“Self-plagarism is style.”-Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most well-known names in the world of cinema. His style has established him among an elite class of directors known as auteurs. An auteur is a director who is the “author” of his or her film. His or her style is so distinctive that it can be recognized through most of his or her filmography.
Hitchcock is an auteur. He often collaborated with the same people when make many of his films. This provided a consistency that is missing from many other filmmakers’ careers. For example, he often collaborated with Bernard Hermann, a brilliant composer, who helped create the scores to Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo. In collaborating with the same people, he is creating a consistency within his filmography that is necessary for auteurism.
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most innovative and celebrated directors in the history of cinema. His style can be recognized immediately when watching one of his films. This exhibit celebrates him as a deserving member of the elite auteur class of directors. by showcasing three of Hitchcock’s most famous films and analyzing five major aspects of Hitchcock’s style that make him a successful director: aesthetics, recurring themes and motifs, story composition, audience role, and portrayal of gender roles.
Hitchcock: The Man
Before examining Hitchcock’s films, it is important to examine his life. Hitchcock’s films are all very psychological in nature, exploring the deepest psyches of the characters’ as well as the audiences’ minds. It is only natural that much of Hitchcock’s filmmaking was influenced by his own personal life.
Alfred Hitchcock was born in 1899 in England to very strict Roman Catholic parents. His parents believed in strict discipline, for example, Hitchcock’s mother would force him to stand at the foot of her bed as a form of punishment. He alluded to this in his film Psycho.
When he was a young man, he attended St. Ignatius College where he studied engineering, but he had a talent for drawing and designing; so in 1920, he joined the film industry as a set designer. He first joined British cinema before making the move to Hollywood with Rebecca in 1940.
Hitchcock: The Filmmaker
Hitchcock is often noted for utilizing beautiful young blonde women as his leading ladies. Some critics have often associated this choice as a Freudian response to his own mother. Hitchcock’s psychological connection with his films, whether conscious or unconscious, allows the audience to psychologically connect with the film, thus permitting Hitchcock to manipulate their emotions and responses to them. This is a staple within Hitchcock’s work.
Hitchcock was more than a visionary for his time. His filmic and directorial styles are iconic and vital in the progression of modern cinema. He has a catalogue of more than fifty feature length films spread over a sixty-four year career. While his statistics are impressive, Hitchcock is more known for his ability to capture mood and emotion in a visually and seemingly tangible form. He was a forerunner in his use of camera angles and motion to reveal a voyeuristic experience. These techniques as well as others allowed him to draw in audiences to feel and encounter his films. Alfred Hitchcock pushed limits and experimented whenever possible. It is part of what makes his films so distinctive and influential.
Hitchcock: The Legacy
Hitchcock’s cinematic legacy has become somewhat of a given throughout history. His contributions to film through his innovative shots, his ability to create suspense, and his narrative focus cannot be overlooked.
The saying: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” has never held more weight than with Alfred Hitchcock. His work has been used in homage as well as parody for many years. For example, in the Friends episode, “The One with All the Thanksgiving Flashbacks”, one of Hitchcock’s most famous scenes is parodied.
Start clip at 3:00 minutes
In this clip, Monica is trying to seduce Chandler in a flashback to 1988. She tries to make herself more appealing by playing with food items and trying to sound sexy. However, she accidently drops a knife on Chandler’s foot, cutting off his toe. The way the scene was portrayed was a direct reflection of Hitchcock’s Psycho, as scene in the clip below (start clip at 1:09):
The violins screech as the knife is plunged into Marion Crane’s body and the violins screech as the knife falls to the floor in the Friends scene. In addition, there are cutaways in both the film and the show to the different parties involved in the scene (Crane, “Mrs. Bates”, the knife; Monica, Chandler, the knife).
Hitchcock’s contribution to modern cinema should not go unnoticed. His ability to create stories that are both thrilling and psychologically revealing is unparalleled to any other director of his time. His style as a director has been mimicked throughout cinematic history, but no one can match the volume of influence that has come from Hitchcock. He is the definition of an auteur. He is the definition of an icon. He is the definition of a legend.
Curators of the exhibit:
Tyler Borges, Ben Elliott, Alyssa Hockensmith, Richard Jackson, and Doug Yablun
-Post written by: Alyssa Hockensmith