Part I The Universal: Themes
1 Hitchcockian Suspense by Pascal Bonitzer
Hitchcockian narrative obeys the law that the more a situation is somewhat a priori, familiar or conventional, the more it is liable to become disturbing or uncanny, once one of its constituent elements begins to ‘turn against the wind’. Scenario and staging consist merely in constructing natural landscape with its perverse element, and in then charting the outcome. … …Hitchcock systematically opposes suspense to surprise. He prides himself not so much on directing the actors — since he asks of his actors merely that they remain ‘neutral’, so that he can then edit a scene, a neutrality which he in fact takes some pleasure in testing by introducing postures which are frequently difficult, if not acrobatic — as on directing the audience.
We are now in a better position to understand why Hitchcock should have insisted so often upon the paradoxical use of slowed-down time in suspense, … …This subjective stretching, this viscosity of time, is related to eroticism, and it concerns the eroticized time in the prolonged, necessarily disturbing undecidability of an event. Suspense is the erotic prolongation of the trajectory of a coin thrown up into the air, before it falls on one side or the other.
2 Hitchcock’s Objects by Mladen Dolar
……There is a thesis implied on the structural level — not simply an obsession with duplication, but quite the contrary: every duality is based on a third. The third element is both excluded and introduced as a stain in this mirror-relationship, the object around which it turns and which fills the gap of the exclusion, makes then absence present.
Accidental encounters, as already pointed out, are essential for Hitchcock’s universe. It is a universe governed by a ‘malign spirit’ which makes a chance event plunge a normal citizen into a nightmare, and it is the chance accident that reveals the structure into which the subject is implicated. The chance encounter basically takes the form of a joint between an element and an empty space, a void that was awaiting the subject like a trap.
The McGuffins signify only that they signify, they signify the signification as such; the actual content is entirely insignificant. The are both at the core of the action and completely irrelevant; the highest degree of meaning — what everybody is after — coincides with an absence of meaning. The object itself is a vanishing point, an empty space; it does not need to be shown or to be presented at all – as in Blow-up — an evocation by words is enough. Its materiality is inessential; it suffices that we are merely told of its existence.
3 Spatial Systems in North by Northwest by Fredric Jameson
… …In spite of the fetishzation of the visual and the voyeuristic in Hitchcock, these films rarely work towards the supreme moment of the production of the modernist image as such, the dissociation of the moment of vision from the narrative which become its pretext, as in the Dance of Death in The Seventh Seal, or the dramatic caricature of the whole process of image-production in the unexpected Last Supper of Viridiana.
… …what can equally well be argued is that in that sense Hitchcock’s images are never historical. Historicity — the urgent sense of the year, the date, the decade, the cut of the hair or the dress, the model cars, the ideological and current-event preoccupations of a time in a particular place — is never active in Hitchcock, not even in the pretexts of the ‘Balkan’ or Nazi films, much less in the feeble Cold War efforts.
4 A Perfect Place to Die: Theatre in Hicthcock’s Films by Alenka Zupancic
For Hitchcock himself, the birth of a ‘pure film’ is the moment when Griffith’s camera overstepped the barrier of the stage and thus discovered a new subject of the gaze — the film subject. … …The emergence of the specific cinematic view does not coincide simply with the invention of cinema. The decisive break between film and theatre occurred within film itself, when filmmakers ‘changed the paradigm’ by ceasing to think in terms of theatre and beginning to think in terms of film; more precisely, when the camera stopped being a mere mediator, the recorder of a specific theatrical vision, and became an ‘organ’ with which the filmmaker thinks — a creator of its own vision.
… …The structure of the play scene is precisely the structure of what psychoanalysis conceptualized as Vorstellungs-Reprasentanz: we are dealing with the representation of something which is originally missing; with something that can appear only as duplicated and appears already the first time as its own repetition: its only original is this very repetition.
5 Punctum Caecum, or, Of Insight and Blindness by Stojan Pelko
Raymond Bellour derived from this case some far-reaching conclusions about the role of a static photographic image in the dynamic stream of cinematic moving pictures:
By creating distance and another time, the photograph allows me to think in the cinema. It allows me to think the film as well as the very fact of being in the cinema. In short, the presence of the photograph allows me to cathect more freely what I see. It helps me (a little) to close my eyes, though they keep on being open.
… …After all, it is precisely this elusive juncture of pondering eyes and dimmed mind around which Alfred Hitchcock builds his cinematic universe. Because of that, by necessity, he himself appears at a similarly elusive juncture — at the juncture of classic and modern cinema.