He was an English director and producer, and also referred to at times as ‘The Master Of Suspense’. He was widely known for his directorial style, his trade mark of panning the camera to mimic the characters glaze, he also framed shots that emphasised the emotions within the audience of fear, anxiety or empathy and he used innovative forms of editing. He often focused on fugitives on the run alongside, blonde ‘dolly’ girls. He was able to hold bad critical information regarding the main plot from the audience, creating emotions through the audience like no one else.
Top Three Films:
Is a 1946 American spy thriller film. This film is the first attempt of Hitchcock to show a love story through two male characters.
The film is known for two scenes in particular. In one of his most famous shots, Hitchcock starts wide and high on a second floor balcony overlooking the great hall of a grand mansion. Slowly he tracks down and in on Ingrid Bergman, finally ending with a tight close-up of a key tucked in her hand. Hitchcock also devised “a celebrated scene” that circumvented the Production Code’s ban on kisses longer than three seconds—by having his actors disengage every three seconds, murmur and nuzzle each other, then start right back up again. The two-and-a-half-minute kiss is “perhaps his most intimate and erotic kiss”.
In 2006, Notorious was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”
Is an 1958 American psychological thriller.
The film was shot on location in San Francisco, California, and at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. It is the first film to utilize the dolly zoom, an in-camera effect that distorts perspective to create disorientation, to convey Scottie’s acrophobia. As a result of its use in this film, the effect is often referred to as “the Vertigo effect.”
Vertigo received mixed reviews upon initial release, but is now often cited as a classic Hitchcock film and one of the defining works of his career.
Is an 1960 American Psychological thriller.
Psycho initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted reconsideration which led to overwhelming critical acclaim and four Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actress for Leigh and Best Director for Hitchcock. Psycho is now considered one of Hitchcock’s best films and praised as a work of cinematic art by international film critics and film scholars. Ranked among the greatest films of all time, it set a new level of acceptability for violence, deviant behavior and sexuality in American films, and is widely considered to be the earliest example of the slasher film genre.
How did Hitchcock create suspense?
Hitchcock understood why the audience would put themselves in the positions to watch his films, for their enjoyment and entertainment. As a director Hitchcock knew that he need to make sure they felt like what they are watching was as realistic as possible so they felt more personally emotions as the film developed or changed. He wants them however to understand the boundaries and be aware that this film isn’t real and that they can walk out of watching it and resume their normal lives, but still remember the film and how it made them feel.
The main goal for the scene is to create an emotion within the audience, wether it be fed, compassion, hatred or upset. First Hitchcock could really see the best place for where the camera should be placed to create a certain emotion within the audience. Hitchcock used this theory of proximity to plan out his scenes, because the emotion is really shown through the actors facial expression, so a mid shot doesn’t show the emotion as clearly as a close up.
Hitchcock looked at the camera to have human qualities, he wanted it to roam around the room and look for the suspicious item that will change the audiences emotion and create a fitting atmosphere. This allows the audience to feel like they are involved in uncovering the plot, close ups where also used to show the really important elements of the plot.
One character must be preoccupied in the dialogue scene, their eyes can be preoccupied whilst the other character doesn’t notice which pulls the audience into the more secretive life of the characters.
“People don’t always express their inner thoughts to one another,” said Hitchcock, “a conversation may be quite trivial, but often the eyes will reveal what a person thinks or needs.” The focus of the scene should never be on what the characters are actually saying. Have something else going on. Resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise.
“In other words we don’t have pages to fill, or pages from a typewriter to fill, we have a rectangular screen in a movie house,” said Hitchcock.
Putting an idea into the mind of the character without explaining it in dialogue is done by using a point-of-view shot sequence. This is subjective cinema. You take the eyes of the characters and add something for them to look at.
– Start with a close-up of the actor
– Cut to a shot of what they’re seeing
– Cut back to the actor to see his reaction
– Repeat as desired
You can edit back and forth between the character and the subject as many times as you want to build tension. The audience won’t get bored. This is the most powerful form of cinema, even more important than acting. To take it even further have the actor walk toward the subject. Switch to a tracking shot to show his changing perspective as he walks. The audience will believe they are sharing something personal with the character. This is what Hitchcock calls “pure cinema.”
- Montage gives you control
Carefully chose a close-up of a hand, an arm, a face, a gun falling to the floor – tie them all together to tell a story. In this way you can portray an event by showing various pieces of it and having control over the timing. You can also hide parts of the event so that the mind of the audience is engaged. Hitchcock said this was “transferring the menace from the screen into the mind of the audience.”
Basic rule: anytime something important happens, show it in a close-up. Make sure the audience can see it.
If your story is confusing or requires a lot of memorization, you’re never going to get suspense out of it. The key to creating that raw Hitchcock energy is by using simplistic, linear stories that the audience can easily follow. Everything in your screenplay must be streamlined to offer maximum dramatic impact. Remove all extraneous material and keep it crisp. Each scene should include only those essential ingredients that make things gripping for the audience. As Hitchcock says, “what is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out…”
An abstract story will bore the audience. This is why Hitchcock tended to use crime stories with spies, assassinations, and people running from the police. These sort of plots make it easy to play on fear, but are not mandatory for all movies.
- Characters must break cliche
Make the characters change what they audience expect, completely change the perspective. They should have unexpected personalities, making decisions on a whim rather than what previous buildup would suggest. These sort of ironic characters make them more realistic to the audience.
Hitchcock criminals tend to be wealthy upper class citizens whom you’d never suspect, the policeman and politicians are usually the bumbling fools, the innocent are accused, and the villains get away with everything because nobody suspects them. They surprise you at every step of the plot.
- Use humour to add tension
Humour is essential to Hitchcock storytelling. Pretend you are playing a practical joke on the main character of your movie. Give him the most ironic situations to deal with. You’ll also find that Hitchcock tended to use comical old women to add a flavor of innocent humor in his films. They will usually be opinionated, chatty, and have a highly optimistic view about crime. If someone were committing a crime they might even help with it.
- Two things happening at once
Build tension into a scene by using contrasting situations. Use two unrelated things happening at once. The audience should be focused on the momentum of one, and be interrupted by the other.
“Information” is essential to Hitchcock suspense; showing the audience what the characters don’t see. If something is about to harm the characters, show it at beginning of the scene and let the scene play out as normal. Constant reminders of this looming danger will build suspense.
“The essential fact is to get real suspense you must let the audience have information.” –Alfred Hitchcock
Once you’ve built your audience into gripping suspense it must never end the way they expect. Lead them in one direction and then pull the rug out from under them in a surprise twist.