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of a Doubt The narrative film is embedded with the principles of storytelling. It is the plot that will construct the story by providing a pattern of development from the opening scene to the closing shot. Nevertheless it is the use of salient cinematic techniques by the director that dictates how the film’s story will be most effectively portrayed. Stylistic analysis from pictures like that of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt demonstrates, from its distinct lighting composition and soundtrack to the more nuanced arrangements of shots and characters, how Hitchcock is able to effectively present a compelling visual narrative to his audience. Some of the most prominent and clever cinematic techniques utilized by Hitchcock are his use of motifs to emphasize crucial aspects of his narrative. Hitchcock capitalizes on the film’s title Shadow of a Doubt and uses a wide range of shadows in the film. This film can be characterized as film noir for its stylistic integration of silhouettes and contrasting shades. Virtually every shot throughout the film is lit in a way in which characters along with vital objects are cast with shadows. This visual medium is accomplished in way that focuses on the obscure nature of characters like Uncle Charlie. This style is present during the entire film, most notably in the bank scene. Hitchcock stocks each shot with captivating shadows casted by intricate blinds. Every character in the scene posses a contrasting silhouette respectively. Smoke is another motif used by Hitchcock. He associates it exclusively with Uncle Charlie. When introducing Uncle Charlie, the character is seen twirling a lit cigar in his hand
J Duarte 2 9/25/10 emitting a trail of smoke. In a subsequent scene we see a wide shot of an approaching locomotive carrying uncle Charlie and discharging plumes of thick black smoke. There is a demonic feel that derives from this scene; it suggests that something morbid has arrived in this town. The smoky bar scene is a literal visual translation for it transpires in the midst of a hazy situation in the story. Uncle Charlie drags little Charlie into the bar in the moment where she is struggling most to decipher whether or not her uncle Charlie is in fact the culprit. Hitchcock makes it blatantly clear that when smoke is visible, uncle Charlie is not afar. It should also be noted that the Garden of Eden is present in the film. The technique is used in order to invoke the concept of using beauty to hide evil. In this case uncle Charlie, who is apparently the most handsome character, is actually the villain. In one scene, uncle Charlie is scene plucking a flower and making it into a boutonniere. It is one of he many ways in which Hitchcock develops characters. Character introductions are essential to the plot. They allow the viewer to get a sense of the type of role they will play throughout the film. In the very first sequence we are introduced to Mr. Spenser, who is dressed in a dark business suit and lying firmly in bed with his eyes closed. He is awake and pensively twirling his lit cigar with his right hand. The camera slowly pans in on the man, and then shifts to a pile of money that has overflowed onto the floor. This shot is completed in one fluid motion. From his suit to the cigar, it is suggested that he is an affluent man. However, the modest room in which the scene takes place indicates that this could not be the home of such person. Such a discrepancy adds mystery to Mr. Spenser’s character, a successful technique accomplished before the first line of dialogue. Before we get a glimpse of Spenser, Hitchcock takes us through a series of establishing shots in order to orientate the viewer. First we see a wide shot of a city, then of a town, followed by medium shot of a house and lastly of close up of a window.
J Duarte 3 9/25/10 Later we learn that Mr. Spenser is actually named Charlie Oakley—uncle Charlie and what follows is a familiar sequence in which the protagonist Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Newton is introduced. Hitchcock again revives his series of establishing shots. First a wide shot of the city in this case Santa Cruz, followed by medium shot of a house and lastly a close up of a window. The succeeding shot is also a frame, which closes in on little Charlie. She too is lying down. Though this scene is strikingly similar to the first, there are notable differences. Unlike in the first scene, where uncle Charlie is dressed in fancy attire inside of a modest looking room, the second scene is arranged inversely where little Charlie is dressed in a modest dress inside of a fancy looking bedroom. Hitchcock uses repetition as a way to link characters with each other all the while juxtaposing them to reveal the intricacies of the roles respectively. This is the aesthetic that Hitchcock has applied to the film suitable for establishing the theme of duality. Uncle Charlie’s character development is noteworthy for Hitchcock infuses patterns of actions as a technique to convert this attractive East Coast businessman into a diabolical uncle. By establishing duality, uncle Charlie’s character growth becomes more compelling. The twinlike insinuation between both Charlie’s makes their relationship dynamic, yet alluring. By presenting these two characters as parallel it is easier to show disparities that occur later. As the film progresses uncle Charlie begins to slowly depart from being comparable to little Charlie. Hitchcock gives the viewer several indications of uncle Charlie’s slow yet steady development. In an early scene when settling into the home, uncle Charlie is told not to place his hat on the bed for it invites trouble. However, when uncle Charlie is left alone he mischievously throws his hat on bed indicating that he does not mind to inviting trouble. His true motives are revealed in certain scenes. In example, there is a scene when he attempts to engage Ann Newton into building a house out of newspaper, when in reality he is trying dispose of an incriminating
J Duarte 4 9/25/10 article. Later, little Charlie discovers the article. By sharing little Charlie’s perspective it allows us to empathize with her sensibility with the situation. This is effectively shown when she is reading the article in the library. Hitchcock gives us access to exactly what she is reading, as if from her perspective. Then using a crane tracking shot he pulls back from little Charlie, revealing her isolation in a desolate place while also giving the viewer a feeling of loneliness. Dinner scenes are also revealing of the characters. In the first dinner scene, uncle Charlie presents ostentatious gifts to the family, but also presents his sister Emmy with photographs of their parents. We see his endearment toward the family and little Charlie gleaming. All this changes during the second dinner scene. Little Charlie’s character no longer seems to exuded qualities of admiration and gayety. We see an establishing shot of the family like before. Though in this case, after praising the lifestyle of small town woman, uncle Charlie goes into a monologue in which his hatred for women is disseminated on screen. Hitchcock goes from the wide shot of the family, to a medium shot of little Charlie whose is anxiously attentive. The next cut is a medium shot of uncle Charlie who continues to spew his abhorred talk. This is a critical shot as we slowly track closer into his blank face. He does not blink. Then, finally we hear offscreen little Charlie repudiate his horrid statement. Instead of cutting to little Charlie, we stay on uncle Charlie’s face that now engulfs the entire frame. On this long-shot uncle Charlie turns to little Charlie, looks into the camera and responds with swift adamant rhetoric. This technique renders successful. This stylistic presentation along with the expressionless monologue, allows the audience to feel intimate with uncle Charlie as if we were in his head. This makes the situation particularly haunting. The decision to have uncle Charlie look at camera is part of Hitchcock’s pattern to provide the perspective of little Charlie. From this we get the full evil manifestation that protrudes uncle Charlie’s character. No longer is the audience, nor little
J Duarte 5 9/25/10 Charlie, in doubt. Harmonious suspense carries the film out with uncle Charlie in final attempt to kill his niece. The film’s score is an influential element of the film. From the beginning we are serenaded with a composition that invokes mystique, suspense, and thrill. This is evident in the first scene when Mrs. Martin informs Mr. Oakley that two men have come to visit him. She proceeds to pull down the window blind subsequently darkening the room and casting a shadow over Mr. Oakley’s face. At this point a foreboding soundtrack emulating the aggravated and peculiar nature of Mr. Oakley’s character is cued. Hitchcock intends to mirror the soundtrack to the actions playing out on screen as a form of stressing anticipation. This is a technique used not only as a means to raise tension, but also to relate the mood to Mr. Oakley’s character. This style continues to be articulated in the following scene, also known as the film’s first chase scene, when two men follow Mr. Oakley. Piano keys can be heard copying the hard steps of these two men as they follow Mr. Oakley. As momentum builds so do the tones of the instruments being played. The sound is conscious with the image on screen and is played accordingly in order to stir emotion. Alfred Hitchcock demonstrates that he has the capacity to eloquently channel the protagonist’s perspective, as they face their trials and turbulences from a beloved antagonist. The story is executed with a series of effective techniques without ever losing the principles of storytelling. From beginning to end we are fed a narrative told with a unique style. Providing the parallel characters named Charlie enhanced the future diversion. The contrasts were more perceptible to the viewer. Motifs utilized supplemented the plot with great distinction and the soundtrack is fitting. With Shadow of a doubt Hitchcock provides his unique direction in creating a stylistically sound narrative film.
J Duarte 6 9/25/10 Works Cited Vargas Llosa, Mario. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. New York: Picador, 2007. This was the best book ever. Vargas Llosa, Mario. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. New York: Picador, 2007. This was the best book ever.
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