Study the Greats: Suspense and Style Master Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock was the "The Master of Suspense" that made for himself a recognisable directorial style.You should be conversant in his great films like ”Vertigo”, ”The Birds”, ”Rear Window”, ”Psycho” and one of my favorites, ”Foreign Correspondent.”

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Watching any kind of Hitchcock movie and also you step into an unique style.

1. He originated many elements of the suspense and psychological thriller categories.

2. Hitchcock's stylistic hallmarks include making use of camera movement that imitates a person's gaze, requiring viewers to participate in a type of voyeurism.  

3. He created shots to increase anxiousness, concern, or compassion, and also used ingenious film editing techniques.

4. Fugitives on the run alongside "icy blonde" women characters. 

Comprehensive Storyboards      

According to the majority of analysts, Hitchcock's movies were thoroughly storyboarded to the finest information. He was reported to have actually never looked through the viewfinder. He used this as an excuse to never change his films from his preliminary vision. If a studio asked him to alter a film, he would usually claim that it was currently framed in a single style, and that there were no alternating ones to consider.

Elements of a Hitchcockian Suspense Film

  • Thriller, stress, elevating of risks for the lead character. Commonly the speed of this stress is quicker in a thriller versus a mystery.-
  • The protagonist must be positive as opposed to reactive. He should dive into activity, not wait for events occurring around him.-
  • No Coincidences-- although they happen in real life— need to be avoided in fiction, even if could supply character conflict. Viewers aren't pleased by unintentional occasions or problem.-
  • Just like the majority of excellent fiction, the hero should have actually altered by the end of the story. This personality growth is just what results in the primary personality's ability to get through his challenges, triumphing during the climatic closing.
  • Inciting Incident - a prompting moment that moves the primary character relocation from their everyday and go on their trip to address the concern, problem to the ending.
  • The ending - tie up all loose ends, and provide a sufficient twist when possible. Good wins over Evil.  And also the hero should have learnt something concerning himself or the human condition.

How did Alfred Hitchcock create so much tension for his audience?  His primary focus was the audience – not his own ‘artistic’ explorations and interests.  Hitchcock indeed had a funny sense of humor – quite morbid given his direction in filmmaking – and always seemed to be a ‘mischevious’ filmmaker.

Creating Tension in a Scene

One scene in “The Birds” shows Tippi Hedren getting a call from Rod Taylor.  Tippi is staying at Suzanne Pleshette’s house.  But the key in the scene is that Suzanne loved Rod Taylor at some point and move to the tiny backwater town to be near him.

When Rod Taylor calls to speak with Tippi, Suzanne sits in a chair – listening and thinking.  Tippi knows that Suzanne dated him – and still carries a torch for him.  Suzanne’s faraway look in this deep focus shot, along with Tippi’s clipped responses to the phone call, create a dynamic tension in an otherwise static scene.  Both women smoke cigarettes which suggest that they have a need to smoke cigarettes to reduce the tension.  Their eyelines are perfectly framed on the same level in a deep focus shot.


In the Audience’s Head

Hitchcock used the characters as props, pulling the audience along.  He teased them.  He infuriated them.  He made them anxious.   In this murder scene from “Dial M for Murder”, we have the killer behind the actress, ready to pounce and strangle her.  Her husband had hired the killer to stand in the curtain and then wait for him (the husband) to call.  His wife would come around the desk and answer the phone – putting her back and neck toward the killer.   In this extraordinary scene, the wife almost hangs up and then talks again.  And again and again.  Each time the killer almost strangles her.  And here’s the kicker:  As the audience, we identify with the Killer – and want to kill the wife!  Talk about audience manipulation. Check out this analysis.

The Camera Is the Audience

The camera is the audience.  And just like us the camera moves around and looks for clues in the scene.  This subjective POV draws the audience into the mystery.  We are not bystanders.  We are participants – victims and perhaps even killers.  

Many times, Hitchcock pans a room and centers on a closeup of a key, a bottle, a clue.  These objects are involved in the plot and perhaps his McGuffin – the device driving the plot and the characters but rarely explained.