Alfred Hitchcock, UK, 1929, StudioCanal
Hitchcock, in this first film talking about his career, deals with a rape attempt and the man’s murder by his wife. He makes very asserted choices to film this murder without ever showing it directly. This enables him to suggest those extremely aggressive acts without exposing the spectators to the violence show. This visual keeping back choice enables him as well to play with the well know suspense which will become his trademark.
In one scene he uses the main cinema figures which enable to suggest an action instead of showing it:- The sound-over: in the shot from the window of the policeman walking on the pavement, we hear voice-over the woman shouting to her husband “let me go”, leaving us to imagine what is happening behind our back.- Projected shadows: after the street shot, the first fight between the man and the woman is filmed in projected shadows on the studio wall. Then the panoramic moves to what we think are the real bodies but bumps into the curtain behind which the fight carries on.- Maskings : the fight and its conclusion – the aggressors murder by the wife – take place behind the curtain and we are condemned to imagining without knowing what happens behind this moving curtain. This masking of the scene reinforce suspense as we don’t know is going to win over this hand-to-hand fight.- The part for the whole : the hand is the only visible part of the bodies moving behind the curtain. Hitchcock does a tracking in to end up in a close-up on the woman hand grabbing the knife and taking it behind the curtain. Then, after the invisible battle, a hand falls, motionless, at the exact same place where the first hand took the knife.- The effect for the cause: This motionless hand lets us imagine that the person is dead. From the moment it enters the picture, the spectator can think that it belong to the woman, but the misunderstanding doesn’t last long because we quickly identify the man’s suit sleeve.
The sequence also present another game between what is shown and what is hidden, a very different one. The man is casually dressed whereas the woman is dressed in fairly see through underwear, at least for this age and time. This enables Hitchcock to leave the spectator to guess this woman’s curves and it gives a slight “erotic” touch to this murder scene. But the spectator could not be left to think either that the woman undressed to seduce the man. The scenario tip consists in showing, before the aggression, that the man who invited her in his studio – and who is someone she knows – asked her to try on a dress, which she agreed to as part of the game. Hitchcock in his later work, will often associate murder and eroticism.