Essay: Alfred Hitchcock – auteur

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  • Published on: November 15, 2017
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What are some of the key stylistic features that identify Alfred Hitchcock as an auteur? Answer via the analysis of two or three Hitchcock films from different periods.
The ways a film stages a shot, arranges a sequence, executes a scene, is almost directly linked to the director —- Auteur Theory

(Sarris, 2007)

The Auteur Theory was developed by a French screenwriter named Francois Truffaut. Truffaut published his ideas in a 1954 essay called “Une Certaine Tendance” or “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema.” In these works, Truffaut claimed that ilm was a great medium for expressing the personal ideas of the director.The auteur theory suggests that a director can use the commercial apparatus a filmmaking in the same way that a writer uses a pen, or a painter uses his paint.

Auteur theory suggests that the best films will bear their maker’s signature which may manifest itself as the stamp of his or her individual personality or perhaps even focus on recurring themes within the body of work. Alfred Hitchcock plays this idea up in most of his movies where he make sure that he appears on screen in a brief cameos spot. And what is even more interesting, is a symbolism behind certain cameos that reflects larger topics. For example, the image of a bird is recurrent throughout certain of Hitchcock’s cameos. In “To Catch a thief” there are two caged birds nearby. This use a bird imagery is obviously expanded lager during Hitchcock’s work in “The Birds”. The cage birds are no longer caged. Symbolism of birds is an obvious mark of Hitchcock’s work, as his signature is always marked by that symbolism.

Based on The auteur theory of 3 Premises ( Technical Competence; Personality; Interior Meaning) of an Auteur according to Andrew Sarris. (Sarris, 2007)


Firstly, a great director needs technical competence and elementary flair in cinema. The master of film language, same as novelist must have master of written language (Sarris, 2007). If there is no mastership of technical, then not an auteur. that is to say, the director is not master of own work.

Technical- Mis-en-scene

(Look at hitchcock and technical competence with mis-en-scene cinematography editing and sound, so technically in the mis-en- scene which will relate to the style and personal meanign also the underlying meaning later on, in technical elements of Hitchcock ….)

Women are almost always blonde: Marion Crane in Psycho ; Melanie Daniels- The Birds; Brenda Blaney-Frenzy

Other elements of Mise-en-scene we see brandy across several different films and brandy in birds and frenzy and these huge glasses that look like breasts usually other elements in his Mise-en-scene includes Staircases and staircases having this foreboding look, so for instance you have in Psycho who falls down the staircase you have the brooding staircase when looking up at the Victorian house you also have staircase in Vertigo, so throughout all of him films he’ll use staricases he also reflections in mirrors quite often a lot of the reflections through mirrors.

Birds : Behind Norman Bates in the office – Psycho, the birds that overlook everything its dwan in phoenix or opens up in phoenix arizona phoenix is a bird, also he says to Marion crane you eat like a bird and he has the stuffed birds in the birds you have birds also, also in his mise-en- scene you see that these objects often embody some kind of visual representation so the shower is entrapment in Psycho; the Phone booth is entrapment in The Birds you have ties being a symbol of entrapping women in frenzy so obejcts really embody visual representation inside of Hitchcock’s films so the mise-en-scene has this element of meaning and often entrapment for women.

The technical camera:

Hitchcock loves POV shots he loves voyeurism so we have Norman Bates watching Marion crane in the birds we have Melanie Daniels watching the explosion so we have Jimmy Stewart literally stalking the female in vertigo we have the peeping tom and /in ? frenzy its about watching It is about voyeurism. Technical elements with camera also includes the Hitchcock rule so the size of the object in the frame should be equal to the importance of visit in the story at the time so if you’re at a close-up of a person they’re the most important thing in the story the time if they’re at an extreme long shot they’re not the most important thing in the story so we have teh technical element of the Hitchcock rule we also have the establishing shots of landscapes at the beginning and so he masters this kind of way of establishing an area of San Francisco at the beginning the birds we have Phoenix the beginning of psycho we have London at the beginning frenzy.

Technical elements of editing;

we use the POV identification which is related to the Kuleshov Effect and so Hitchcock has his thing where he talks girls in bikinis and it’s really about cutting to the glance from the glance we cut to the object then we cut back to the glance and then back to the object and as Hitchcock says you keep cutting back and forth until you beat it over the audience’s head that you’re supposed to identify with him, we see this in psycho where we first have a lot of POV shots from Marion crane, for exmaple, looking out the car and then when she’s about to die we then trade POV shots over into Norman Bates’s characgter as he’s looking through the peephole

Suspense- set up a scene in the beginning that the audience knows, but main character doesn’t, then edit the scene with suspense in backgorund

he also uses parallel editing to show relations of characters or doubles and so you’ll have two different characters, for example, in strangers on a train and they are literally reflections of one another or doubles of one another and this will relate to the fact that ofen the wrong person is accused in the film and so they have to prove themselves to be right, we also have parallel edting used to show kind of this elements and balance of good and evil.

Technical element of sound:

He loves to sue silence, for example in the birds we have before the major bird attacks the birds all silence, so as you see, Daniel’s walking into the school the birds are slowly gathering on the palyground before they have this major attack and start trying to kill all kids. We have Norman Bates watching at the beginning the shower scene which is silent or ambient sound and then we have the breaking the dead girl’s fingers in frenzy as you have this silence and in the snapping of the fingers. Another element of sound with Hitchcock use dialogue, so when Hitchcock has people talking which is speech it’s not really usually about what they say, because what they say doesn’t matter, its about what’s being seen and it’s about the interaction, dialogue is interaction between two people, speech is what is said to two people, so dialogue does not have to be speech, you can have dialogue without speech and so Hitchcock is about dialogue he’s not about the talking, and that’s a visual elments, that’s mastering the visual element and it’s one reason why serious will say that Hitchcock is one of the most technical advance people in all of cinema.

(Dialogue- most talking scenes in Hitchcock’s films is focused more on the interaticon between two people (dialogue) versus what is actually being said (speech))

Hitchcock’s personality:

Secondly, the distinguishable personality is another a criterion of value to seen as an auteur. Over a group of films, the signature of style as recurrent characteristis (Sarris, 2007). The films has the sense of belonging to the direcotor, that means the clearly relationship to the director by the judege of audiences in a way. using the visual codes to express personality instead of the literary content.

Have recurrent characteristics relating to the expression of the the director, the personality of American directors they’re forced to show visually due to censorship happen in the United States, rather through literary.they can’t do the literal translations of stuff like they could in Europe, so in the United States we have the Hays Code and it was very difficult to get things through the censor, so you have people smoking cigarettes in bed and you know what means instead of showing them having sex which you couldn’t do you show them having a cigarette, the American directors also kind of develop an abstract style to get around things, so the personality of the American directors is often kind of a little bit more abstract. So once again, with censorchip and getting

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