January 09, 2012

Gurudev Uvaacha #3

Just read a fascinating Hitchcock interview conducted by Peter Bogdanovich. Following are some excerpts. Click here to read the complete interview.

You never watch your film with an audience. Don't you miss hearing them scream?
Hitchcock: No. I can hear them when I'm making the picture.

'Young and Innocent' (1937)

Hitchcock: When you are dealing with melodrama, you mustn't let the characters take themselves where they want to go. They must come where you want to go. So it's really an inverted process... You lay out your story and you put the characters in afterwards. That's why you don't get really good characterizations.

Wasn't 'Rebecca' (1940) the first film in which you experimented with a tracking camera as opposed to the use of montage?

Hitchcock: Only because we were going around a big house. I don't think it was really right, because after all, the eye must look at the character. It must not be conscious of a camera dollying unless... for a particular purpose.

How did you get the idea of the windmill sequence in 'Foreign Correspondent' (1940)??

Hitchcock: When I am given a locale... it's got to be used dramatically. We're in Holland. What have they got in Holland? Windmills? Tulips? If the picture had been in color, I would have worked in the shot I've always wanted to do and never have yet. The murder in a tulip field. Two figures. The assassin... comes up behind the girl. The shadow creeps up on her, she turns, screams. Immediately we pan down to the struggling feet, in the tulip bed. We dolly the camera in to one of the flowers, sounds of the struggle heard in the background. We go right to one petal -- it fills the screen -- and, splash! a drop of red blood comes over the petal. And that would be the end of the murder.

How did that long tracking shot for the famous balcony love scene in 'Notorious' (1946) develop?

Hitchcock: I felt that they should remain in an embrace and that we should join them... The whole idea was based on not breaking the romantic moment... The idea came to me many, many years ago when I was on a train going from Boulogne to Paris... The train goes slowly through a town called Ataples... There's a big, old, red brick factory, and to one end of the factory was this huge, high brick wall. There were two little figures at the bottom of the wall -- very small -- a boy and a girl. The boy was urinating against the wall, but the girl had a hold of his arm and she never let go. She'd look down at what he was doing, and then look around at the scenery, and down again to see how far he'd got on. And that was what gave me the idea. She couldn't let go. Romance must not be interrupted, even by urinating.

What was your main reason for making 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)?

Hitchcock: When your batteries run dry, when you are out creatively, and you have to go on... Take a comparatively successful play that requires no great creative effort on your part and make it. Keep your hand in, that's all... If you have to make a film -- as I was under contract to Warners at the time -- play safe. Go get a play and make an average movie -- photographs of people talking. It's ordinary craftsmanship.

Isn't 'Vertigo' (1958) about the conflict between illusion and reality?

Hitchcock: Oh, yes... The basic situation contained so much analogy to sex. Stewart's efforts to recreate the woman were, cinematically, exactly the same as though he were trying to undress the woman, instead of dressing her. He couldn't get the other woman out of his mind. Now, in the book, they didn't reveal that she was one and the same woman until the end of the story. I shocked Sam Taylor, who worked on it, when I said, "When Stewart comes upon this brunette girl, Sam, this is the time for us to blow the whole truth." He said, "Good God, why?" I told him, if we don't what is the rest of our story until we do reveal the truth... A man wants to make a girl over and then, at the very end, finds out it is the same woman. Maybe he kills her, or whatever. Here we are, back in our old situation: surprise or suspense. And we come to our old analogy of the bomb: you and I sit talking and there's a bomb in the room. We're having a very innocuous conversation about nothing. Boring. Doesn't mean a thing. Suddenly, boom! the bomb goes off and they're shocked -- for fifteen seconds. Now you change it. Play the same scene, insert the bomb, show that the bomb is placed there, establish that it's going to go off at one o'clock -- it's now a quarter of one, ten of one--show a clock on the wall, back to the same scene. Now our conversation becomes very vital, by its sheer nonsense. "Look under the table! You fool!" Now they're working for ten minutes, instead of being surprised for fifteen seconds.

In 'Psycho' (1960), aren't you really directing the audience more than the actors?

Hitchcock: Yes. It's using pure cinema to cause the audience to emote. It was done by visual means designed in every possible way for an audience. That's why the murder in the bathroom is so violent, because as the film proceeds, there is less violence. But that scene was in the minds of the audience so strongly that one didn't have to do much more... Can you imagine how the people in the front office would have cast the picture? They'd say, "Well, she gets killed off in the first reel, let's put anybody in there, and give Janet Leigh the second part with the love interest." Of course, this is idiot thinking. The whole point is to kill off the star, that is what makes it so unexpected. This was the basic reason for making the audience see it from the beginning. If they came in half-way through the picture, they would say, "When's Janet Leigh coming on?" You can't have blurred thinking in suspense.


  1. Dear Satyanshu Sir,
    It's been great to came to be known about Hitchock little bit through this interview. I'm still kidnapped by very bad downloading speed. That's why not being able to get as much as movie at required time. But, somehow, I'll collect Hitchcock's filmography as soon as possible.
    Just watched this particular INTERVIEW the other day, which is based on a cinema lesson by legendary director Krzysztof Kieślowski. It a great one, mind me if you have watched it earlier.

  2. Thank you so much Umesh.
    Kieslowski is my favourite director and 'Three Colours: Blue' the favourite film. So I can't tell you how how glad I was to watch this. Keep sharing such stuff here!!!