Tag Archives: Staircase

The Lodger and Blackmail: The Motif of Stairs

Within both The Lodger and Blackmail, the motif of staircases is prominently used. Though the integration of staircases in these films can be interpreted into several different ways, it is evident that they share the same effect of invoking suspense among the audience. Looking at an early scene in The Lodger, Hitchcock uses a montage sequence, cutting back and forth between the Lodger descending down the stairs and to Mrs. Bunting’s reaction. With the audience watching the specific scene (shown below), through a bird’s eye view, they can clearly see his smooth and slow movement down the spiraling staircase. The only part of the Lodger’s body that is revealed is his hand, which gradually and ambiguously slides down the staircase railing. The stairs deliberately slows time and in combination with the editing, effectively creates the uncomfortable feeling of intensifying suspense.

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Similarly, Blackmail has a prominent scene involving the motif but with the protagonist and antagonist going up a spiraling staircase together. This time, the perspective is shown through a profile continuous shot, appearing as if the audience was seeing through the wall. Consequently, it creates the same affect with their ascension being an unusually long scene. It builds up the tension and a sense of uneasiness among the audience. Especially in this film, both the ascending and descending of the staircases implicate or foreshadow a pivotal event.

Black Mail Stairs (1)

Blackmail Stairs (2)

Blackmail Stairs (3)

Blackmail Stairs (4)

Screenshot from Youtube

It is clear that these early works act as a model for Hitchcock as the staircase will be seen and used as a motif for many of his later films. This along with several other characteristics will eventually define and contribute to the emergence of Hitchcockian cinematic style, which continues to be an influence for films today. With his style and the effect of it in his films, it is appropriate to attribute the director as “The Master of Suspense”.