Alfred Hitchcock: Visual Storyteller
Updated on April 26, 2008, 6:12 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
Alfred Hitchcock is considered to be such a masterful filmmaker that his method of shooting each individual picture has been studied for decades and referenced as such a visually innovative and influential form of storytelling that to match it is folly. Hitchcock mastered the art of suspense through a combinative blend of parallelism, humor, and placing the viewer in the perspective of the subject.
Hitchcock believed suspense came from the knowledge of information unknown to the protagonist; a device demonstrated by many of Hitchcock's masterworks including Shadow of Doubt, Notorious, Rope, and Strangers on a Train. Hitchcock understood the use of visual images composed specifically and juxtaposed methodologically to convey the visceral response he wanted. He was able to position the camera in ways to subliminally tell the audience information without sound, and then was able to add sound upon it to add more to the complex situation.
An example is in Rope where the audience is forced to focus upon Mrs. Wilson clearing the chest, which David has been hidden in, and getting closer to opening it to discover the body while the others chatter idly off screen. In focusing the audience's attention away from those we know are trying to hide the body we become unaware as to whether they can see Mrs. Wilson, and yet realize that she is about to discover their secret.
Perhaps Hitchcock does it better through the use of POV in Notorious, where we finally witness the effects of the poison Alicia has been consuming just as she is realizing that she is being poisoned. Or his use of parallelism in Strangers on a Train, where Guy suffers a reverse of fortune trying to stop Bruno, but we see that Bruno too suffers a reverse and must overcome and obstacle.
It's possible Hitchcock's brand of suspense comes from his sense of humor for putting his characters into situations that the audience can know the outcome without knowing how it will be arrived at, and that there is where the suspense is.
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