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ALFRED HITCHCOCK

By Kira Moore
A BRIEF HISTORY
Born in 1899 in Essex
Raised as a devout Catholic and attended Saint Ignatius School which was run by Jesuits.
Gained an interest in film in 1915 when he got his first job at a broadcasting company.
In 1923 he directed his first feature because the original director fell ill. ‘Always Tell Your
Wife’.
After this he began working as a director on his own feature and trademarked pieces like
‘The Pleasure Garden’ in 1925 and ‘The Lodger’ in 1927.
He became successful after the 1930’s and the birth of his first and only daughter, Patricia
Hitchcock.
‘The Lady Vanishes’ in 1938 was his first particularly popular film. Perhaps his most famous
film was ‘Psycho’ in 1960.
KEY AUTEURIAL ASPECTS
Many consider Hitchcock to be the master of mystery and suspense.
Some of the key features in many of his films include:
• That they play with audiences’ nerves
• Sexual or Taboo topics assume a central or implicit role in his films
• Persistent elements of Black Comedy
• Eccentric Characterisations
• Influences of German Expressionism
• Visual expression of thought or psychology
Cinematic Techniques Include:
• Use of camera viewpoints
• Elaborate Editing
• Soundtrack to build Suspense
• Focus on the creation of set pieces
MACGUFFIN THEORY
The film ‘Rear Window’ makes use of Hitchcock’s MacGuffin theory whereby something is
pursued by the characters that had very little meaning to the audience or relevance to the film. It
only functions as a contrivance of the plot.
Common Examples Are:
• Money
• Victory
• Glory
• Survival
• A source of power
• A potential threat
• A mysterious but highly desired object
• Something that is simply entirely unexplained

https://www.slideshare.net/ellesullivan310/auteur-theory-
and-hitchcock-fs4
VOYEURISM
This is a common theme in Hitchcock’s films. Deriving pleasure, particularly sexual, from watching
rather than doing. This theme is particularly overt in Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ as the whole thing is
filmed in the apartment and mainly from Jeffrie’s POV.
‘REAR WINDOW’
In this clip we clearly see some of the auteurial aspects of Hitchcock as a director coming
through.
• Firstly the music is used to build the tension. It is a constant soundtrack. This is also indicative
of his classical training in the 1920s as his first films would’ve been silent and music often had
to be used as a form of dialogue. Hence it reflecting the tone of the sequence (tense).
• There is the clear aspect of voyeurism as the people watching become tense and scared on
behalf of the woman they are watching. While this is not the traditional sexual voyeurism it
does still show the intended effects.
• There are the POV elements as we are never inside the apartment where the action takes
place. We watch on as Jeff does.
• There is also evidence of the MacGuffin effect as the protagonist seeks justice as he tries to
solve a murder he believes he witnessed from his window.
• The complex editing also alludes to Hitchcock’s influences as it cuts from the windows to the
reaction of Jeff creating a sense of intimacy
‘THE LODGER’
This film is widely known as Hitchcock’s first masterpiece and was released in 1927. This shows
how, from his very first picture, Hitchcock had formed his own style.
In this clip his auteurial aspects come through via:
• The soundtrack – as this is a silent film the music tells majority of the story that the dialogue or
diegetic sound would otherwise. In this sequence we see how Hitchcock effectively uses it to
build tension.
• MacGuffin Theory – again there is an element of seeking justice here as both Joe and The
Lodger want to see The Avenger brought to justice however The Lodger is mistaken for The
Avenger.
• Editing – throughout the film there are recurring shots that are edited in to build tension.
These aren’t seen in this clip but there are recurring shots of a sign flashing “to-night ‘Golden
Curls’” and the audience is brought to associate these with murder. Again showing the
complex editing. In this sequence it is more the use of parallel editing ahead of its time.
• Sexuality – for a 1920s film this explores very sexual themes with the leading lady leaving her
original man for The Lodger and the two are shown at several points kissing passionately. This
is not often seen in films of this era showing Hitchcock’s willingness to explore these taboo
subjects.
‘PSYCHO’
‘Psycho’ is arguably Hitchcock’s most famous film and this is no doubt due to how controversial it
was at the time it was released. This scene is also Hitchcock’s most famous and perhaps one of
the most famous in history. His auteurial signature comes through in it quite well via:
• Soundtrack – this is one of the most famous pieces of soundtracking in cinema history and is
now commonly used to emphasise murder due to its tense and brutal connotations.
• Exploration of psychology – this film was based off a true story and shows, in various forms,
the visualization of madness. This is mainly through the key character of Norman Bates and his
split personality.
• Taboo topics – this is the first film to imply sexual intercourse between characters and the
very first slasher film. This evidently shows Hitchcock’s desire to shock the audience. This was
also the first ever film to have a scene of someone flushing a toilet.
• Editing – in this clip in particular the elaborate editing comes through. The fast paced shots
and abrupt cuts with a series of extreme close-ups all makes for a confusing, dramatic and
effective piece of cinema.
SUMMARY
This highlights only a few key areas of Hitchcock’s signature style and the evidence to support
them. From the very start of his career Hitchcock knew what he was going to set out to do and had
a personal style. There are several other areas that could be explored within all of the films
mentioned (eccentric characterization in ‘The Lodger’ to name only one).
In conclusion Alfred Hitchcock is not only an auteur but he is arguably the father of the modern
horror, slasher and thriller genres. His films created many icons and firsts within the cinematic
industry.
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Alfred Hitchcock on ‘The Birds’ – A demonstration of his love for Black Comedy