This ties closely with Hitchcock's belief that "dialogue means nothing" in and of itself. He explains, "People don't always express their inner thoughts to one another, a conversation may be quite trivial, but often the eyes will reveal what a person thinks or needs." Thus the focus of a scene within his movies never focuses on what actors say, but rather on what they are doing. Unlike a painter, or a writer, "we don't have pages to fill, or pages from a typewriter to fill, we have a rectangular screen in a movie house." The reduction of dialogue and focus on action, however minute is a central technique utilized by Hitchcock to build suspense in many of his most memorable movies.
One of Hitchcock's most important techniques was his mastery of the point-of-view editing. Point-of-view sequences can allow Hitchcock to convey shades of meaning that otherwise would have been completely meaningless. Through the mastery of this technique he was able to use subjective cinema to build contrived meaning for the audience. In what Hitchcock called "pure cinema" the editing of point-of-view allowed the director to have complete control over the conveyance of meaning. Hitchcock often would divide action into a series of close-ups shown in succession. The use of such perspectives, such as carefully choosing a close up of a hand, an arm, a face, a gun falling to the floor - ties them all together to tell a story. For Hitchcock this meant that he would have control over the timing of when the audience understood his context and meaning. He said, "Transferring the menace from the screen into the mind of the audience requires constant manipulation." He uses the "montage" in the majority of his movies, most famously in the shower scene in Psycho in order to hide the violence.
Once Hitchcock mastered the art of placing and directing scenes, he explained that a large part of his success has to do with his ability to make enduring characters by using a variety of techniques. First, he explains that "characters must break the cliche." He attempted to make "all of my characters the exact opposite of what the audience expect in the movie." Thus dumb blondes are turned into smart blondes; the Cuban will have a French accent. In this way, the unexpected personalities, decision making and general twists and turns keeps the audience fascinated by the plot at all times. Hitchcock's criminals always tended to be wealthy upper class citizens whom the audience would never suspect, the policeman and the politicians are usually the fools, and the villains get away from everything because nobody suspects them. At the same time, Hitchcock uses humor to add tension through careful character creation. Humor is an essential technique for Hitchcock's master works. In Marnie, when Tippi Hedren is caught next to the safe within breathing distance of the maid, the more happily the maid mops the floor the greater the tension within the scene.
The final technique that Hitchcock perfected was what he called the "MacGuffin" technique. Many of his suspense films revolved around this particular technique. He would use a detail, which by inciting curiosity and desire, drives the plot and motivates the actions of the characters within it, but whose specific identity and nature is actually unimportant to the spectator of the film. He used this extensively within his most famous movies such as Vertigo and Rear Window.
Two movies exemplified traditional Hitchcock artistic direction and scene construction. The first of which was Vertigo, one of his most acclaimed and profitable movies. Hitchcock's film style within this movie was extremely distinct and original; one of the stylistic elements present is that of character manipulation. The protagonist of Vertigo is a "normal person" who is placed within an extraordinary circumstance. The fact that the ordinary is forced within the context of the spectacular is one of the foundations of Hitchcock's style. Much like other films, Vertigo relies upon the use of reoccurring themes such as psychiatric diagnosis to drive the plot. This has also been scene in previous films such as "the Wrong Man" and "Psycho." Within Vertigo he uses the voyeuristic technique to show the general interest of Scottie in Madeline. Scene selection is another element of strength within the movie; Hitchcock focuses on using very well-known locations within Northern California in order to grow audience affinity and recognition. One of the most resonant images within Vertigo is the highly stylized shot of stairs. These shots were again used to add tension and were well placed scenes that used both dramatic tension as well as point-of-view editing to achieve his intended goal. Finally, Vertigo uses Hitchcock's preference to use images rather than dialogue to convey narrative. Within the movie, he uses several long sequences which use almost purely visuals to convey the story's most pivotal moments.
As one of the worlds's most acclaimed directors, Hitchcock won countless awards throughout his career. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded him the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1967 for his crowning achievements within the cinema. However, he never won an Oscar throughout his tenure as a director. All six of his nominations ultimately did not win in the best picture category. He received best director nominations for "Rebecca," "Lifeboat," "Spellbound," "Rear Window" and "Psycho."
However, Rebecca did win the 1940 Best Picture Oscar for Hitchcock's producer David Selznick. These accolades however, do not symbolize the vast amount of acclaim he received as a film director. He was voted by the Screen Directory as the Best Film Director of all time. As a British film director, he was knighted in 1980 by the Queen. Through all of his accomplishments, perhaps his greatest enduring legacy and accolade is that the majority of his works are still in circulation. Sales of his movies have not only crossed the 50 million marker worldwide, he also was able to host his own TV show and special premieres. The consideration of his television and movie work shows how much esteem the general audience and his critics held for him. By any standard, it is evident that Hitchcock was one of the most revered and loved directors of all time.
Alfred Hitchcock is considered by many to be the best and most enduring director of cinematic history. He started his film career at the very cusp of cinematic growth, and he was a lively presence from the era of silent films to the modern cinematic tradition. Hitchcock's focus on the audience and how to direct in order to give his audiences the best possible movie experience made him a beloved figure within international circles by both the populace and critics. Throughout his lifetime, Hitchcock created over fifty movies and the enduring legacy of these films remains to influence even our current generation of directors and movie makers.
FREEMAN, David the last days of Alfred Hitchcock: a memoir featuring the screenplay of "Alfred Hitchcock's the Short Night." Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 1984. 281p.
LEFF, Leonard J. Alfred Hitchcock and Selznick: the rich and strange collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick in Hollywood. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987. 383p. illus.
SPOTO, Donald the life of Alfred Hitchcock: the dark side of genius. London: Collins, 1983. 165p.
TAYLOR, John Russell Hitch: the life and work of Alfred Hitchcock. London: Faber, 1978. 320p.
AUILER, Dan Alfred Hitchcock's secret notebooks. London: Bloomsbury Press, 1999. 567p.
AUILER, Dan VERTIGO: the making of a Hitchcock classic. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. 220p.
BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE the ultimate Hitchcock. London: BFI,…