Best Video has figured out how to adapt from outmoded technology back into relevance with live music, screenings, readings, lectures, and other heady events, just a short walk from my house. Today was the kickoff of a lecture/film series about Alfred Hitchcock.
Mark Schenker, Dean of Academic Affairs of Yale College, provided fascinating insights into how to “read” a Hitchcock film. We focused on “Notorious,” watching big chunks of the film, basically with the sound very low, analyzing why he used certain camera angles and shot styles. Plus the structure of the scenes.
The next time you watch the film, pay attention to the following themes. Notice how Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are regularly positioned with him on the left and her on the right. When that’s not the case, trouble’s brewing. Are they in the shot together, or does the camera cut back and forth between them, as adversaries? Are they touching and flor how long, or separated?
Also watch their hair. Her hair in their first car scene, which is bookended at the end, is loose, a metaphor for her notorious lifestyle. His hair is plastered down, unmoving, for his overly buttoned-up temperament. He is silent, unable to speak, certainly incapable of expressing emotion, which costs the two of them. Her mode is talking, another symptom of her looseness. The contrast of silence and talking is a theme among the other characters, as well as for the film, which has long stretches of complete silence, alternating with fast dialogue.
And then there’s the drunkenness. Bergman’s character is a lush at the beginning, out of despair. Then, she’s drunk-on-love while sober with Grant, followed by a kind of drunk again when she’s slowly poisoned at the end. Wine bottles make regular appearances, not only furthering the spy plot, but also to comment on the love affair. Fascinating.
So take a fresh look at an old classic. You’ll be amazed at how you can deepen your viewing pleasure.