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World Cinema & Auteurs : Alfred Hitchcock - Essay Example

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World Cinema & Auteurs : Alfred Hitchcock

During the development of auteur theory, Alfred Hitchcock was repeatedly cited as a perfect example of the concept. His own name suggests various connotations in terms of techniques and themes he explores. As he is known for his mastery of the mystery and suspense genre, his films often evoke the darker fears of audiences and deal with taboo areas which are quite often central to his work. For example, in his movie Strangers on a Train, the subject of underlying homosexuality is dealt with. In Psycho, the satire of an Oedipus complex is explored. In Marnie, the harrowing experiences of repressed memories if highlighted. In all these there is an underlying and perpetual component of black comedy and peculiar characterizations. His main influences were from German expressionists who had the ability to express ideas in visual terms. It is this visual expression of thought that Hitchcock accomplishes in all his films. Hitchock's first American film was Rebecca (1940) which explored uncertainties of a nave young bride in a English country home, who is forced to come to terms with an aloof husband, a greedy housekeeper and her husband's late wife's legacy.
Hitchcock displays his consummate expertise in his films with cinematic techniques such as using various camera viewpoints, intricate video and soundtrack editing to enhance suspense and fear. In his film Notorious, there is a zoom-in shot from a height to an extreme close-up of a major plot detail and suspense building inter-cutting of the last scene. In Blackmail, an elaborate pattern of sound and dialogue revolving around the word 'knife' is used to mirror feelings of guilt. The Thirty-Nine Steps has a cut from a woman's scream to the identical sound of a train whistle. In Suspicion, Hitchcock uses a light bulb to generate the effect of an ominous glowing glass of milk. His hallmark as a filmmaker stems from using inanimate objects as symbolic power. In addition to using objects he placed great emphasis on the development of set pieces where his talent for creating suspense could be magnified.
His films depict both fear and fantasy, as well as an undercurrent of droll humor and often show innocent people caught up in circumstances beyond their control or comprehension. Sometimes involving a transference of guilt in which the "innocent" character's failings are transferred to another character and exaggerated ( Apr 06). Yet another frequent theme is the basic incompatibility of men and women. Hitchcock's films often take a cynical view of romance.
Hitchcock's most commonly used device for propelling his story plots and creating suspense was something he called the "MacGuffin" which is a detail that incites curiosity and a desire to know ( Apr 06). This detail drives the plot and motivates the character's action within the story, but whose identity is inconsequential to film audiences. For example, in Vertigo "Carlotta Valdes" is a MacGuffin. The character never appears in the film and the specific details of her demise are trivial to the viewer, but the back story about her ghost's haunting of Madeleine Elster is the incentive for Scottie's investigation of her. She becomes the center of the plot which the entire movie revolves around. In The 39 Steps, the state's secrets serve as a MacGuffin.
Hitchcock's films resonate with themes that reflect ...Show more


In the 1950s French film critics, most notably Francois Truffaut, proposed the auteur theory. It described the hallmarks of a film director in terms of personal aesthetic vision, recurring themes, recognized technique, thematic and stylistic consistencies, a distinct view of the world and considerable control over production…
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World Cinema & Auteurs : Alfred Hitchcock
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