Hitchcock’s Rope was a forward thinking project for its unique use of the long take film technique throughout the entire film, as well as its taboo themes of homosexuality and the funniness of murder. Hitchcock referred to this film as an experimental “stunt,” and it received poor initial reviews from critics and audiences. However, these criticisms resulted from the fact that the movie itself was too far ahead if its time, and upon it’s rerelease in 1983, the film grew in stature as one of Hitchcock’s acclaimed films. The long take method was very tedious for Hitchcock, and this may have contributed to his overall dissatisfaction with the film. In order to shoot the movie, Hitchcock had to wheel the camera around on a specially designed dolly, which was even more difficult because this was Hitchcock’s first Technicolor film, and the camera was humongous. actors and actresses also had difficulty because they had to practice for weeks, and if they messed up eight minutes into the film then they had to start over. However, this film method ultimately creates a tense atmosphere in the movie because it feels drawn out. Audiences and critics failed to realize this importance of Hitchcock’s directorial vision.
Stan Douglas is known for reworking films in new ways. His short film titled Subject to a Film: Marnie is a recreation of a scene from Hitchcock’s Marnie. Marnie was initially met with negative reviews, mainly due to its controversial rape scene, but overtime it has grown in fame because it reveals much about Hitchcock’s directorial style. Douglas’ recreation is a loop of a scene in which Marnie robs the office where she works. The film is reshot in a modern setting, with computers instead of typewriters, though it is in black and white rather than color. This color effect is used to establish the effect of remembrance, as though he is reflecting back on Hitchcock’s film history. The film loops right as Marnie is about to leave the building, highlighting that she can never escape the consequences of crime. The film also slows down during action sequences, reflecting a Hitchcock motif of voyeurism. Though I could not find the film online, here is a photograph of the set.
Here’s an interesting article about Hitchcockian themes in Shutter Island. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/mar/10/martin-scorcese-shutter-island-hitchcock
Nonstop is a movie that keeps the audience on the edges of their seats with its “nonstop” twists and fun thrills. Shot entirely in an airplane (except the very beginning, which is shot in an airport), it stars Liam Neeson, a private Federal Air Marshall who still mourns his daughter’s death, and the plot quickly jumps into a “whodunnit?” thrill ride as a clandestine killer texts Neeson, telling him that one person will die every twenty minutes unless money is vouchsafed into the unknown terrorist’s bank account. Scott Mendelson of Forbes Magazine states that “Non-Stop is the kind of film that Hitchcock might have made in his heyday, or at least one he would have enjoyed,” and he has good reason to. The claustrophobic setting can immediately remind one of the apartment setting in Rope, though the fact that it is on a plane takes an amplified approach to Hitchcock fanboy nostalgia. The movie is very fast paced, and the viewer questions throughout its entirety whether one of the side character passengers is responsible (and if so, who, who, who?!), or if Liam Neeson himself is a delusional psycho (pun intended) due to his daughter dying and is killing these people himself. The fast-paced, secretive plot reminds one of To Catch a Thief . Finally, without spoiling too much (though if you have not seen Nonstop, I suggest you watch it before reading this part), the ending has many parallels to Strangers on a Train‘s famous carousel-spinning-out-of-control-to-accomplish-resolution-type deals).
This movie may not be for everyone, and it definetely has its flaws. There are some scenes that are not very believable (depending on where you believe the line should be drawn in movies for realism), and a couple of the actors are a bit vapid (though they die first, hee hee!); however, for its fun thrills and its unpredictable twists, Nonstop is well worth a watch, whether you’re a Hitchcock fan or not (really? Not a Hitchcock fan? How?!).
I think Vertigo is a masterpiece. The ambiguous themes and sudden twists make it a film that deserves its spot in (at least) the top one hundred films ever made (though these lists tend to be very subjective and will never be perfect). I find it strange however, that it is generally depicted as the film that defines Hitchcockian themes and elements. In my opinion, Vertigo is a classic movie, but it is also the least Hitchcockian. Its thematic elements subvert the typical suspense/ thriller / even horror genres that Hitchcock is so well known for, and rather explore questions about love: what is true love, how far can someone go to find it before it becomes wrong, among others. It also more epic in scale and very complex– there are no straightforward chases or runaways (The 39 Steps, Blackmail). Additionally, much like the title insists, the conflict is all internal– there area no hidden bodies (Psycho, Rope), and no major antagonist (Notorious, Strangers on a Train). Much has been read into this movie about how this movie displays the most about Hitchcock’s inner psyche, but as far as the actual movie plot and themes are concerned, I think this is the least Hitchcockian; nonetheless, it is his magnum opus, and its influence on film culture will last forever.
In Robert Stam and Robert Pearson’s “Hitchcock’s Rear Window: Reflexivity and the Critique of Voyeurism,” they discuss cinema as a “window on the world” and eyes as windows themselves. The film addressed our interest as human beings to observe others and almost mocked the fact that we vicariously become involved in movie characters’ feelings and lives.
This immersion of audiences into the film is seen in many Hitchcock films, and it can be done for numerous purposes: whether to induce fear or excitement, to express a message, or even to mock.
One key example is in Psycho.
This key shot works as a double entendre. It not only highlights Bates’ craziness, but it also acts as a shout out to the audience, immersing them into the story that they are watching. This amplifies the horror of the scene.
Furthermore, afterwards he looks directly at the camera, as if he is escaping his film and staring out at the viewer.
This kind of shot is also seen in Rear Window, when Thorwald finally figures out that Jefferies is spying on him. Because Jefferies is the surrogate for the audience, this shot almost mocks the voyeurism of the audience.
Finally, another example I thought about was in Shadow of a Doubt. I couldn’t find it on the internet, but in the end of the movie, right before Uncle Charlie falls from the train to his death, there is a shot of him waving to a woman on the train. The woman is located behind the camera when he waves, and it looks as if he is waving directly into the camera and at the audience. Through this wave goodbye, Hitchcock foreshadows Charlie’s coming death. This shot is an excellent example of Hitchcock’s immersion of his audience into his films for the purpose of driving a plot.