Assignment 1.Maham Zahid Khan. Alfred Hitchcock, alsocalled ‘The Master of Suspense’, was an English director who has a careerspanning 6 decades.
He directed fiftyfilms during his life and is known as one of the best filmmakers in history, ifnot the best itself. His movies are mostly of the thriller and suspense genre. Hisgreat sense of direction and one of his most used techniques, named rightfullyafter him; the Hitchcockian, is when the camera acts like the gaze of a personwhich gives an effect as if the viewer himself is part of the film and can seeall the intimate details of the scene personally himself. Another one of histechniques is the ‘Spider web’ technique, where normal objects would createsuch a pattern that makes the viewer uneasy. This style of directing creates afeeling of fear and anxiety, which is obviously the whole point of suspensemovies; keeping the viewer at the edge of their seats.
To have a proper filmin the end, the scenes go through a lot of processes, such as, screenplay,acting, directing, and writing of the script and so on. However, one of the keyfeatures to bring about a film, in the end, is its editing. Editing is aprocess which is done after the production of the film is completed. It is todo with raw footage of the film out of which shots are selected, put intosequences and turned into scenes. Film editing consists of a technique called’Montage’, where a string of short shots are put into sequences to consolidatespace, time and information.
Alfred Hitchcock usedmontage in his films to create the feelings of suspense, anxiety and fear,which worked remarkably. He used this technique in all of his movies; the mostnotable ones are ‘psycho’, ‘dial M for murder’ and ‘rear window’. Let’s use the movie’Rear Window’ as an example to further understand how a montage createsfeelings of suspense, anxiety and fear. ‘Rear Window’ was made in 1954 and isof the thriller genre. It is known as one of the best films directed by AlfredHitchcock. The film is about a photographer, L.
B. Jefferies, who breaks his legat a racetrack while taking photos. The incident leaves Jefferies stuck in hisapartment and he spends his days confined in a wheelchair looking out in thecourtyard through the rear window.
Jefferies watches his neighbors throughtheir windows which are open because of a strong heat wave. Certain events leadhim to think that one of his neighbors, Thorwald, killed his wife. Until theend of the movie, both the viewers and the characters are unsure whether themurder even took place. Now, coming to thedirection and editing, the opening shot of Rear Window is an iconic one. The filmopens with the camera zooming into each of the windows of Jefferies neighbor’s,characterizing them by showing their activities.
The tracking shots of zoominginto the windows add more depth to the establishing shot. These shots give theviewer the sense that he is looking through the protagonist’s eyes by giving atrue feeling of how it would all be like if the viewer was in Jefferies’ place.Each window in the courtyard shows a different story of the lives of thecharacters, which makes the film have a parallel structure. Every timeJefferies looks out the windows, the viewer never gets to really go inside anyof the apartments. In each shot, the frame of the windows, hallways or doorwaysare shown.
Alfred Hitchcockcreates the feeling of anxiety by making sure that the audience feels that themurder really did take place, but also negates that feeling by giving concreteevidence against any one of Jefferies theory that Thorwald murdered his wife.The evidence is provided by Jefferies’ friend, Doyle, who is also a detective. The most importantthings said throughout the film are said by Jefferies eyes.
His reactions toeverything around him make the situations tense. The close up of his eyes andthe zooming out of the camera to what is happening adds more depth to thetension and anxiety, The most nail bitingscene comes as the climax and also leads the movie to its end. Over here theviewer and the characters finally get to know if the murder took place and ifit did, then was it Thorwarld who committed it. The scene starts by a mediumclose up of Jefferies as he watches the lights turn off in Thorwarld’sapartment, which makes it seem like its empty. The camera then moves back tothe same medium close up of Jefferies who gets a phone call which he answersbut there is no response in the other end and the line goes dead. This revealsthat the person who called was not who Jefferies thought it was and thatThorwarld had left his apartment. To show how dangerous this mistake was,Hitchcock slowly zooms into the protagonist’s face until it ends in a close up.
It takes Jefferies amoment to realize the danger after he looks at his neighbor’s window. Just asthe fear sits on his face, the camera zooms in. A noise from the hallway comesand the camera moves towards the door, looking at it through Jefferies eyes.
Thelight coming from under the door looks important since it is from that door,Thorwald will enter. This shot further tells that Jefferies is not beingparanoid but there is actually a weight to his fear. From the door, thecamera moves back to Jefferies’ face but from a high angle close up. Thiscertain shot shows how stuck he and helpless he is in his wheelchair and hissmall apartment, with nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.
Further anxiety and fearis built when the scene cuts back to the door and then an eye level shot ofJefferies is shown, this continues but this time the camera is set above and itshows him trying to maneuver his way around the small apartment. Going back to thedoorway, a flick is heard and the lights go off, building even more tension.Hitchcock adds a close up shot of the camera lens in Jefferies lap whichsignifies its importance in the coming moments. Jefferies moves all the way back into the window to hide in the shadows,but here lights come to play, the only things under the light is his brokenleg, which shows his disadvantage. Thorwald opens the door and from a lowangle, we can see his half lit face, making him look menacing and strong, andfurther proving his dominance. It is critical to useclose up and small shots to create such montages which foster the feelings offear and anxiety.
During the whole above mentioned scene, because ofHitchcock’s masterful editing, the viewer can’t help but fear for what is aboutto happen next to Jefferies.