Alfred Hitchcock, commonly known as the Master of Suspense, is one of my favorite directors of all time. I was so excited when we had a lecture dedicated to him because I have seen many of his films and love his work. I’ve grown up watching old movies with my grandmother and his are always among my favorites. He was also not just a director, but an artist as well. He made unique, quality films that set standards for movies in the future using interesting compositions, suspense, and voyeurism.
What I’ve noticed from the Hitchcock movies that I’ve watched is that he takes composition of the film very seriously. His compositions are full, interesting, and show that he is an artist with his directing. I always thought his scenery was so beautiful and well done. Hitchcock wanted to make sure that all of the camera angles and the lighting were perfect on set. Lots of older films I’ve seen such as “All About Eve” has just simple, straightforward camera angles and compositions. Although that is an outstanding movie and has a great plot and suspense, the way it is filmed is rather boring. When I was watching it I felt as though the director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, had been just filming what was going on. In Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” the scenery is beautiful and well thought out, and he has complete, interesting compositions for every shot. He would extend cinematic time to create more suspense by alternating shots from close ups to far away. He did this in “Rear Window” by showing close ups of Jeff, the protagonist’s face, and alternate to what would be going on across the street.
What makes him the master of suspense? First of all, he put lots of time and thought into the plot. He always had good mysteries and well developed stories. But the thing that made the most impact on suspense in his films was his choice of music. Demonstrated in Psycho, the scene where Marian Crane is fleeing town with $40,000 is made much more suspensefull and interesting by the music. If she was just driving in the car, it would not have the same effect. The music adds a sense of urgency and the audience is wanting her to get away.
And the shower scene. Amazing how the music and the angles transformed the scene. That music score is very famous and used a lot for something scary. Without the scores in some of the scenes, the viewer would not feel the same amount of anxiety if the scene were silent. And instead of just surprising the viewers, he gave them information through dramatic irony to keep the audience on the edge of their seat. The plots in Vertigo, North by Northwest, and so many other movies of Hitchcock’s are so suspensful because of how interesting the story is. He also uses dramatic irony, where the audience knows more than the characters in the movies. This definitely adds to the suspense. Many of his films are also mysteries, and he has a way of building up the stories where you are very excited to find out who the killer is, which builds up suspense as well.
Voyeurism, the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, is a common theme in Hitchcock’s films. His film “Rear Window” is all about voyeurism. If the protagonist of the story, Jeff, is stuck in his apartment from an injury and has nothing better to do than look out the the window at his neighbors. He even gives lots of them nicknames after watching them so much, such as “Miss Lonely-Heart” and “Miss Torso” He watches Miss Torso dance around in her underwear and get undressed and watches Miss Lonely Heart have imaginary dates in her apartment. He peers in on the private matters of his neighbors, and that is how he suspects Lars Thorwald to be a murderer. The whole plot and action of the film are inspired by voyeurism. The people have no idea that Jeff is watching them, and they think they have privacy when there is actually none. In Psycho, Norman Bates watches Marion undress unnoticed and undiscovered using the hole in the wall behind the painting. Hitchcock uses “the gaze” in this part of the film very well. He also watches people who come to his motel, as they watch him. Marion’s sister, Sam, and the Private investigator all partake in some form of voyeurism in the film. Voyeurism is mainly involved with Marion for a short time in the film.
In Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”, Madeline, played by Kim Novak, knows she is being watched the entire movie. James Stewart’s character John, must follow her and watch her, and as he continues to watch her, he becomes more interested and attracted to her. John does not realize that Madeline is aware he is watching her, but she knows that she is being watched. In that film, the theory of the gaze applies more to Madeline, the woman, and voyeurism applies to John. North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Dial M for Murder, and Rebecca are among some of Hitchcock’s films that use voyeurism. It is a very common thing in his work.
Using his artistic perspective to create amazing scenes, great suspense, and voyeurism, Alfred Hitchcock created some of the best made films in cinematic history. He will always remain one of my favorite directors.
Tiegert, Victoria. “Movie Analysis: Voyeurism in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.” Helium. Helium, 16 09 2008. Web. 15 Jan 2012. <http://www.helium.com/items/1182800-voyeurism-in-alfred-hitchcocks-psycho>.
Stack, Peter. “Rear Window is in the Forefront Again: Restored Hitchcock Classic on Voyeurism.” San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco Chronicl, 04 02 2011. Web. 15 Jan 2012. <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/reviews/movies/REARWINDOW.DTL
. “IMDB Internet Movie Data Base.” Alfred Hitchcock. IMDB, 1990-2012. Web. 16 Jan 2012. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000033/>.