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Hitchcock's Signature Features
Terms in this set (18)
Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense. One of ways that Hitchcock raises the suspense in Vertigo is as the excruciating story plays out, we're forced to identify with Judy's impossible position and follow her down the awful road to death. Every time Novak's eyes slide away from the scene she's in and into ours we feel her accusation, our voyeurism.
Strong emphasis on visuals as opposed to lengthy dialogue. Emphasis on visual elements at the forefront. He was originally a director of silent films and has been involved in film since the 1920s. Lengthy sections with no dialogue.
Many of Hitchcock's films employed one or more themes including; intrigue, suspense, murder, romance, sexuality, dark humour, a wrongly accused man and most tell stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
An object or objective that drives the action of the film, which by act 3 fades in importance. The 'thing' doesn't mean much to the audience but means a lot t the characters.
In Vertigo, the MacGuffin is that Gavin is concerned about his 'wife's' erratic behaviour and therefore reached out to Scotty for help. Consider that by the end, Elster is not seen and the murder is not the mystery anymore.
Voyeurism and POV shots
Watching someone without them knowing that you're watching them. Hitchcock pioneered a camera that represented the eye of the audience. Rather than watching all the action from a distance, like a play, the audience are granted their own position within the action itself. They are a character, in many ways. In particular, Hitchcock's cameras often work as an individual's point of view. In Vertigo we experience Scottie's acrophobia firsthand when the camera meanders and distorts via the dolly-zoom when at a great height.
Colour as an important factor
Red and Green represent the main themes of the film. Red is obsession, love an fear. Green is uncanny, ghostly and apart from reality. Scotty is Red. Madeline is Green. Midge is Yellow. Blue is reality and truth. (court scene, mental hospital)
The film plays with colour. Later when Scotty falls for Madeline, they switch. Midge also switches to red gain Scotty's attention.
Dark or wicked sense of humour
Relating to Vertigo - the story's formula, a twist on Hollywood staple, was ironically summed up by Hitchcock as "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy meets girl again, boy loses girl again".
Influence of Catholiscism.
What does it mean to be Catholic? Do the films represent Hitchcock's' own fear, guilt and sins? Educated by the Jesuit Brothers (Saint Ignatius) punishment was harsh.
Imagery with sexual connotations
Directors in the USA were not as free as their European counterparts. The Hays code and censorship mean they had to develop an abstract style to suggest events. A smoke in bed connoted a sexual encounter. Hitchcock used humorous examples such as the train entering the tunnel at the close of North By Northwest.
Cool Hollywood blondes as objects of desire. But women have to go through some form of 'torture'. Hitchcock will smash the 'perfect' artefact. Mostly morally ambivalent. Remote, alluring (Midge is warm and earthy, this is rare.) Coolness with heat shimmering underneath is the norm. Hitchcock blondes are as beautiful as they are mysterious and contradictory. Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint, Janet Leigh, Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren are among the auteur's most memorable blondes. The majoroty of Women get punished in the end.
Alfred Hitchcock made a total of 39 self-referential cameos in his films over a 50 year period. In Vertigo, whilst we wait for Scottie to arrive at Elster's shipyard, Hitchcock walks across from left to right carrying what appears to be a bugle case.
Fascination with glamour.
Film noir and Hitchcock's Heroines have had a monumental impact on fashion, influencing countless collections and the way women dress. Costume designer Edith Head worked with Hitchcock on 11 of his films, winning eight Academy Awards. Head and Hitchcock had an almost perfect synergy thanks to their similar taste in clean lines, sharp tailoring, and carefully considered pops of colour.
Unusual sound technique.
Sounds that is not that which the viewer might expect. Not just for reinforcement. Sound used to tell a part of the story you couldn't see. Other tactics, such as withholding sound from the viewer to pique curiosity, exaggerating sound as a form of narrative emphasis, and creating tension through both ambient noises and silence.
Distrust of authority
The director had a fear and distrust of authority from a young age. There's an often told story of his father having him spend a short time in a prison cell as a little boy to keep him on the side of the law. This inspired a blind distrust of all authority.
Loss of control
Fear of losing control of your own life. 'The innocent man on the run'. The isolated Man surrounded by hostile elements. Chaos lies just below the surface of everyday life. In Vertigo, Scotty and Judy's lives spiral out of control following an intervention from Estler. Both reveal undesirable elements of their personality. Scotty as obsessive, delusional, oppressive necrophiliac and Judy as weak, malleable and lonely.
Editing - use of intercutting to create 'Kuleshov' effect.
Hitchcock used this montage effect to great effect for POVs. A single shot of an actor with an ambiguous expression on his face could convey a multitude of very distinct meanings in the mind of the viewer, depending on the nature of the shot immediately preceding it.
Innovative camera angle and movement.
The 'dolly zooms' (looking down the outside of the building and up the stairway of the church) and the glide of the camera in Ernie's restaurant are two examples of Hitchcock's fascination with innovative camera movement. Extreme close-ups and extreme angle shots are also used in abundance. (CU of eyes, Madeliene and high angle of the church)
Doubles, imposters and mistaken identity.
Repetition of film half way through Vertigo. Two madelienes, repeated shot compositions (people in windows), mirror images of Gavin and Madeleine, Madeliene's mirror giveaway, Madeliene as imposter.
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