Richard RodriguezMr. MattsFilm Writing08 January 2018 Film Final ProjectAn auteur can be defined as “a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie.” In other words, the director of the movie can be told by the way the movie is composed. I believe that if a director is a true auteur you can tell who directed the film through the cinematic and thematic fingerprints that are left behind by the director. I believe Alfred Hitchcock is an auteur and this can be seen through his consistent theme usage and camera work in his movies.
The three movies I will be examining are Vertigo, Notorious and Rear Window. I chose these films because they best encapture the thematic and cinematic Fingerprints that are present in Hitchcock’s films. The first Hitchcock movie I watched was his hit movie Vertigo.
This movie was released on May 9th, 1959 and the main characters in this movie are Kim Novak playing Madeleine Elster and Judy Barton, James Stuart playing John “Scottie” Ferguson, Tom Helmore playing Gavin Elster and Barbara Bel Geddes as Midge Wood. The movie is about Detective John “Scottie” Ferguson, a detective who has gotten acrophobia after a police chase which lead to him dangling off the edge of a rooftop as his fellow detective fell to his death right in front of him. Scottie then contemplates his future career options, as he felt his days as detective would now be over, until Gavin, an old friend of his, gave him a call. He talked to Scottie about a job proposition to follow his wife which Scottie eventually accepts. While following his wife around, Madeline tries to kill herself in the Golden Bay. Once conscious again she says that she is not suicidal and that scottie does not need to worry.
During this following of Madeline, he starts to get feelings for her and becomes obsessed. She then later on “throws herself” off of the churches bell tower, but Scottie would soon find a replacement. Turns out Judy Barton only pretended to be Madeline and threw Madeleines already dead body off of the church. However, Scottie and Madeleine end up falling madly in love as Scottie makes Judy dress as Madeline so that he could live in the illusion that he was with madeline all along. The movie ends with Judy actually falling to her death on the same bell tower that Madeline fell off of. Scotties acrophobia is cured, but now he must live with the death of Judy on his hands. One of the central themes of the movie are related to the ending of this movie. The theme is that an obsessive love will never end well.
Scottie was obsessed with Judy/Madeline and this lead to the downfall of the relationship and the death of Judy at the end of the movie. One other big theme of the movie is voyeurism. In this film there were many shots that were done in order to make us feel like we are in the same room as the actors in the film. This allows us to feel like we are part of the storyline and is done to make us feel a deeper connection in the film.
Death is another theme that overall plays a big role in this movie as death is what starts and ends Scottie relationship with Judy in the movie.In this movie, Hitchcock uses many different film techniques throughout the movie Vertigo. In this movie one technique he uses is the dolly zoom. The dolly zoom is a very important part of Vertigo as a movie because it’s what creates the the illusion known as the vertigo effect.This effect makes us feel like we’re getting closer and further away from the ground at the same time.
This creates an illusion that can give the audience a dizzy feel, letting us see through the eyes of Scottie and see what he is seeing at the moment. This makes us feel the same way that Scottie is in the situation. Another important film technique used in this movie is lighting. One example of this is in the cemetery scene where Scottie follows “Mrs.Elster” into the cemetery. When in the cemetery, the lighting in the scene is very different from most of the movie. Unlike the most of the movie that has very clear, natural light, The lighting in the cemetery can be best described as foggy. This is done one other time in the movie when Judy comes out of the bathroom and is dressed up as Madeline.
In the cemetary scene, the foggy lighting adds a mysterious and gloomy feeling and makes the audience feel that Madeline maybe really is possessed by a ghost. In the bathroom scene, This lighting can be seen again as a tool to make the audience a false illusion about Madeleines/Judys real identity and that to Scottie he really can’t see the difference between Madeleine and Judy. This also gives a feeling that Madeline has been risen from the dead which relates to the fogginess at the cemetery scene. Another example of the importance of lighting is in the opening scenes. The ending of the opening scene has a red lighting and has yellow circle in his eyes. In general, red is known as the color of love, but in this case I believe it stands for a type of foreshadowing that he will fall in love in the movie. The yellow circles in his eyes make him look as if he is hypnotisied and cant see whats really going on for himself. This could have been used to foreshadow the fact that Scottie would be “hypnotised” by Madeline and her image, and was hypnotized by his passion for her until Judys eventual death.
The opening credits are an example of Hitchcock giving us insight into the story without even saying a word. Besides this scene, he does this multiple times throughout the film. One other time he does this is during Scotties dream scene. In this scene, we look into the head of Scottie and get to see into the dreams of Scottie. In his dream we see many flashing colors and him dreaming about Madeline, roses and the grave that the grandmother of Madeline was buried in. I believe this scene shows the obsession that is starting to grow over “Madeline”.
He is dreaming about everything associated with Madeline like the jewelry she wears and the the random spurts of colors can also show the lack of control that Scottie has over the situation. One last significant film technique that is used throughout the film is the high angle shot. While in most movies this is used to make someone seem small or insignificant, in this film, and other Hitchcock movies alike, It is used for the sake of voyeurism.
This high angle shot makes it seem as if you are looking through a security camera, spying on the characters conversations without them knowing that your there. This allows you to be in the scene without actually being in the scene. One example of this is the scene where Scottie is talking to Judy right after she does her fake suicide attempt. The high angle shot is looking down at them and allows us to see and hear what is going on in the entire scene and makes us feel like we are really in the scene, but just observing from above.The next movie I watched was the 1946 film, Notorious. The official release date of the movie was August 15, 1946 and the main roles of the movie are played by Cary Grant as Devlin, Ingrid Bergman as Alicia Huberman, Claude Rains as Alexander sebastian and Louis Calhern as Paul Prescott. Alicia Huberman’s father is sentenced to 20 years in prison for being a Nazi spy.
She then celebrates by throwing a party to celebrate his sentencing. During the party Alicia gets drunk and her and at the time random man known as Devin go in a ride in her car. After getting caught for drunk driving Devlin flashes his police certification and the officer goes away. Alicia now knowing Devlin is a government agent, gets angry and begins attacking the man. She then passes out and is driven home by Devlin. When she wakes T.R. Devlin attempts to recruits her to spy on her father’s friends and acquaintances in Rio.
She’s not very cooperative at first saying she isn’t a rat but Devlin, knowing she isn’t a Nazi sympathizer, tries to appeal to her patriotism and eventually gets her to go with him to Rio. Soon after their arrival in Rio, Alicia is reunited with Alexander Sebastian, the leader of the pro-Nazi group there and someone who once was very much in love with her. At this point in the movie, Alicia and Devlin have fallen in love, but is angry when their boss Paul Preston suggests that she accept Sebastian’s marriage proposal to help with getting intel .
Soon after they are married however, Sebastian realizes that Alicia is actually an American agent and Sebastian can’t have anyone ruining him or his Nazi colleagues plans. One of the main central themes in this movie is the battle of good vs evil. This movie has a clear good and evil between the Nazis and the Americans and this conflict between good and evil can be seen as a driving force throughout the movie that helps move the plot along. Also, in this movie, Voyeurism is a common theme in this movie.
Just like in Vertigo, Voyeurism is used in this movie to make the audience feel like they are part of the scenes and that they are spying upon the the characters in the scene.In this film the some of the film techniques Hitchcock uses relates to the thematic fingerprint in his films of voyeurism. One example of this the coffee scene. In this scene there is a two-shot in place showing Alicia and Sebastian in the same frame together and in the foreground is the poisoned coffee, sitting in front of our eyes. Alicia eventually begins to feel ill, but doesn’t know why, but through the camera shot, the coffee cup is seen to be very large which is done so the audience knows that the coffee is the source of Alicia’s illness. The angle of the camera makes us as the audience feel as though we are across the table from them and that we can reach out and help when in reality all we can do is watch. In this film just like in Vertigo, Hitchcock likes to reveal things to the audience without necessarily telling them what is goin on verbally.
One example of this is the wine bottle scene. Sebastian is looking as the wine bottles carefully and as a pan shot is used to show what Sebastian is seeing in the scene. The pan shot shows all the bottles and their dates as each one has the same date except for one bottle. The pan stops at this bottle as he begins to examine this bottle more carefully as he seems to be more suspicious.
This gives the audience a sense that he is suspicious of the bottle along with Alicia without saying a word. Hitchcock just let the scene, the camera work and the actor tell the story without a word even being said. The final film I watched by Alfred Hitchcock was Rear Window. It was released in September of 1954, with James Stewart playing L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies, Grace Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont, Wendell Corey as Detective Lieutenant Thomas J. Doyle, and Thelma Ritter as Stella. L.
B. Jefferies is a world-renowned photographer, but aftering breaking a leg, he is confined to a wheelchair, watching the world’s from his window. He begins to spy on his neighbors and becomes convinced that one of them has committed murder.
He focuses on his different neighbors; a songwriter, a dancer, a solitary woman, a costume-jewelry traveling salesman, a couple, etc. Jefferies becomes suspicious of the salesman, Lars Thorwald, who lives with his “bedridden, nagging wife”. Jefferies sees Thorwald wrapping two knives with newspaper after having cleaned them off of, presumably, blood. He then writes a note to him and has it delivered to his door, and after finding the note, Thorwald looks around to see if he can find who wrote it.
He takes it a step further by phone calling him and trying to get him to speak with him in the lobby of a hotel as a distraction to snoop around his apartment. Lisa heads over to his apartment and starts looking for evidence. She finds his wife’s wedding ring, but Thorwald comes back before she can leave. Luckily with the police’s arrival, she’s saved from anything happening to her.
After having to be bailed from jail for breaking and entering, Thorwald goes to Jefferies’ apartment to confront him, and ends up throwing him out of the window. He survives by a cushiony fall and with the police there, he finally confesses. Just like the other movies I analyzed Voyeurism plays a big role in this movie.
Voyeurism in this movie is seen throughout the movie as we see through the binoculars of Jeff we get a chance to see into the life of all the people he is spying upon and get to see what he sees in a perspective that makes us feel like we are part of the scene. Another important theme in this is death. This whole movie sprouts and grows from death and just like in other Hitchcock films, death is a driving force that moves the plot on throughout the movie.
In this film, Voyeurism has the biggest impact on the movie as a whole in comparison to the other two movies. Voyeurism is a key element to the movie as many scenes of the movie are of Jeff spying on his fellow neighbors. In these scenes, a lot of shots of panning and zooming are used to make it seem more realistic and makes it seem as if the audience are viewing the scenes through Jeff’s eyes and make the audience feel present in the scenes. Also, in this film, the choice to use mostly use diegetic sound in this film compared to non-diegetic adds to the voyeuristic trip that the audience takes in this film. By using diegetic sound makes the scene feel more realistic and makes the audience feel like they are really a part of the film. There are many examples of this throughout the movie from a man shaving, to a loud commercial on the radio. This makes the audience have to try and find the source of the sound, getting them more involved in the scene. Like the other two films I watched, Hitchcock once again shows his habit of telling information through the scene setup and good acting rather than through dialogue.
A great example of this is the opening scene of the movie. After visiting the other houses of the nearby apartment complex we go into the apartment of our protagonist. At this point we know nothing about him, but at the end of the scene we learn alot about him. We learn his name, his profession, his potential girlfriend and that he most likely broke his leg from his dangerous profession.
All this is done without a word being spoken in the movie. Instead of having to wait for a 10 minute conversation between characters to unveil all this info, we learn it all it under a minute, all without a any dialogue being involved. After watching three of Hitchcock’s films I watched, I can now confirm my belief that Hitchcock is in fact an auteur. One of his thematic fingerprints found in all the films I watched was Voyeurism. In all of these movies, he tries to get the audience involved in the movie and make them feel like they are present in certain scenes. While in all the movies, different camera work and film techniques are used in each movie to show this theme of voyeurism. In Vertigo, high angle shots are often used to give the audience this sense of voyeurism while in Rear Window, this same effect is done through the use of panning and zooming and the use of diegetic sound.
Even though the way voyeurism is showcased differently throughout each of his movies it still has the same role in every movie he makes. This makes voyeurism a important thematic fingerprint left by Hitchcock in his films. Along with thematic fingerprints, Hitchcock also has cinematic fingerprints present in all his films, most importantly in my opinion, is his ability to tell a story without the use of dialogue. Throughout all the three movies I watched, Hitchcock consistently gives the audience information about the scene without the use of dialogue. This can be used to allow the audience to learn about the characters in the movie, like in the opening scene of Rear Window, or it could allow us to get key insight into a film, like in the coffee scene of Notorious. These fingerprints not only show Hitchcock’s great directing abilities, but it also proves that the Alfred Hitchcock is in fact an Auteur. The watching of these movies now reinforces my beliefs in the auteur theory. The auteur theory can be described as ” the director, who oversees all audio and visual elements of the motion picture, is more to be considered the “author” of the movie than is the writer of the screenplay.
” This can also be described as the use of a director certain “stamp” that can be seen throughout many of his works. While not all directors are auteurs, I feel that those who are make their movies in a better way than those who don’t. Rather than using the plot as the sole conveyer of the film, auteurs use special camera placement, lighting, props, etc. to portray this message instead.
A true auteur shows these abilities through the composition of their film and this is especially evident Hitchcock’s films.