Alfred Hitchcock, rightfully known as the master of suspense has gifted the world of cinematography with some of the most innovative and influential stories, plots, scenes, and elements of filmmaking of all time. His movies and approach to the art of storytelling transcend time and are equally captivating and unpredictable years after they first came out.
So what makes him one of the greatest storytellers of all time? To estimate, it may be his knack for knitting extraordinary but coherent and explainable circumstances, his capability to think of the most unique ways to reveal an element of suspense, his skillful cinematography that would allow him to get the trickiest of shots in the simplest of ways or his very original way of subtly directing the audience’s minds away from the plot only to leave them awestruck when the true mystery is revealed. To jot down, here are a few things that make Alfred Hitchcock a timelessly superior storyteller :
Hitchcock’s queer perspective to put the simplest of characters with normal attributes in the most bizarre and unusual circumstances never fails to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. They’re introduced as normal people that the audience can relate to but are molded into a completely different persona as the story unveils itself. In Hitchcock’s Psycho, Norman Bates is introduced as a shy and awkward mama’s boy who turns out to be a twisted freak as the plot thickens.
Alfred Hitchcock has never been a try-hard. His movie titles are almost always straight to the point, usually hinting at what the film would be about. Although they’re a direct revelation of the main subject of the story frame, the titles never give away too much. The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo, and Psycho are just a few examples, to begin with.
Vertigo depicts the lead character Scottie’s increasing obsession with his love interest Madeleine and the tragedy that they go through, but it doesn’t override the sub-plot of him suffering from Vertigo. As in Psycho, the plot begins with a case of stolen money and ends up being a murder mystery. In either of these films, Hitchcock has almost effortlessly weaved the sub-plot into the main storyline without having to alter any of the two.
Creating Thrill, Not Borrowing It
Alfred Hitchcock has an unorthodox way of inflicting fear. Instead of using heavy graphics and makeup to paint horror, he created scenarios in which the most unsuspecting items would impose dread. The objects in our daily life that are seemingly harmless send shivers down our spine when Hitchcock decides for them to do so. Who would’ve thought that one would be terrified of birds for the next 4 weeks after watching The Birds? One would not anticipate it, but one would experience it! He would also incorporate a metaphorical meaning into these dreadful objects to underline a greater message that the film had to deliver.
Making the Best Out of Minimum Resources
To make the finest work out of the most easily available filmmaking apparatus is a skill every filmmaker should learn. And there is no better teacher of this than Alfred Hitchcock himself. When the antagonist looks directly into the camera in Rear Window while he directly looks at the protagonist, it is a rather unsettling moment and a subtle way of breaking the fourth wall to put the audience in the shoes of the protagonist.
The shower scene in Psycho is of the most iconic scenes ever directed by Alfred Hitchcock. At the time, extreme nudity and gore on screen did not abide by the guidelines of the theatres. To tackle that, Hitchcock made the entire movie Black and White although it coexisted with color TV. The reason behind this was to dodge an ‘A’ Certificate even though a gruesome murder was displayed on the screen. We see quick flashes of the knife being directed at Marion and we know that she’s in the shower, but we never really see Marion naked or being stabbed; thanks to the emblematic 45-second long murder sequence of 52 cuts. This is only one of the many occasions where Alfred proved himself to be way too modern and advanced for his time.
Hitchcock is not only an immortal name in the world of movies, but is also an inspiration for many highly celebrated movies that borrowed his form of genius storytelling to lay down a plot that would mark the audience for a long time.