbag belonging to Jeff’s girlfriend. Lisa not only carries everything she needs in her handbag but also lectures Jeff on the meaning and role of a purse for a woman.
By stating that a woman would never part with her favorite handbag, not to mention leaving it anywhere on her husband’s territory, Lisa outlines the essential border between men and women (Rear Window). And therefore, capturing the wife’s handbag symbolizes the full and final victory of the husband over the female who bothered him so much.
By showing the supposed murder as happening in a family other from Jeff’s and at the same time making Jeff so interested and involved in the situation, Hitchcock hints that this murderous situation is in fact a projection of Jeff’s secret dreams. The only secure way of getting rid of the bothersome relationship is destroying the object causing this conflict.
However, Jeff himself would not break the norms by committing murder and therefore merely plays it over in his mind. The idea of terminating the undesired relations becomes an obsession, and in order to secure himself against the murderous tendencies, the self-reproachful Jeff employs a mechanism of substituting real people with imaginary characters (Freud 283).
Apparently, the only activity Jeff involves with while his leg is broken is looking out of the window and literally spying on the private life of the others. In psychoanalysis, this enjoyment at watching the others and identifying oneself with them is termed as “scopophilia” and signifies the desire to see the forbidden (Lemire 60).
Too afraid to involve in a normal relationship himself, Jeff projects his fears and fantasies in his dreams, each developing a different course of disappointing spousal life. The seemingly happy newlywed couple appears only to involve in intercourse which is nothing more than tiring for the spouse. Their initial dream of happiness turns out to shatter against the ugly truth of the reality when the wife finds out that the husband is jobless (Rear Window).
The elderly couple has no children, and their only joy is the small dog, a symbol of little children according to Freudian theory (Freud 231). The killing of the dog by the murderous husband signifies the impossibility of having children within a disagreeing couple and realizes another marital fear of Jeff’s, the fear of being childless.
The other participants of various scenarios reflect Jeff’s fears that are associated not with marriage but rather with single life. The songwriter who attracts Lisa with his melodies appears to give big parties but he is still lonely. Even in the biggest and merriest singing crowd he stands alone smoking his cigar (another symbol of male organ).
The lonely woman reflects the double-sidedness of human attitude to maintaining relations. On the one hand, she dreams of having a partner and designs a whole imaginary candle dinner. On the other hand, she rejects any attempts of physical closeness from her one-evening suitor, defending her female honor.
By showing the man out, the woman demonstrates aversion for the assaultive nature of male power and dominance. Last but not least, the female dancer who makes a daily show of her morning exercise in a bikini top, symbolizes female attractiveness and sexuality that are parallel to those of Lisa.
All those separate scenarios reflect different sides of human relationships in married and single life. Despite their variety, they all blend together to produce a multifaceted impression, as the multiple experiences and events of human life merge in the entity of the dream (Freud 121). This successful blending of scenarios is made possible by the symbolic setting of the action: according to Freud’s theory, rooms are representative of female organ, and ladders symbolize a sexual act (Freud 230).
Jeff’s excited scopophilia is first aimed at rejecting and terminating the female origins from his life. But gradually his girlfriend becomes more and more involved in the process of tracing the events and solving the mystery, and finally she climbs the ladder up to the crime scene.
By crossing this barrier, Lisa puts her into position of trespasser and victim of the inevitable punishment, and thus repositions Jeff towards her. Now she is seen by Jeff through the lens of sadistic scopophilia and therefore his castration anxiety is gone, giving place to attraction to the weak female (Lemire 63).
The intricate imagery and symbolism of Hitchcock’s Rear Window provide opportunities for viewing the film from the point of Freudian psychoanalysis as a story that illustrates male castration anxiety.
The separate dream scenarios are saturated with symbolical representation of relationships between men and women and blend into a single entity representing the fears and desires of the main character. The initial aversion of the male to the female is gradually transformed by involvement of the woman in the male sphere and by her trespassing the traditional borders and assuming a subordinate role of a victim.
Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York, NY: Macmillan, 1933. Print.
Lemire, Elisa. “Voyeurism and the Postwar Criticism of Masculinity in Rear Window.” Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”. Ed. John Belton. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 57–90. Print.
Rear Window. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Paramount Pictures, 1954. Film.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo: Film Techniques and Cinematography Critical Essay
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the legends of English and American cinematography. It is impossible to imagine a person who does not know Hitchcock and the contribution he made to the world filmmaking. His personal invention of numerous techniques in different genres made his films spectacular and different from what existed on the screens. Underlining Hitchcock’s impact on the world cinematography, Jean Luc Godard said, “The death of Hitchcock makes the passage from one era to another…
I believe we are entering an era defined by the suspension of the visual”. The focus of our discussion is going to be Hitchcock’s film Vertigo and the technical effects present as the helping elements to for movie perception. Vertigo is a psychological thriller which comprises an original idea, a telling title and the visual effects which contribute to the understanding of the main idea of the movie.
The main purpose of this paper is to dwell upon the movie Vertigo and to understand its underlying theme, the role of lighting and cinematography effects in movie perception and to compare and contrast it to other films shot by the director in America.
Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock: The Difference in Seeing and Being Seen Underlying Theme in Hitchcock’s Vertigo
Watching a movie Vertigo, a viewer remains in tension from the first minute up to its final scene. Hitchcock kept the viewer in guessing for some time, whether Madeleine and Judy was one and the same person.
Providing the audience with the story about a detective Scottie who had to retire from the police work because of the developing latent acrophobia and Madeleine/Judy who fell in love with each other but the strange story of Madeleine’s death does not allow Scottie and Judy be together. The finale of the movie is unpredictable as no one can expect that Judy is going to die.
Still, a close consideration of the movie may provide us with some specific ideas which point to the underlying themes in the film. Hill and Helmers want to state that “Vertigo positions its viewers, its characters, Hitchcock, and its cinematic style in a matrix of ideological practices and rhetorical appeals analyzable as identification and division”.
Much attention is paid to Scottie and his pure but at the same time imaginary identification. Hitchcock wanted to show the difference between something that was seen and that what desired to be seen. Identification of people and object is the central theme of the movie. The audience had to think thoroughly to understand the director’s plan.
The Role of Lighting and Cinematography Effects in Movie Perception
It is impossible to get the underlying idea of the film without discussing the techniques used there. Throughout the whole movie, the director implements a great variety of different visual techniques “to focus our attention on the psychological consequences of this desire for identification or identity”.
The camera zoom, different visual effects, change of color, light and picture, and offline editing are the most important techniques which help the audience to understand the main idea of the movie. Here is a close consideration of each effect which adds to the understanding of the film.
There are a lot of different scenes when some objects become either lighter of darker. For example, there is moment when Madeleine is in the shot. In this very scene, the restaurant wall on the background becomes brighter.
The main idea of the light here is to underline the moment, and make the blurred red restaurant walls more visible. One of the main purposes of this effect is to “give a visual uplift, a small background effect which subtly enhances the emotional high-point to which this scene was lading”.
The art of montage is magnificent in the film. There are a lot of different effects which seem simple for a modern viewer, but a close consideration of the quality and the period when the movie was shot may state this effect if magnificent.
For example, the highest effect from montage is achieved when the main character shadows his friend’s wife by car. Both the main character and the audience are confused whether the persecuted car is the necessary one or not.
Another good example of montage is achieved with Kim Novak. Hitchcock has managed to create a three-screen effect, when a “triadic image appears within the same picture”. As a result, an actor (Novak) is seen in one and the same picture, as double, Madeleine and Judy.
The music effects also impress. The alteration of the sound pays attention to some specific scenes and events which take place in the movie, e.g. at the moment when Scottie sees Madeleine’s half-image, “the soundtrack moves from a believable representation of the restaurant environment to thy mysterious-romantic music which peaks at the moment when Scottie’s half-imaged view of Madeleine is most vivid”.
The music volume also plays important role as when the sound increases, the viewers pay more attention to the events and shot than to others.
Camera is really important in this movie as Hitchcock has managed to use the camera as the part of the film. The main peculiarity f the place of the came in the movie is that it shoots “the processes”. For example, returning to the same scene when Madeleine is standing on the background of the red restaurant wall, the camera shows Scottie’s face and eyes which “move away from camera to the bar” and then “bridges the cut to the next image of Madeleine in profile”.
It is the moment when it seems that the eyes of Scottie and Madeleine might meet. But, “Madeleine’s forward-facing gaze is broken by her distracted look down and to her right, towards (but not at) the camera”. Having considered these scenes, it may be concluded that the camera is the part of the movie, which might possess “both active and passive possibilities or ontological qualities”. The so-called imaginary point of view becomes noticed when the gazes of Scottie and Judy almost meet.
“The camera captures a key image in that part of the scene which Scottie later recalls from his mind”. This camera effect helps us see that this scene is more about Scottie’s thoughts and emotions, the reflection of his character.
Visual effects in the movie also add to the understanding of the understanding of the movie title and idea. Scottie feels vertigo when he has to look down from height as he has an acrophobia. The ability to zoom the camera makes us feel vertigo in reality. This effect is perfectly seen in the first scenes of the movie when Scottie’s partner dies and causes his acrophobia.
The Similarity of Vertigo with other Hitchcock’s Films
Almost all Hitchcock’s films are similar in the ideas, he was fond of shooting suspicious and psychological thrillers. Putting the visual effects as one of the main points of our discussion, it is important to state that Vertigo is very similar to Psycho.
A triadic image is seen when Perkins appears in doubles, as Bates and Mother. The theme of “psychological consequences of seeing and being seen” considered in Vertigo is highlighted in the other Hitchcock’s films, especially in Rear Window and Psycho.
Considering the main topics of these movies and the techniques used for their shooting, it may be concluded that the main message the author wanted to deliver is that that human desires may ruin everything what people desired. It seems that the problem of voyeurism and objectification is really important for the author, as he has implemented this theme in many American films.
Thus, it may be concluded that visual effects, camera movements, music sound and other techniques the director uses while shooting a film are extremely important for movie perception. We have based our attention on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo and the effects the director used to reach the desired goal.
The film director wanted to show us the different between seeing and being seen. He managed to do this via numerous camera and visual effects which added to the understanding of the scenes. Lightening and sound were also important as they paid our attention to the specific profiles and shots.
Deutelbaum, Marshall and Leland A. Poague. A Hitchcock reader. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2009. Print.
Gibbs, John and Douglas Pye. Style and meaning: studies in the detailed analysis of film. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005. Print.
Hill, Charles A. and Marguerite H. Helmers. Defining visual rhetorics. London: Routledge, 2004. Print.
Orr, John. Hitchcock and twentieth-century cinema. London: Wallflower Press, 2005. Print.
Vertigo. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. Paramount Pictures, 1958. Film.
- Charles A. Hill and Marguerite H. Helmers, Defining visual rhetorics (London: Routledge, 2004) 111.
- Vertigo, dir. Alfred Hitchcock, perf. James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. Paramount Pictures, 1958.
- Hill and Helmers, 119.
- John Gibbs and Douglas Pye, Style and meaning: studies in the detailed analysis of film (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005) 93.
- John Orr, Hitchcock and twentieth-century cinema (London: Wallflower Press, 2005) 128.
- Gibbs and Pye, 94.
- Marshall Deutelbaum and Leland A. Poague, A Hitchcock reader (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2009) 235.
- Gibbs and Pye, 93.
- Deutelbaum and Poague, 241.
- Gibbs and Pye, 94
- Orr, 128.
- Hill and Helmers, 111.
“Vertigo” by Alfred Hitchcock Essay (Movie Review)
The word vertigo refers to a medical condition that is characterized by lack of a balance in an individual’s body system. A person with vertigo experiences some form of unsteadiness. The person feels a spinning or whirling movement. This feeling occurs when the person is stationary. A common symptom of a person with vertigo is dizziness. The movie title Vertigo indicates the condition suffered by the protagonist John Scottie.
John Scottie was a former police officer. In one of the operations, he happened to chase a suspect on a rooftop together with his colleague. The experience was traumatizing and caused him discomfort after running on the high height up the rooftop. He developed acrophobia which is some extreme fear of heights. His colleague died in the operation of chasing the suspect. The movie, Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock is characterized by twists and turns of events.
This could have been indicated by the spirals and swirls that appear at the top cover of the movie. This is illustrated by Scottie’s deep possession for Madeleine. After the tragic death of Madeleine, he searched for his lost love by trying to recreate it. In the process, he discovered that Madeleine’s death had been a hoax. When he tried to relive the traumatic incident that had led to Madeleine’s “death”, her real death occurred.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the moral of the story in the movie Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock. A look at love, trust, understanding, irony and real life experiences are some of the highlights that review the movie Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock.
The role of beliefs in the society
Every person is entitled to some form of belief. Beliefs control a person’s behavior. They guide the actions that any particular person is likely to undertake. They are the foundation towards a person’s way of life and his attitudes. Gavin Elster believed that people can be possessed by spirits of the dead.
When his wife started to portray questionable behavior, he began to believe that she had been possessed by the spirit of Carlota Valdes. By hiring John Scottie to investigate his wife’s actions, it was a clear indication that he had related all that the wife had done to the possession of an evil spirit. Madeleine’s actions like laying a wreath on Carlota’s grave and visiting the museum to watch Carlota’s portrait confirmed her husband’s fears.
The movie illustrated a tragic love story. After John Scotties resigned from the police force, he decided to concentrate on his former fiancée. When Gavin hired him as a private detective for his wife Madeleine, Scotties fell in love with the wife of Gavin. After the death of Madeleine, Scotties met Judy who resembled Madeleine and fell in love with her too. Love is natural and plays a significant role in a person’s life.
Love offers companionship. When nurtured with integrity and trust, it brings fulfillment. It is important to limit love and create some boundaries for it may end up ruining other activities which could also be important like careers. From the movie, Scottie was obsessed with love for Madeleine. He did not accomplish his mission as a detective because of love.
Self control and maturity should be exercised in relationships. Love cares for one another. Additionally, love deserves mutual respect between those involved in it. When Madeleine wanted to commit suicide by jumping into the ocean, Scottie saved her. This is an indication of true love and care. On the other hand Madeleine may have felt disrespected after that incidence for she woke up to find herself nude.
This could have caused the tension that followed thereafter. After the death of Madeleine, John Scottie went to an extent of recreating Judy to fit his perception of Madeleine. It is an indication that he had not accepted that his love for Madeleine had been disrupted by her death. Love has boundaries. Love that is exercised beyond certain societal and religious boundaries is considered immoral. The love between Madeleine and Scottie was immoral. Madeleine was married to Gavin and John Scottie also had a fiancée.
Trust and understanding
Several incidents in the movie portray lack of trust for one another. Gavin’s family lacked trust for one another. If proper communication existed in the family, he could have tried to find out the problem that had been affecting his wife before employing a detective.
Employing a detective signified lack of trust for his wife. Judy on the other hand knew very well that she was the “real Madeleine”. She knew that she was cheating Scottie. At one time she wanted to disclose the truth. She wrote a note stating the facts intending to give it to Scottie but later changed her mind and did not give the note to him.
Deceit may not last forever. Scottie sported jewelry from Judy. He recognized it as Madeleine’s. He discovered that Judy’s personality was a hoax and she was the real Madeleine. This also illustrated confusion in the love story and in John’s life for he was not able to distinguish between reality and dream.
Scottie forced Madeleine’s character in to Judy’s. He wanted the latter’s speech to be similar to Madeleine’s. He bought her clothes similar to Madeleine’s. Judy changed her hair style to blonde so that it appeared similar to Madeleine’s. Judy acted all that with full knowledge that she was the real Madeleine.
Real life experience
With the challenges encountered in real life today, many people find themselves in similar situations like the ones experienced by John Scottie. Some difficult situations may arise in one’s job making him to quit. The person may find himself constantly in difficult situations and possibly due to frustrations, he may find himself relating to people he may have loathed before.
Scottie found himself rejuvenating his former love with his no nonsense fiancée. Scottie ended up acquiring the same belief that Gavin had acquired regarding possession of an evil spirit. Many people end up moving from one love relationship to the other just as Scottie did. This may end up making life more complex. Scottie went down into depression because of frustrations of love.
This is also a reality today. Most depression cases are usually as a result of complications in love affairs. Others may completely change their way of live because of love. This is well exhibited by the character of Judy in the movie Vertigo. Some moral and immoral love affairs end up tragically. In cases of infidelity, the aggrieved partner may end up harming the other. Some end up committing suicide. An example of a love affair that ended up tragically was the case of Princess Diana of Wales in August, 1998.
It is important to deal with all forms of fear. People can take advantage of another person if they realize that he or she lives in fear. Gavin had realized that Scottie had acrophobia and decided to use him to conceal his wife’s murder by feigning Madeleine’s suicide. People who live in fear may have the strength to get out of it. Scottie illustrated this by conquering his acrophobia when he went up to the tower to relive Madeleine’s death.
A Cinematographic Techniques in Alfred Hitchcock’s Film “Rear Window” Essay
Among the outstanding filmmakers of the twentieth century, Alfred Hitchcock is notable for his talent for creating an atmosphere of suspense and developing the plot through a range of complicated psychological turns. As any talented director, Hitchcock makes wide use of cinematographic techniques that help to create certain effects and contribute to the development of the plot and the mood.
An example demonstrating Hitchcock’s handling of cinematographic techniques is his Rear Window. The atmosphere of overall excitement and the message of people turning into curious observers of the others are rendered from the very beginning of Rear Window via such techniques as lens, shooting angle, framing, camera movement, editing, and mise en scene.
Using a normal lens for the opening scene of Rear Window, Hitchcock allows the viewers to see everything that is going on as if through their own eyes. Nothing is distorted or exaggerated, the images of the inner yard, the apartments, and the dwellers are very realistic and so sharp and clear, as though one is perceiving them through naked eye.
The focus is sharp, nothing is overly augmented or diminished, and every object and person is depicted in natural size as seen by a person with normal eyesight. The key technique of working with the lens in Rear Window is zooming in and out to accentuate the significance of certain images. For example, the camera zooms in on the inscription upon the plaster cast. Through this zoom in, the significance of the main character’s physical immobilization is emphasized.
On the other hands, the words ‘Here lie the broken bones of L. B. Jefferies’ reflect the bitter irony of the situation when a normally mobile and inquisitive photographer is bound to his chair by a physical failure. The use of the lens allows Hitchcock to create a realistic perception of the setting by the viewers, emphasizing the restrictions on physical movements of the main character who involves into active observation of his backyard neighbors instead.
An extremely efficient technique for rendering the natural process of intent observation in Rear Window is the cinematographic technique of applying various shooting angles.
Initially, the viewers observe the backyard and its inhabitants from the viewpoint of the main character, whose window is located several floors above the ground. Thus, the viewers perceive everything that is going on from the photographer’s observation post, first following his gaze straight out of the window and then suddenly dropping down to the bottom of the yard.
This effect of shooting straight down from a great height takes the viewers’ breath away, so abrupt it is, and is quite characteristic of Hitchcock’s movies. However, the sudden dip of view is only a foreshadowing of the approaching horrors and leaves the viewers pondering over the significance of a black cat running up the stairs.
In addition to the effect of shooting straight down from a great height, Hitchcock applies yet another cinematographic technique connected with shooting angle. When the camera returns from the exterior of the backyard to the inside of the photographer’s room, there emerges a close-up on the most significant objects in the interior.
Apart from the sweaty face and the plastered leg of the photographer himself, the viewers can observe such items as a shattered photo camera, several photo prints depicting a race car accident, an atomic explosion, and other extreme events, in addition to a portrait of a beautiful young woman published in a large pressrun of a magazine.
A close-up on all those objects helps the viewers to discover the photographer’s dynamic and risk-seeking personality, as well as to suggest that the woman on the cover is more than a simple model for him.
The use of the cinematographic technique of framing is yet another method through which Hitchcock renders the position of the photographer as a distant yet attentive observer of the world around him. The way the objects are juxtaposed in scale is significant for understanding the attitude of the photographer as an objective surveyor of the whole scene. The images of his broken photo camera and his photo prints depicting extreme and unusual events take the whole screen, dominate it and thus assert their importance in the photographer’s life. On the contrary, the images of people waking up in their apartments are quite small and thus present them as nothing more than objects of overall scenery. Such juxtaposition of an atomic explosion and daily human routine in terms of cinematographic scale helps Hitchcock impart the message of insignificance and vanity of everyday life as perceived by the photographer.
Apart from scale opposition, Hitchcock employs the technique of off-screen images to evoke the sense of suspense in the viewers. When the camera’s eye moves to the photographer’s apartment and starts exploring the interior in search of significant details, the viewers cannot help but wonder who the real observer behind the camera is.
Could it be another mysterious character who wishes to remain unseen until a certain dramatic moment? Are those the viewers themselves who direct the camera’s eye? Or has the camera become an independently functioning object that determines the ways we see the world around us? Those are the ultimate questions emerging in the viewers’ minds and further explored in Rear Window.
A very expressive cinematographic technique used in Rear Window is camera movement. Hitchcock prefers to keep the camera mostly stationary and panning. Slow continuous movement across the scenery of the backyard allows the viewers to watch various apartments and their dwellers at ease, as if shifting the gaze from one scene to another. Hitchcock conducts a round-trip through the inner life of the backyard, leading his viewers in a panoramic observance of the scene from the right to the left side.
This placid movement of the camera’s gaze is interrupted only by tilting it to show the lower floors of the dwelling houses and to return back to the photographer’s apartment. Such treatment of camera movement creates an atmosphere of calm observance of a given reality, uninterrupted by personal emotion or interest – just the way the camera fixes the events on a video tape.
As one of the significant cinematographic techniques, editing plays a considerable role in Hitchcock’s Rear Window. It is remarkable that the director does not apply much cutting through the whole scene: on the contrary, most of the scene progresses in an almost uninterrupted continuity.
The scene is cut only three times: first, when the camera view drops down to a running cat, to attract the viewers’ attention; second, when there is a close-up of a thermometer showing extremely high temperature, to emphasize the heated and tense atmosphere; and third, when the camera focuses on a couple sleeping on a balcony, to accentuate the general act of waking-up carried out by the whole neighborhood.
Such nonuse of cutting is demonstrative of Hitchcock’s objective to create an impression of a continuous inseparable image of a crowded neighborhood where the dwellers are different and yet united by the same routine issues.
Apart from the cutting technique, the sound serves as a method of uniting and dividing the scene into logical fragments as well. Overall, an excited pattern of music prevails, symbolizing the bustle of the awaking neighborhood. However, in this general pattern it is possible to discern certain individual motives that accentuate significant details.
For example, both fragments depicting the dancing girl are accompanied by a more plastic and graceful sound than the rest of the scene. Another instance of musical expressiveness is the shot when the camera view is inside the photographer’s apartment. The music disappears into the background to set off the sound of the radio inquiring whether the listeners wake up tired and hostile.
The absence of music at this moment lets Hitchcock highlight the significance of the radio message that reflects the overall atmosphere of the neighborhood. The music fades when the camera returns to the photographer’s apartment for the second time, to let the viewers perceive a new, more excited melody symbolic of the photographer’s inquiring and ever-present personality.
Finally, the mis en scene plays one of the key roles in developing the opening scene and the whole subsequent action in Rear Window. The setting of a large dwelling complex chosen by Hitchcock allows to demonstrate this world as a unity of tiny communities, slightly different from each other but still united by common problems and concerns.
The contrast between the high-key lightning of the backyard and the low-key lightning of the photographer’s apartment suggests the idea of opposition between the photographer and the simple mundane world. Opposing light and shadow, Hitchcock brings forward the eternal juxtaposition of the collective and the individual.
Rear Window demonstrates a vivid example of how mastery in cinematographic techniques helps the film director communicate the personality of the main character and the key issues discussed in the movie. Since the very first scene, such techniques as lens, shooting angle, framing, camera movement, editing, and mise en scene streamline the viewers’ attention towards the movie’s message.
Mise-en-scene, shots and sound: Hitchcock’s spare use of cinematic repertoire in Sabotage’s murder sequence Essay
Alfred Hitchcock’s innovative and seminal contributions to cinema are visible all through his films, as evidenced by the fact that his name is associated with at least one zoom technique. The murder sequence in Sabotage is a clear example of this creativity. This segment of the film, which could be merely sensational, nonetheless reveals several profound characteristics of the relationship between Sylvia and her husband Verloc, and with her dead brother.
Hitchcock accomplishes this using a simple vocabulary of shots and angles, a few crucial sound effects, and no special effects. In addition to masterful acting by the protagonists, Hitchcock uses the objects in the scene almost as characters. To allow the actors to communicate the maximum content with the least amount of dialogue and overt violence, Hitchcock targets his application of the modest range of shot types in this section of the film.
At the outset of this sequence, Hitchcock uses an element in the environment; Disney cartoon; to demonstrate that, in spite of her apparent equanimity, Sylvia is catastrophically devastated by her brother’s death. On the movie screen, the innocent and charming Cock Robin bird, shot dead senselessly by an unidentified assailant, comes all too close to her brother’s death by explosion through no fault of his own. She telegraphs her inner distress as her facial expression collapses.
If she had simply broken down and cried, it would not have led the audience along with her. The audience is led with her to her own realization of her loss and her growing uncertainties about her husband.
Another element of the environment, the dinner set up with cutlery by the cook, serves to signal Sylvia’s increasing distress with her husband and recent events.
Verloc’s complete obliviousness to the effect of Stevie’s murder is signaled by his interaction with the table setting. He demonstrates his unconcern over her loss through his self-centered attention to fiddling with the covered dishes. He samples the food and complains about the greens; reminding both of them of Stevie’s death by suggesting that fresh greens be sent for. This task was allocated to Stevie in life, and the camera shot on the chair draws the viewer’s attention to his absence.
Near the end of the segment, Hitchcock assigns to another element in the mise-en-scene a crucial part. The caged birds chirp and hop with apparent unconcern. They remain bonded in a way that Sylvia and Verloc are no more, and perhaps never were.
Hitchcock uses a relatively restrained repertoire of shots to telegraph the interior processes of his characters. Hitchcock focuses the camera closely on the knife, and then her face, and then shows us how disturbing Sylvia’s own thoughts are to her by drawing the focus back into a more distant shot, to let us see her push the knife away from her in horror. We see the train of thoughts as clearly as if she had mused on murder aloud.
Verloc’s gaze, captured in close-up, fixes on the same cutlery, and his expression almost makes the viewer forget that the cutlery itself is not what can kill, but the bereaved and betrayed sister. When she takes up the knife too swiftly for him to get it, Sylvia has taken yet another step in her journey of preparing herself to avenge her brother. Thus, when, close to the end of this clip, after Sylvia has, apparently without completely intending to at that moment, plunged the knife into Verloc’s innards, we are not entirely surprised.
The segment is also characterized by a paucity of notable sounds. After Sylvia is out of range of the theatre, there is near silence. Hitchcock combines the few sounds he does use with careful camera use to further emphasize the internal thought processes of the characters. The viewer hears Verloc’s petulant and critical complaints, the clatter of cutlery as Sylvia thrusts it from her, the creaking of shoes and the expostulations of both Verloc and his wife as he comes to grips with her.
However, the camera cuts between Sylvia’s face, Verloc’s face, and the knife to draw the eye first to the knife cutting meat, then impaling the potato, then pushed away with a rare burst of sound, then, finally, Sylvia’s hands. Hitchcock gives the viewer Verloc’s point of view at this point, focusing on her folded hands, her wedding ring prominently visible right across the table from him.
As the viewer sees realization of his risk of reprisal dawning on Verloc, the camera follows him as he rises and circles the table. This demonstrates the deliberateness of Hitchcock’s austere choices elsewhere in this segment. Verloc’s murder is up close, but his death is shot from a greater distance, allowing us to infer Sylvia’s almost immediate abandonment of resuscitation. The bizarre floor-level final angle reprises Verloc’s point of view.
Hitchcock’s use of mise-en-scene and sparing use of special angles, shots, and sound all work together. They help us to understand Sylvia’s gradual approach to her murder of her husband.
|1: 0||12 sec||Long shot||Level||None||Cut||Synchronous diegetic||Audience is appreciative|
|2: 12||3 sec||Close-up||Level||None||Cut||Asynchronous|
|Reaction shot; Sylvia appears happy|
|3:15||13||Long shot||level||None||Cut||Synchronous diegetic||Audience is appreciative|
|Reaction shot: Sylvia appears shocked|
|5:31||2||Long shot||level||None||Cut||Synchronous diegetic||Audience is appreciative|
|Reaction shot: Sylvia’s face crumples|
|7:35||12||Two-shot then a panning and tracking shot||Slightly high angle||Camera follows her as she rises and walks down aisle to exit||Cut||Asynchronous|
And Synchronous diegetic (dialogue)
|Sylvia appears stricken. Housekeeper stops by to announce that dinner is dished up, & she is leaving, nearly indistinguishably. Sylvia rises, walks towards exit|
|8:56||3||Medium shot||Tiny elevation in angle||Camera tracks her as she comes to door and opens it||Cut||Asynchronous|
|Sylvia exits the theatre and enters the adjoining living quarters: appears distressed but walks purposefully|
|9:59||7||Medium shot||Slightly below level angle – at level of table or waist||Camera follows her as she enters, approaches the table and lifts the covers||Cut||Appears to be silent||Sylvia opens door, closes it, approaches table, lifts covers and begins serving food for the seated Verloc hastily|
|10:1.06||6||Medium shot||Level with Verloc’s upper torso||None||Cut||Verloc speaks||Verloc tells Sylvia to pull herself together, and nods approvingly|
|11: 1.12||3||Medium shot||Level with Sylvia’s waist||None||Cut||silence||Sylvia scowls while serving|
|12: 1.15||9||Medium shot||Level with the Verloc’s upper torso||None||Cut||Initial silence followed by Verloc’s complaint about cabbage||He lifts the covers, tastes the food, scowls at the cabbage|
|13: 1.24||2||Medium shot||Level with Sylvia’s waist||None||Cut||Asynchronous|
Verloc complaining about the cabbage
|Sylvia looks at him with apparent incredulity or irritation|
|14: 1.26||5||Medium shot||Level with the Verloc’s upper torso||None||Cut||Synchronous diegetic: Verloc complaining about overcooked cabbage||Verloc continues to complain about the cooks’ inability to properly cook greens|
|15: 1.31||3||Medium shot||Level with Sylvia’s waist||None||Cut||silence||She serves food, cutting meat and dishing up potatoes|
|16: 1.34||11||close-up||Slightly elevated angle||Tracks her gaze down to her hands and the cutlery||Cut||silence||Camera focuses on meat knife impaling potato|
|17: 1.45||4||Close–up||Level but slightly elevated||None||cut||silence||She raises her eyes|
|18: 1.49||7||Medium shot||Level with her shoulders||Synchronous diegetic Clatter of cutlery||She almost throws knife away from her|
|19: 1.56||4||Medium shot||Level||None||Cut||Synchronous diegetic Verloc eschewing cabbage||He scrunches up his face, and asks whether they could not send out for lettuce, a task usually assigned to the exploded Stevie.|
|20: 2.0||4||Medium shot||Slightly below level||None||Cut||Sudden silence||Sylvia appears appalled|
|21: 2.04||1||Medium shot||Level||None||Cut||Silence||He scowls and looks at her|
|22: 2:05||1||Medium shot||Level||None||cut||Silence||She looks to her right and down.|
|23: 2.06||2||Medium shot||Slightly elevated angle||None||Cut||Silence||The brother’s empty chair|
|24: 2.08||5||Medium shot||Slightly depressed angle||None||Cut||Silence||Sylvia looks at chair and then at food|
|25: 2.13||4||Close-up||High angle||None||Cute||Silence||Serving plate with meat on it|
|26: 2.17||11||Medium shot – slightly pulled back, then coming in for more of a close-up at 2.27 of this clip||Level||None||Cut||Silence until 2.22 of this clip, when the cutlery clatter on the plate||Sylvia continues serving food, lingering over the knife stuck in the potato, suggesting uncertainty about what to do with her cutlery and her hands, which she finally clasps. As the camera focuses on her comes in close, she looks at Verloc with a trembling lip.|
|27: 2.28||4||Close-up||Level||None||Cut||Silence||Verloc scowls, tilts his head, looks towards the cutlery|
|28: 2.32||4||Close-up||Level||None||cut||Silence||Sylvia’s hands at waist level clasped with her wedding ring showing|
|29: 2.36||6||Close-up||Level||Cut||Silence||Verloc’s eyebrows suggest realization|
|30: 2.42||3||Medium shot||Level||None||Cut||Silence||Sylvia appears agitated|
|31: 2.45||5||Close-up||Level||None||Cut||Silence||Verloc appears apprehensive- makes premonitory motions to get up, almost rising out of the frame|
|32: 2.50||19||Medium shot||Slightly elevated||Camera tracks him as he rises and moves around table, pulling in close at end of shot||Cut||Synchronous diegetic: creak of chair||Verloc continues rising and moving around table|
|33: 3.09||5||Medium shot||Level||Focus pulls in on Sylvia||Cut||Asynchronous diegetic: creaking of Verloc’s shoes||Sylvia appears worried, agitated, uncertain what to do or think or feel.|
|34: 3.14||20||Two shot||Level, then following both their gazes down to the knife and then up again||Pulling in closer to the two heads||Cut||Asynchronous diegetic: creaking of Verloc’s shoes|
Then Synchronous diegetic: Verloc utters something indistinguishable and Sylvia cries out
|Sylvia appears terrified. Verloc approaches close, makes an indistinguishable utterance, and then they both nearly simultaneously cry out.|
|35: 3.34||2||Close-up two shot at chest level||level||none||Cut||Silence||Knife in Verloc’s midsection|
|36: 3.36||6||Long-to-medium 2-shot||level||None||Cut||Synchronous diegetic – Sound of falling body||Verloc collapses in her arms and she lets him fall|
|37: 3.42||8||Close-up||Level||None||Cut||Silence, then Asynchronous diegetic: bird chirps||Reaction to the dying body, then looking across room|
|38: 3.50||1||Close-up||High angle||None||Cut||Synchronous diegetic: chirps||Lovebirds in cage, chirping and hopping|
|39: 3.51||12||Close-up||Level||None||Cut||Synchronous diegetic: Sylvia whispers||She looks around in distress while saying “Stevie, Stevie.”|
|40: 4.03||23||Long interior shot||Foot level||None||Fade to black||Synchronous diegetic: Sylvia’s footsteps||She steps unsteadily around the body, steadies herself on a side table, and sits down in the far hallway with her forehead in her hand|
“The Birds”: Movie by A. Hitchcock and Story by D. DuMorier Essay (Movie Review)
The well-known film called “The Birds” created by Alfred Hitchcock is based on the story by Daphne DuMorier, which has the same title. Even though both works are named the same way and seem to have the same themes, they are very different. Hitchcock’s film was made in 1963, the story was written in 1952.
The director transformed the plot and the characters; he changed the settings. The story by Daphne DuMorier takes place in a small country town in cold England. Hitchcock’s characters live in San Francisco and Bodega Bay, California.
What evidence of foreshadowing is there in the movie and the story?
Both the story and the movie are designed as a sequence of horrific happenings that have no explanations. The birds in the area where the main characters dwell go restless and aggressive, they gradually become insane and start attacking buildings and people.
From the very beginning of the film and the story, the main characters start noticing the unusual behavior of the wild birds. Though, in the film, the first element of foreshadowing happens when the characters meet at the pet shop, where Mitch wants to find a pair of lovebirds “that are just friendly” as a present for his little sister (The Birds).
The birds that we see as a symbol of love, attachment, and devotion are used in the film as the first sign of a tragedy that has a supernatural character and is inevitable. In the story, the first elements of foreshadowing are the main character’s observations that “the birds had been more restless than ever this fall of the year, the agitation more marked because the days were still” (DuMorier, 1).
The stillness of the days reflects the famous belief that unusually quiet times always foreshadow something really bad. Besides, in both the film and the story, there are scenes, where a bird kills itself hitting a wall or a door. In many cultures of the world, this is a sign that is normally interpreted as an omen.
What themes does Hitchcock touch that is not in the story? Are there any common themes?
The common themes of the story and the film are the confrontations between people and the supernatural, people, and nature. In both the story and the film, the characters that have not been cautious about the birds’ attacks are found dead later. This is how both Hitchcock and DuMorier note that unreasonable bravery leads to negative consequences. Besides, both authors suggest a new perspective on something very common.
We see birds every day, they are all the time around, and there are thousands of them in every city, the film, and the story present an alternative view to the possible threat and power these creatures could have if they united and attacked together. Neither of the works contains an explanation of the aggression of the birds and their strange and dangerous attacks.
Though, it turns out that making his film Hitchcock has been under the influence of an event that happened in 1961 in San Francisco when thousands of sea gulls killed themselves flying into walls of various buildings (The Birds (1963), par. 5). This mass suicide was caused by a toxic poisoning of the birds.
The special theme Hitchcock raises in his film that is not in the story is the issue of environmental pollution and the fact that the aggression of the birds may have been the result of people’s effect on the environment.
DuMorier, Daphne. The Birds. PDF file. n. d. Web. Jun 13. 2014. <http://mrschroederhhs.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/3/4/13345850/the_birds_by_daphne_du_maurier.pdf>
The Birds (1963). Filmsite. 2014. Web. 13 Jun. 2014. <http://www.filmsite.org/bird.html>
The Birds. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, and Jessica Tandy. Universal Pictures, 1963. Film.
The Film “Rear Window” by Alfred Hitchcock Term Paper
The film, Rear Window, by Alfred Hitchcock explores different themes such as voyeurism, symbolism, and characterization to reveal the life of the main protagonist, who is photographer called Jefferies. From his room after breaking his leg and being rendered immobile, Jefferies has time to observe the behavior of his neighbors for almost six weeks he spends on the wheelchair. This analytical treatise attempts to explore the American way of life in the 1950s as depicted in the film, Rear Window.
The Life in America in the 1950s
Hitchcock has created an interesting fictional premise that takes the route of a thought-provoking path of action to reveal the life in America in the 1950s frustrating. Reflectively, this creates a feeling of an imaginative casting, especially in the lives of the newlywed couple staying in an apartment adjacent to that of the main protagonist Jefferies. Factually, the storyline is fascinating as Hitchcock even goes ahead to include the daily challenges that this couple was facing in an attempt to find a balance in their marriage life. This adversely sustains the flow in its original, interesting, and provocative aspects.
For instance, in scene seven, where the couple is in their apartment, the audience is interrupted by the tension between them, which the director modified through arguments that seems to be revolving around the same issues. The frustrations result in violence, which eventually lead to the death of the young lady in the hands of her husband. The film captures the truly poetic orchestrations of the actions and coward display of the young man who is very frustrated and he ends up killing his wife.
The film has an intriguing premise on the theme of frustration: characters in the film are drunkards, smokers, bullies, and are involved in fights and even end up killing. From the third scene to the seventh scene, the young couple is drunk. The anomy in the story line seems to suggest a weak social system and failed family life. Across the film, a series of tragic events unfold and climax with the death of the young lady.
In the film, Hitchcock’s premise is really exploited and used as the framework for limp action set-pieces to portray the main character as equally frustrated with his immobile condition that has to depend on his girlfriend and the nurse. Fortunately, this approach seems to be able to convey the poetry and philosophical inclinations of the storyline of the film such as underlying fear and destabilizations of the imaginative explorations.
The main character looks entirely out of place as he is practically forced to “talk” to his own disassociated “self” amidst a neighborhood where there are very many activities going on. Jefferies is the only person who seems to notice them. The main character looks moderately concerned and a bit confused and hell-bent to try and track the events from his immobile position through visual observation. Visual communication relies on both the eyes that see the images and the brain that processes and makes sense of the information received. An active mind therefore is capable of remembering visual images; consequently having both text and images enables one to analyze the pictures.
The frame in the storyline of this film deals with factors that language is clearly ill-equipped to handle, to be precise the visually salient elements of the subject from the literary perspective. In the third scene, the frame picture of Jefferies invokes meaning by adding information to the words presented, for example, the story teaches on the importance of family values such as care and protection as a measure against deviant behavior, which seems as the norm in the American society at that time.
At the onset the film, the viewer is introduced to the class stratification in the society and the rivalry between economic and social classes, which results in frustrations. Its visual representational meaning conveys the relationship between Jefferies and the depicted structuring of subsequent scenes. The creation of a visual representational meaning proposed the space-based model for analysis centered on the placement of objects within the semiotic space as represented in the plot of the film (Monaco, 2009).
The relationship between the visual participant-interactive or represented- in this film is realized by elements defined as vectors or processes which correspond to a group of action in the surprise of fear. This frame of the film creates a conceptual process that is visually characterized by the absence of vector. This conceptual process defines, analyzes and classifies the place, people or things, including abstract ones in a symbolic and analytical parameter.
The classification categorizes people, things or places in a tree structure in which things are represented as belonging to a particular class or order. In the film, conceptual processes occur when Jefferies encounters a surprised fear of the unknown because of his disparate immobile state and the extremely beautiful girlfriend. As a matter of fact, irrespective of the level of knowledge and understanding of the events occurring within the neighborhood, Jefferies is frustrated that there is little he can do about them but just observe from a distance. Literature comparison is about enjoying the phrases, feeling the actor’s words in action, imagining, and placing oneself in the actor’s shoes.
Creation of scenes with consistent assumptions and symbolic insinuation adds comprehensiveness to film perception by the audience. The film shows how Jefferies’ sense of identity is vulnerable to manipulation from the girlfriend and events occurring within the apartment. The director relied heavily in a balance of irony, realism, and parody in the film to present a distinct literary style in depicting different societal setups, which was predominant in the American society in the 1950s.
The director artistically underscores the traditional position on triangulated frustrations as dependent on desire nurtured by pressure to form the underlying huddles. Reflectively, integrating in the theme of triangulated desires to overcome introduces physical and emotional insistent in the character of Jefferies, which is climaxed in momentous fulfillment achievement as perceived by the protagonist. The theme of hidden and recurring desires, as a result of frustration, controls the life of the main character as depicted in scene 7. This aspect is narrow and creates an essence of assuming a static plot setting.
This is a wise way to maintain the literature touch, making it simpler to understand as depicted in scene 9 where Jefferies had to engage his girlfriend in the extra surveillance. Thus, the director has created a quantifiable and intrinsic viewer understanding of what metaphoric use on a character was about and the resultant effect created. Furthermore, the film also elevates doubt of irony and actually misleads viewers with incorrect and strident imagery in depicting the theme of frustration.
Moreover, the film is a sarcastic declaration on the unrealistic obsession of Jefferies to observe the behavior of his neighbors. Actually, this aspect is informed by the perception that the film holds a solemn disposition on the decay in the society. Actually, the director attempted to suggest a swift change of imagery which entailed street rivalry and darkness. The director deliberately uses such metaphors to portray a practical and likely result of frustrations that the characters face in their daily lives. Reflectively, human soul acquires great experience and remains unhurt in the experience of maturity in expression and emotional display.
Human intellection is healthier when people lead the “life of nature” and are not troubled with societal challenges which in the real sense do not exist. Besides that, when people persistently build original intention, without conforming to recognized culture, they would never be confused in speculation. Instead, their intellection would have achieved significant reality that other individuals would learn from them.
As a matter of fact, these events indicate that the newlywed couple had themselves to blame for their unfortunate situations. Their arguments have not only affected their lives but also led to the death of the wife in the hands of her husband. In fact, their lives are consumed by series of sad events as it is apparent that the couple could not overcome their differences due to frustrations.
In summary, the theme of frustration has been presented across the film. The lives of the main protagonist Jefferies, his neighbors, and the beautiful girlfriend are tense due to relationship, immobility, economic, and social frustrations.
“Strangers on a Train” by Alfred Hitchcock Essay
Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘Strangers on a Train’ is a captivating masterpiece whose story follows the life of two strangers who meet on a train with a common agenda of murdering someone. On one hand is Guy who is keen on murdering his promiscuous and cruel wife while Bruno is on the other hand planning to eliminate his father (Strangers on a Train).
Following the events that are depicted in the movie in the quest of achieving the goals that each of the two main characters have, the film reveals central themes. One of the most overarching themes is the fate vs. determination. In this theme, the main question is whether many of the events that occur during the movie are because of fate or they are a function of main actors.
The use of German expressionism is also evident throughout the film, as it will be discussed in the paper. As the paper reveals, an accidental incident is witnessed where two strangers bump into one another to produce consequences that neither of them can control.
The Power of Random Events
Firstly, the movie begins with Bruno and Guy meeting on a train for the first time (Strangers on a Train). In their conversation, it is evident that both have sinister plans of murdering someone who is close to them but for selfish reasons. For instance, Guy wants to eliminate his promiscuous wife so that he can marry a beautiful woman, namely Anne, while Bruno wants to kill his father who he accuses of living in luxury with his mother when he (Bruno) is struggling with life (Strangers on a Train).
In this instance, it is difficult to conclude whether it is fate or a well thought out plan by Bruno who already knows Guy’s whereabouts. However, one thing is clear to Guy that fate brings Bruno. On the other hand, it is evident that they both have the determination to achieve their goals.
Determination is a major quality that Guy exhibits throughout the movie. From the beginning, Guy is not comfortable with his way of life. His failed marriage, slow career growth, and other major drawbacks in his life reveal a young man who is no longer contented with who he has become. Hence, he is determined to seek a political seat, which he believes it will offer him a better chance to life (Strangers on a Train).
He is also determined to be with the woman he believes he loves and who will treat him better than his wife Miriam. It is also evident that his interest in Anne is also based on more reasons other than love. Anne comes from a well-connected family.
Hence, she has the potential of linking him to the right people who will help him to advance his career into politics and hence transition from low social class to the higher classes of the society (Strangers on a Train). Guy’s aspiration for political position is evident in the movie. The Capitol Building that appears on the background of his home substantiates this claim.
Figure 1: Capitol Building on the Background next to Guy’s home. Source: (Strangers on a Train)
The lights and shadows that are evident in the above scene are a major characteristic of German expressionism where such lighting and shadows are used to show sharp contrast (Bazin and Gray 5; Gottlieb 37). According to Roberts, incidents of light and darkness are used as an artistic tool that shows where the real and fantasy worlds meet (5). In the movie, they represent the deeper feelings and thoughts of a character.
Another major twist in the movie is the fact that Bruno is mostly used as a reflection of Guy’s deeper intentions, as well as his wrong or evil side. In this case, while the movie shows that Bruno commits the ultimate crime by killing Miriam, it is evident also that Guy had the real intentions of eliminating his wife (Strangers on a Train).
In other words, Bruno is a doppelganger of Guy, a role that he plays perfectly. In this case, Bruno is a reflection of what Guy wants to become. For instance, Bruno is rich, comes from a well-connected family, and above all has the upper social class background as status that Guy wants to achieve. In the movie, the reflection of Bruno’s wealthy life is evident in the scene where his affluent family is attending a dinner in one of Washington’s prosperous political figures as shown below:
Figure 2: Dinner in an affluent setting in Washington. Source: (Strangers on a Train)
The Degree to Which People can Control their Lives
The movie demonstrates an insignificant power of people to control their lives. The level of influence of people is a function of other forces such as the level of poverty or wealth. In the above scene in figure 2, it is clear that the dinner party in the scene has attracted the powerful members of the society. For instance, on the background is a man dressed in army uniform, which represents authority.
Further, a judge and a representative of education and culture are also present in the party as an indication of power (Strangers on a Train). Giannetti’s work addresses the various languages that filmmakers use to pass their artistic messages to their audiences (2). For instance, the black men servants symbolize higher statuses of individuals in the party where servants serve them from the lower segments of the society. Guy wants to join this social class. Hence, he is determined to get it at all cost.
On the contrary, Guy comes from a poor background as evident in the depiction of his hometown, Metcalf, which is a low-class town that lacks affluent people (Strangers on a Train). The following scene depicts the town of Metcalf:
Figure 3: A scene depicting the town of Metcalf. Source: (Strangers on a Train)
According to Gottlieb, the use of mirrors in the movie to convey important messages and intentions that are also presented through the darkness of the movie and Bruno’s plans is a common feature (37). However, the most central application of mirrors is evident when the images of Bruno straggling Miriam are shown as a reflection on a concave mirror (Strangers on a Train).
The scene uses visual and sound effects to ensure that the viewer feels the desperation of Miriam as she slowly loses her life. On the other hand, the scene depicts the evil nature of Bruno who is a heartless murderer.
However, from the background, Miriam’s friends are searching her, although it seems that fate is not on Miriam’s side, as they never spot her until it is already too late when she is dead. According to Dellolio, the death has its share of conflicting outcomes, including the relief to Guy that Miriam has passed on and the fact that he will be held accountable for the death (261).
Figure 4: Bruno straggling Miriam as depicted on a reflection of a mirror. Source: (Strangers on a Train)
As fate would have it, Guy does not honor his part of the bargain since he fails to go with the plans to kill Bruno’s father. However, Bruno is a deceiving character who intends to implicate Guy by planting Guy’s lighter at the scene of the crime. Luck is not on Bruno’s side since Guy reports the matter and arrives at the scene where the crime was committed. His goal is to wait for Bruno to show up on his way to planting the lighter to implicate Guy.
When Bruno arrives, he is seriously injured. However, while it may be too late to save his life, as he lies down, his hands unfold to the extent of revealing Guy’s lighter and hence a proof that he was the murderer who was in a mission to implicate an innocent person (Strangers on a Train). Concisely, Guy gets his wishes firstly by disarming Anne since Miriam is no longer available and secondly by getting a good opportunity to become a politician since he has the necessary connection by virtue of being with Anne.
Based on the above expositions, both self-determination and fate play an essential role in advancing Guy’s interests. While Guy is determined to become a politician, fate plays its role by bringing Bruno who then eliminates Miriam and consequently leaves Guy with the best opportunity for a political position.
Further, the fact that Bruno is no longer capable of implicating Guy on the murder of his wife Miriam confirms how fate has worked in favor of Guy. However, with Anne on his side, he is on the right path to becoming a politician. This state of affairs requires his self-determination in ensuring that he gets the coveted political position.
Bazin, André, and Hugh Gray. “The Ontology of the Photographic Image.” Film Quarterly 13.4(1960): 4-9. Print.
Dellolio, Peter. “Expressionist Themes in Strangers on a Train.” Literature Film Quarterly 31.4(2003): 260-269. Print.
Giannetti, Louis. Understanding Movies, New York, NY: Pearson, 2014. Print.
Gottlieb, Sidney. Early Hitchcock: The German Influence, Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2002. Print.
Roberts, Ian. German Expressionist Cinema: The World of Light and Shadow, New York, NY: Wallflower, 2008. Print.
Strangers on a Train. Ex. Prod. Alfred Hitchcock. Bendigo, Vic.: Video Education Australasia. 2005. DVD.
Techniques in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” Essay
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is one of the most influential and famous films of his career. Despite the low budget of the film, Hitchcock employs a variety of new techniques and experiments in filmmaking. This paper will analyze some of the techniques employed by Hitchcock.
Alfred Hitchcock cemented himself as a master of visual storytelling. The film “Psycho” could be seen as one of the most experimental works by Hitchcock. Most of the scenes of the movie utilize multiple storytelling techniques to engage the viewer in a way that was previously absent from the mainstream cinema. It is impossible to perceive all the visual and audio elements that Hitchcock put into every scene over one viewing. Formalist analysis of some of the most famous scenes could be done to show their complexity.
Starting with the opening scene, the camera becomes a voyeuristic presence, as it pans over the city, and into the room where Marion and her lover have been involved in an adulterous activity. The use of the camera in this scene serves three purposes: to introduce the theme of voyeurism, to show the perspective of Marion, and to follow the plot. The second purpose is achieved through the use of the first-person perspective intercut with more standard camerawork. The camera is used to show that Marion is planning to steal money, and run away. This information is delivered through a quick shot of the money, and a pan to a packed suitcase sitting next to it. The movie can be seen as an escalating series of nefarious acts, and the opening scene presents this escalation. It starts with infidelity and moves fast toward theft.
Although it is a less analyzed scene, I believe that the moment when Marion meets Norman outside the hotel is a great example of the subtle use of lighting in the movie. The scene is shot in such a way so we can only see one side of the characters. However, Marion stands in the light, but Norman is only lit from one side, with the other being reflected in the dark window behind him. While on the first viewing this scene would hold no significance, after discovering the true nature of Norman, it is possible to see this as a literal foreshadowing of his split personality. I believe the lighting shows a psychological duality of the character, and not just his hidden motives, as Marion also holds secrets from Norman, but she is still fully lit on both sides. The famous parlor scene continues this motif and introduces a new one in the form of birds. In the scene, Norman sits under two stuffed birds of prey. They have posed aggressively and show the predatory nature of Norman, whether he is aware of it or not. His duality is shown not just with light and shadow, but also through his position in the scene, his body language, and editing. This scene is unique due to the way it never repeats the same shot after cutting between the characters (Olivares-Merino and Olivares-Merino 153). Norman constantly changes his body language from dominant and imposing to shy, submissive, and emasculated. Each change in body language is a reaction to his dialogue with Marion. It shows his inner struggle to control the personality of his mother, and that he is too weak to win in that struggle. Depending on his reaction, the camera either get closer to him or further. It accentuates both the threatening tone he takes when discussing putting his mother in a nursing home, as well as his emasculation when Marion decides to end the conversation.
The most famous scene of the movie is the shower scene, where Marion is murdered by Norman. The scene consists of almost 60 cuts to provide an impression of a visceral and chaotic scene of violence. Hitchcock would later say that this was done to avoid censorship, but the execution provides a scene more shocking than it could be done at the time. The scene was storyboarded by Saul Bass, who was also responsible for the creation of the striking title sequence (Olivares-Merino and Olivares-Merino 17). On a technical level, it was a very complex scene, with innovative techniques used to shoot around water, create an illusion of nudity and violence, as well as to show the horror of the act. It mirrors the techniques used in the opening scene. The scene utilizes the first-person perspective from both the killer and Marion. However, this time the camera is erratic and moves around the scene with each quick cut. The killer’s face is now fully hidden in shadow, signifying that the murderous side of Norman is in control. The scene is also directed in a way to show that Marion feels guilt over her crime and regrets that she will not be able to make up for it. This is shown in her attempt to reach out to the newspaper where she hid the money and the lingering shot of her eye after she falls on the floor.
“Psycho” is an iconic film. Its influence is felt through to modern times, with thousands of directors now utilizing similar techniques to achieve suspense and thrill the audiences. It shows that a small budget can be overcome through innovation and a strong focus on the visual language of the film.
Olivares-Merino, Eugenio M, and Julio A. Olivares-Merino. Peeping Through the Holes. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013.
Cinema Art: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” Suspense Film Essay
I have selected to explore the film genre that I did not prefer or watch previously. I focused on horror films and thrillers. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) was chosen for the critical analysis to answer the following question: why do Taylor (2013) and other critics recognize Hitchcock as ‘the master of suspense’?
When I started to watch the film I noticed that it seemed to be non-dynamic, but the tension experienced by the audience was significant because of expecting something to happen. I think that these thoughts are associated with the idea of ‘suspense’. I knew the plot, but I was shocked while observing the murder of the main character, and the scene was impressive because of the specific use of shots and lights.
Even though I knew a lot of details related to Psycho and studied its features previously, I had no opportunities to watch it from beginning to end. Therefore, this time, I have received a perfect opportunity to explore how the use of light to hide personalities, overhead shots, camera movement, and the point of view can influence the viewer’s perception (Martin & Jacobus, 2015). This critical approach to watching films and the focus on details concerning the studied concepts allowed for understanding what techniques can be used to achieve certain effects in cinema.
Martin, D., & Jacobus, L. A. (2015). The Humanities through the arts. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Taylor, J. R. (2013). Hitch: The life and times of Alfred Hitchcock. New York, NY: A&C Black.