Filmmaking Style Of Alfred Hitchcock, Explained

Suspense as a genre is quite engrossing if utilized properly and is quite popular among the masses too. Keeping information from the viewer is something that comes out brilliantly on screen. It is inherently embedded in cinema to show certain things and hide some crucial information to have an overall effect of shock and awe in the minds of the viewers when they finally come to know about the missing piece. Suspense as a device works well in the text as well, as seen in the numerous Stephen King books, where page after page, a new terror is invoked. And reading creates a different shock that is rooted in the same feeling, but as cinema can work with more things to create an experience, the visuals create more horror. Combining such stories from literature and bringing them alive on screen with his own style and form, Alfred Hitchcock created a new world. A world of suspense. 

Advertisement

All the films by Alfred Hitchcock are thrillers, some even delving into deeper psychological troubles, while some involving a crime. There are various techniques that he uses in these films to create tension that have been discussed in popular discourse over the years. He was a great craftsman who understood the medium of cinema and had his own outlook as to how certain things could be told. In his films, there is constant manipulation happening that forces people to anticipate that something bad is going to happen. It is that anticipation that seems to be playing with our hearts and minds, creating explosions of all kinds. Filmmaking is also about knowing how much information to give and understanding how that information will make us feel. Alfred Hitchcock worked like a magician in that aspect. Giving some important insight about the characters and their world and telling us something which the characters are unaware of makes us feel uneasy. It invokes anxiety about what is going to happen next! 

He does that in “Psycho,” where his use of montage brings to life a murder sequence, horrifying us along with it. The main character enters a shower and relaxes. We see her for some time in closeups, cutting away to the closeup of the shower flowing, adding to the eeriness. We can only hear the shower running and nothing else. Everything seems normal, yet we get a sense that something wrong is going to happen. The next minute, we see a shadowed figure coming from behind her. She has her back to us and can not see. The anticipation grows as the figure approaches, and we wish she would look back. And then begins the squalling music, and she screams as the man now holds up a knife and starts stabbing her. The entire sequence is filled with razor-fast cuts of the knife and her body and her frightened face. With each cut, we feel the rush and tension of the moment. Apart from the ghastliness of the act itself, the mise-en-sin terrifies us more. There are examples of this type in all of his films.

Advertisement

The camera of Hitchcock itself appears to have a POV where we, as an audience, are sneaking into the world of the characters. We see things through the eyes of some characters. In “Vertigo,” the private detective follows a woman across the city and sees, from his eyes, the entire thing. He cuts back to the face of the man and then again to what he sees, creating a strange feeling all over. Alfred Hitchcock also had a sense of color and used it effectively to create certain moods. The use of green in “Vertigo” builds up right from the start, with the character Madeliene wearing green. It has been made to be associated with something ghostlike, and that’s the appeal she has in the film. The color green is repeated in many frames, be it the color of the car which our protagonist drives or the green in a garden, which is anything but refreshing. And then green becomes all the more vivid in the second half, with even the lighting turning green in some scenes. All of this in 1958!

When you have complete control over all the things at your disposal, filmmaking can prove to be a transformative experience that can take you to unexplored places. Alfred Hitchcock managed to do that through his films. He has been considered as the master of suspense for his innovations in telling stories and his works are studied by film students all over the world. 

Advertisement

See More: The Films And Filmmaking Style Of Mrinal Sen, Explained


Shreyas Pande
Shreyas Pande
Shreyas is a screenwriter who likes contemplating on cinema. That is when he is not writing a poem or quoting some Urdu couplet or posting excessively on his Instagram.

Latest articles