Alfred Hitchcock, also known as, “The Master of Suspense”, was a director to a variety of award winning films. Many Hitchcock movies will be noticeably inspired by numerous paintings, including the work of iconic artist Edward Hopper. Hopper, born in New York, was well known for his realist paintings. Comparing the paintings and films, one will see the similarities displayed between the two. Alfred Hitchcock and Edward Hopper are linked by creating an eerie mood through their use of lighting, composition, and viewpoint.
Both Hitchcock and Hopper tend to use dark lighting with shadows as well as isolating a small group of people seen from an ‘outside looking in’ point of view. Edward Hopper is able to capture suspense in his paintings and he does this through his use of lighting. He casts shadows and darkness in particular paintings in order to convey the mood he wishes to achieve. In his most famous painting, “Nighthawks”, Hopper uses shadows as a technique to create a strange feeling for the scene. The only light in the painting appears to be coming from the diner itself.
It casts shadows on the outside which makes the viewer wonder what will happen next. Because it is dark, there is something eerie about why these people are up so late at night. Similar to Hopper, Hitchcock uses mysterious shadows to create this particular mood. This is seen through a still image of his movie “Rear Window”. During this scene, the main character Jeff, who is a wheel chair bound photojournalist, is confronted by Lars Thorwald, a traveling jewelry salesman who Jeff believes murdered someone. Lars shows up in Jeff’s apartment and the lighting cast upon him is dark.
His figure is clearly there but the shadows cover his face completely, which helps to show this mysterious, eerie mood. Unlike Hopper, Hitchcock has an advantage of placing sound into the scene which adds to the atmosphere of uncertainty. If it had been day time or lighter in the room, the scene would not have portrayed the same mood. This excellent use of shadows by both Hopper and Hitchcock create the eeriness they are both well known for. Alfred Hitchcock tended to focus on a small group of main characters in each scene to create suspense. This was seen in his movie “Vertigo”.
The main character, Scottie, is a retired detective and was hired by Gavin Elster to follow his wife, Madeline Elster. As the plot thickens, Madeline supposedly jumps off the roof of the church and kills herself. Scottie meets a new woman, Judy Barton, who has an uncanny resemblance to Madeline. The scene in the still image is when Scottie is realizing that Judy pretended to be Madeline so Gavin could murder his wife and people would just assume she was crazy. As Scottie realizes this, the camera view is focused on just him. By isolating him alone, Hitchcock has enabled the audience to figure the plot out alongside Scottie.
This shocking revelation creates an eerie feeling and gets the intended mood across. Like Hitchcock, Hopper tends to use the technique of isolating his characters. In the painting “Automat”, there is a woman sitting by herself in a diner. Although not given off of the first impression, the painting can give off an eerie mood. For example, her facial expression is blank and she is drowning in the darkness from the back ground. The image presents a dead silence which helps express the intended mood. Hopper had a tendency to paint his paintings as an outsider perspective to build a sense of inscrutability.
In his painting “Nighthawk”, Hopper illustrates four people on the inside of a cafe. The viewer is able to see all of the people in the scene because of the point of view. The man on the far left has his back turned so one cannot interpret his mood; although his head is down which makes the viewer infer he is thinking. The girl and boy sitting next to each other may be a couple, but the viewer can not know for sure. The server may have a drink in his hand or it could be something more suspicious, but because the viewer cannot see his hands they cannot be certain of what the object is.
By being able to see everyone in the painting and being able to analyze each character, the mood conveys eeriness because the viewer has unanswered questions and mystery. Hitchcock also uses an ‘outside looking in’ point of view in the movie “Rear Window”. The plot of the movie is based around the main character watching people through his apartment window. In the still image, Jeff, the main character, watches as his neighbor goes in and out of his apartment and then takes knifes out of his suitcase. If the viewer was in the room with the neighbor, they would be able to tell what was going on.
By being on the outside, it leaves the viewer guessing which then creates a suspenseful, eerie mood. Edward Hopper and Alfred Hitchcock are un-doubtfully similar when it comes to details. Hitchcock may not be a painter, but his work has been influenced by paintings. The comparison between both of Hitchcock and Hopper’s work shows that art has an influence throughout all the different types there are. The two artists create different masterpieces, but the similarities between the two help distinguish the eerie mood.
Courtney from Study Moose
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