The Staircase

The staircase looms in the background as the lodger enters the house.

A short video showing several staircase scenes in Hitchcock films.

One of the important themes present in Hitchcock’s early films The Lodger and Blackmail that will define Hitchcockian style throughout his career is the presence of a staircase. A staircase in a Hitchcock film not only takes the actors to a new place, but it also may transport viewers to fears, dangers, and a feeling of self-awareness.

In The Lodger, the stairs are used to represent the distinction between social classes and how it is difficult to move between them if one is not destined to do so. Right when the lodger enters the house, he goes straight up the stairs and doesn’t spend much time downstairs throughout the entirety of the film. The lower level of the house where Daisy’s parents, Daisy, and Joe spend most of their time, represents the middle class; whereas, the upper level where the lodger resides signifies the upper class. The difference between Daisy and the other middle class characters in the film is that Daisy is very comfortable being upstairs in comparison to the others who clearly are not. This tells us that Daisy belongs in the upper class with the lodger. At the end of the film when Daisy and the lodger are embracing at his home, the staircase is in the background, showing that Daisy will soon make her ascent into the upper class.

In Blackmail the staircase in the artist’s apartment takes Alice from a place she is familiar with and knows well to a new and risky one. Once Alice is upstairs, she is really alone with the artist, a man she doesn’t know well, for the first time. The stairs bring her up to this scenario and isolate these two from the outside world, even the police patrolling the streets don’t seem to notice them. Alice is lured upstairs because she thinks she wants to experience the unknown, but really she is quite naïve and doesn’t understand what that will entail. Stairs transporting characters to an unknown place is a theme that will continue to show up in Hitchcock films.

 

 

 

 

 

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