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Alfred Hitchcock had a reputation for being the ‘Master of Suspense’, directing a numerous amount of feature films throughout his successful career. His films had a distinct style and they were created skillfully as he had prior skill as a silent film director. From this, he developed his unique practice of adding information to a film by showing rather than telling, which leads to his constant innovation of storytelling – something which he maintained and was famous for throughout the duration of his career.
Hitchcock revolutionised the genre of thrillers. Many of his films fall under this category because of his intricately executed characters who are intentionally made to be psychologically complex, and because of his unexpected endings in films. He quotes himself, ‘If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on’. This refers to the earlier stage of his career as a silent film director, stating that a good movie was one where suspense could be built up without the need for sound, which was something Hitchcock always strived for, and a goal which he always did exceptionally and flawlessly. One of Hitchcock’s most renowned works, ‘Psycho’, is known as a declared masterpiece, and has even been called ‘one of the greatest movies to have been made’. This demonstrates his immense power and skill as a director, with those describing the film being directed so well, that they find it to be spine-tingling and timeless. The plot of ‘Psycho’ is also said to be chilling, twisted, and dark. This is the goal of many of Hitchcock’s movies. The main goal was to take the audience on a journey which would enable them to forget and escape from their own lives. The prime factor which he would keep into consideration whilst directing movies was how the audience would react. The way Hitchcock was able to easily achieve this goal and intention in every movie he creates emphasises on his success as the Master of Suspense.
Hitchcock’s style was both influenced and inspired whilst he was observing the Hollywood style of storytelling being used in movies. This was also intertwined with the visual creativity of German expressionist filmmakers which shapes Hitchcock’s unique, yet consistent style of directing. He focused on telling a story mainly through visual means because at the time, he considered the movies at the British cinemas very bland and boring. Hitchcock’s approach to directing was also affected by other factors, including his own personal philosophy, values, and beliefs. Issues that reflect Hitchcock’s values and beliefs are evident in his work, however, the audience’s attention is rarely on them. Some critics do manage to notice the dark side of American society conveyed in Hitchcock’s works, depicted in many of his Hollywood style movies. Many of his works are also constructed upon the foundation of issues concerning class and status, shown through his abnormal obsession with work, depicting people as being obsessed with a life working for a living, but also representing others enjoying the advantages of ownership.
What makes Hitchcock such an intriguing and successful director is the way in which he approaches his work. To Hitchcock, there is a difference between surprise and shock. His effective use of cinematic techniques allows him to make the audience know what is going to happen next. However, by incorporating suspense into his plots, Hitchcock ensures that it is the anticipation which makes the movie so nerve racking. One of the techniques he used to build this suspense was to show the audience information which the main characters were not aware of, and throughout the movie, he would remind the audience of the looming danger. It can also be observed in several of his movies that he uses a montage to show the audience a series of close ups. Hitchcock also made sure that his plots were simple and easy to follow so that his audience was able to grasp the events which would take place. When suspense was created, Hitchcock also made ensured that he prevented clichés in both plots and characters, as that made his films more predictable. According to Hitchcock, the best characters to create suspense with were the characters who had personalities which were difficult to predict. This adds a further sense of authenticity and thrill to his movies, something which only a skilled and successful director could execute.
Each film created by Hitchcock has its own individual aspects and key ideas. One of these particular films is ‘Vertigo’, which explores key themes such as love, manipulated versions of reality, guilty, and the supernatural. Love is not represented in this film in a typical ‘pretty’ sort of way, as many directors did, but it is represented as something that is related to deception, delusion, and obsession. The differing versions of reality is also a significant theme as it reiterates throughout the whole movie that appearances can be deceiving, adding onto Hitchcock’s goal of making his films unpredictable. However, one of the most important ideas in ‘Vertigo’ is the representation of death and being something which is both attractive and frightening at the same time. The great success of Hitchcock’s film can also be agreed upon amongst other critics. Bill Weber from the Slant Magazine describes ‘Vertigo’ as a piece of ‘Alfred Hitchcock’s rich and strange masterwork’, then also providing his own opinion of the movie, stating that ‘Vertigo is greater than even the sum of Bernard Herrmann’s versatile, indispensable score, its evocative use of San Francisco locations, and Stewart’s earnest, anguished performance as the increasingly unhinged John “Scottie” Ferguson. Perverse, poetic, steeped in emotional desolation and destructive obsession, it delivers a fearlessly dolorous view of longing and betrayal in the guise of an acrophobia thriller, making through its classical ambitions (referenced by Herrmann’s swelling variations on Wagner’s “Liebestod”) and enduring fascinations a splendid case for Hitchcock as a grand experimental artist who labored in commercial genre cinema.’
Alfred Hitchcock indeed proves to be the ‘Master of Suspense’, gaining a reputation through directing movies with a consistent genre and goal of creating suspenseful movies, whilst also incorporating elements of surprises and unexpected, sick twists. His fame and innovation of storytelling powers prove that he will continue to remain one of the most successful directors of all time.
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