November 25, 2008
The Master of Suspense?....Not really.
First things first. Let me just confess this. I haven't seen 'The Lady Vanishes', 'Spellbound', 'Notorious', 'Strangers on a Train', 'Dial M for Murder' or 'The Birds' yet. And I haven't seen 'North by Northwest' either. OK. So you feel pity for me? Just let me put it this way. I am so excited to realize what life has in store for me. There are so many wonderful stories by this master storyteller that are soon going to be a part of my existence. Life is indeed more fascinating than we realize.
In an opinion poll somewhere, I had seen him voted as the greatest filmmaker in the history of cinema. I had just seen 'Sabotage' then, and that too in a poor quality DVD. I wasn't very impressed by the poll. But then life has its own screenplay.
'Rope' defined for me what suspense is. It is not thrill, that stays for a moment. It is not horror. It is something very quiet, very gradual. It takes time. It is like the build up in horror, or perhaps the resolution after a moment of thrill. It doesn't shake you by attacking your senses. It targets your psyche, your conscious and subconscious mind. It grows inside you, even disturbs you immensely, but it does not let you realize how much you are getting affected.
Suspense does not depend on an action. And unlike horror, which is mainly an experience associated with a supernatural and unknown force, suspense is very much a basic human emotion. It is what we feel just before an exam or while watching a cricket match. Or may be when you have proposed a girl and are waiting for her reply. Suspense is an element that can accompany any human emotion. It is innocent in 'Rebecca', daring in 'Rope', passionate in 'Vertigo', guilty in 'Psycho' or plain curious in 'Rear Window'.
This man used the suspense genre to explore various aspects of human life. No. I daresay, he invented this genre of motion picture, he defined it and set a standard for others to try and achieve. And they are right who consider him the master of suspense. But he was beyond that. He was philosophical (his intentions and notions are debatable and we need not go into that, for example his view of women) in his own way. He was definitely a master of his art and technique (Oh, I remember my excitement on understanding the simple yet magical mechanism of the famous 'Vertigo' shot). And above all, he was master of storytelling, which I feel cinema is all about. Whether he was the best is irrelevant.