Curiosity in Hitchcock Alfred Hitchcock, the British American film director, was born in London on August 13, 1899. He trained as an engineer and then studied fine arts. He became famous for his films, first in England, and later in the United States. Hitchcock moved to the United States in 1939, and became an American citizen in 1955. His American films were longer and more complex than his British films. Three elements found in Alfred Hitchcock s work include suspense, humor and unique creativity. The essential element in Hitchcock s films is suspense. His use of cinematic techniques is applied to maintaining a state of intense anxiety and uncertainty within the audience. According to Arginteanu, suspense sequences of a film are its privileged moments and include those highlights that linger on in the viewer s memory (68). An example of an unforgettable scene can be found in the film Psycho, such as the plunging of a knife blade into a woman s nude body in a shower (Harris 17). The art of creating suspense is also the art of involving the audience. Francois Truffaunt believes that the nature of Hitchcock s cinema is to involve the audience completely (320). Hitchcock strives to keep the audience s undivided attention by creating constant tension and emotion through the use of suspense. Suspense is the most powerful means of holding onto the viewer s attention. It can either be suspense of the situation or suspense that makes one wonder what will happen next? (Spoto 293). The level of suspense depends upon the audience s involvement and how they identify with the characters. Chase scenes, which were common in Hitchcock s early British films, generate a great deal of suspense for the audience. Hitchcock holds the suspense throughout the film and maintains this emotion by not revealing the end. Because Hitchcock is known to leave the audience hanging with many unanswered questions, this feeling of suspense continues after the audience exits the movie theater.Although most of his themes focus on suspense, terror and murder, there is an element of hidden humor scattered throughout most of Hichcock s films. Ever since The Lodger, in which he assumed a bit part to fill the screen, Alfred Hitchcock has appeared in each of his pictures (Truffaunt 159). The cameo appearances were often humorous and became his trademark. One famous appearance showed the stout, slow moving Hitchcock trying to wrestle a cello through a revolving door in The Paradine Case (Arginteanu 27). Another example of Hitchcock s humor was his appearance in a newspaper advertisement for a weight loss drug in the movie Life Boat. This created quite an interest and many people called the movie studio to find out more about this drug, which Hitchcock made up (Kapsis 48). Obviously, he was not embarrassed by his overweight appearance but instead faced it with humor and acceptance. As more audiences became aware of Hitchcock s trademark appearances it was a challenge for them to discover his humorous entry into a film. As Hitchcock began to realize the audience awaited his appearance in the films, the gag became more troublesome. Hitchcock was careful to show up in the first five minutes of the film to prevent further distraction. Of course, he admits to having a weakness for practical jokes and evidence of this humor can be found in a scene from Blackmail. Harris explains that Hitchcock did a funny thing as a farewell to silent pictures (145). Generally, the villain in a silent picture has a mustache. The villain in Blackmail did not have a mustache, so to be humorous Hitchcock uses the shadow from a chandelier cast on his upper lip to suggest an absolutely fierce looking mustache (Harris 146). Hitchcock s sharp wit abled him to introduce this slight hint of humor. Usually, the audience must view a film several times before the humor becomes apparent.
Finally, Alfred Hitchcock s unique creativity is an element found in virtually all of his films. Spoto concludes Hitchcock, an outstanding technician, uses the camera to advance his story and mood, introducing dialogue only when absolutely necessary (124). Hitchcock s unique ability to film the thoughts of his characters and made them perceptible without resorting to dialogue. This is done by filming their facial features, especially their eyes. He thought that the unspoken, or what is in his character s thoughts, were much more important than dialogue. He uses simple gestures and silent pauses to create a dramatic mood. The creative filming of action scenes and visual images is another skill Hitchcock used to hold the audience s attention. For example, in Strangers on a Train, Harris explains without the aid of dialogue, the audience observes the lower legs and feet of two men hurrying through a train station. One man is athletic, solid, and respectable, while the other is extravagant and high strung. The characters of Guy and Bruno are immediately established, and the urgency of their situation sweeps the viewer into the story. (357) Beginning with his early films, Hitchcock soon finds that the audience tends to identify with the characters in a film. He has stories around everyday situations and turned them into something sinister by involving emotion. An example of this is found in Shadow of a Doubt when a son returns to visit his family and is welcomed with open arms. The family does not realize that their son s arrival is actually free from investigators whom suspect he has murdered several wealthy widows. Hitchcock threatens the normal world so that the audience is no longer sure of anything (Kapsis 156). This type of fear is also created in his famous film The Birds. The audience soon discovers that turmoil, damage and even murder can result from harmless everyday creatures. Likewise, Hitchcock creatively played on the emotions from childhood. He captured the excitement and fright like a childhood game of hide and seek, where your heart is beating one hundred miles an hour (Truffaunt 63).He was very careful not to waste precious filming moments on useless conversation. Every scene was skillfully planned and directed. Kapsis states that Alfred Hitchcock is a one man show, getting every detail straight in his head and the way he wants it before the first camera starts rolling (185). All of these ingenious techniques come together in his films to produce the element of unique creativity. In conclusion, Hitchcock s films encompass pure suspense, a touch of humor, along with a vast amount of unique creativity. These elements found in his films serve to generate a mass appeal to audiences around the world. Alfred Hitchcock made a living out of frightening audiences. Hitchcock s films, made with passion and emotion, will defy the test of time and will continue to circulate throughout the world.