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Art forms are not devoid of their creator’s self expression, yet the situation becomes problematic when put within the film context. Writers can have their full claim of their literary pieces. Painters, on the other hand, assume full responsibility to their greatest opuses. And musicians often brag their famous compositions. Unfortunately, this is not the case of film. For several years, the debate regarding the “true authorship” of films has been rampant within the movie industry (Adler, 2004, p. 28). On a closer look, it can be noticed that films are not formed by a single individual.
There is the screenwriter, actors and actresses, cinematographer, director etc. (Adler, 2004, p. 28). It is evident that films emanate from a solid and well-rounded collective effort. Each member of the team has his or her own say of the story. This situation has made the issue more difficult, most especially in cases in which attribution becomes the centre of attraction. The question of film authorship is yet one of the most critical and significant aspects of film analysis and discourse.
Conflicting views are trapped in a continuous clash of ideologies, opinions and beliefs.
At a glance, this matter cannot be enclosed with “proper recognition” per se. Authorship also determines the cinema’s creative and artistic integrity. Collective effort is evident in every aspect of society. However, it is also apparent that innovations would not materialize if not for the existence of a highly dependable and efficient leader. Behind every success, there is a persona that serves as catalyst of change.
This entity acts as the premium source of energy, creativity and productivity. On a much critical perspective, the concept of effective leadership is also manifested within the film arena.
It seems that this principle has its similarities when put within the context of this so-called auteur theory. But one may ask, what exactly is auteur theory? How can it be applied in film analysis? The humble beginnings of auteur theory began within the influential pages of the French Journal Cahiers du Cinema (Giannetti 1990, p. 377). Such publication has readily contributed towards the spawn of new ideas and critics in both French and American Cinema (Smith 2001). The dawn of the mid- 50s (Giannetti 1990, p. 377) gave birth to the so-called “author principle,” when Caheirs published the article “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema” by Francois Truffaut (Eby 1999). Needless to say, this has been the guiding light of Truffaut’s La Politique des Auteurs (Giannetti 1990, p. 377). The critically acclaimed director Truffaut became the main proponent of the said theory and influenced other film aficionados and directors such as Godard etc (Giannetti 19990, p. 377). The main argument of auteur theory states that much of the creative output, technique and style are determined by the director (Giannetti 1990, p. 377). As a leader, much of the film’s success heavily depends on the director’s choice and decision. Although other film staffs will have their own shares, the overall impact of the movie will still rely on the director’s taste. In addition to that, auteurism also welcomes the idea that film formulation is readily flavoured with the director’s personal themes (Giannetti 1990, p. 378). As previously mentioned, while it is true that film creation is more of a collective, rather than an individualistic endeavour, auteur theory tends to belittle such principle.
It continues to argue that superiority does not emanate from the film’s subject per se. Instead, it is more on how the subject is “treated” within the whole course of the story (Giannetti 1990, p. 378). Films may possess outstanding screenplays, magnificent cinematography and awesome musical scores. However, the manners in which these aspects are put together are still determined by the director. As Giannetti (1990) explained “movies ought to be judged o the basis of how not what (p. 378). ” Thus, if the latter’s “stylistic treatment” (Giannetti, 1990, p. 378) is inferior or closed to being mediocre, the whole film crumbles and falls apart. The pragmatic application of this school of thought has found a special space within the heart of small British filmmakers (Phillips 1999, p. 12). In here, the resource limitations of small filmmakers were perceived as boon rather than bane. Implicitly, this situation has led them to take total control or mastery of their film content (Phillips 1999, p. 12) due to the lack of interest conflicts and market driven pressure. This is in stark contrast to Hollywood filmmakers who are often encapsulated with the impediments of producers (Giannetti 1990, p. 379). However, this does not necessarily mean that American film directors are not worthy of honour and praise. As a matter of fact, many of the auteur theorists have acknowledged the artistic styles of Hollywood directors who have managed to assert their own approach through manipulating certain aspects of the film (Giannetti 1990, p. 378). And one of the most renowned auteur directors of American Cinema is Alfred Hitchcock. Alfred “Auteur” Hitchcock Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most prolific mystery/suspense/thriller directors of all time. The well-respected filmmaker has readily mastered this craft.
So much so, that such film genre would never be discussed without mentioning his name (Derry 1988, p. 8). Hitchcock is suspense and suspense is Hitchcock. One of the implications of the auteur in Hitchcock is his ability to take hold of the audience’s attention. He is very much equipped in retaining the interest and excitement of the film. For example, in the film Under Capricorn, Hitchcock seems to bring in the audience into the whole narrative. In Under Capricorn, one cannot help but wonder on the strange and eccentric actuations of the main character Henrietta. A beautiful woman married to a rich and fine man, Flusky.
Despite of the abundance and wealth that she experiences, seems to be lost. But then again, although, her oddity is well presented in the film, much of the suspicions were diverted to her husband Flusky. The movie seems to portray that Henrietta was yet another helpless victim. In the film, it was shown that Flusky was rather known as an aloof foreigner who was able to earn his fortune in a new land. He can be best described as someone who does not know how to trust anyone.. Moreover, one of the early scenes in the story showed a man holding a decapitated head, tried to persuade Flusky to engage into such illegal trade.
When Flusky declined, the other man called him a “murderer. ” As an audience, the impact was hard to ignore. Somehow, it made the viewers inquisitive. It made the audience curious on Flusky’s real personality and about the things that he does when he is at his house. The “horror” effect on Flusky was even highlighted when Charles arrived in the dinner invitation. His mansion seems to be located in a far flung area. The lighting was very dim. The house was also accompanied by a big tree which evokes creepy feelings and disturbed emotions.
The shot in the said scene is balanced. It was neither too near nor too far. In that moment, Hitchcock seems to convey that the house is a bit haunted and this is where most of the story will happen. Speaking of the setting, one of the most incredible aspects of Hitchcock as a director is that his settings tell a story as well It does not remain as a mere segment of the whole film. It is not just a mere location. The setting itself has a narrative to share—the setting becomes dynamic. Such setting dynamism was also manifested in the dining room.
The said place did not merely functioned as a place to eat where one can comfortably discuss things. Instead, the dining room served as an introduction point to Henrietta first’s appearance—a grand entrance for that matter. While this is common in many films, this is a bit special as for Hitchcock’s case. Why? It is because he was able to sustain the suspense effect. This action per se, deviates from the traditional form of grand entrances that were meant for character introduction. More often than not, other films would simply make use of a good setting that would compliment the presentation of a popular star.
Its (setting) function and contribution to the story is therefore downplayed. However, in Under Capricorn, Hitchcock ascertained that the thrill factor is still present. In that scene, while Flusky, Charles and the rest of the visitors were having a conversation. Suddenly, Flusky’s butler came to a halt. The camera then moves slowly. Then, still in slow motion, the camera went downwards, showing Henrietta’s feet. It slowly moved upward until the female protagonist is fully shown. This action visualizes Henrietta in full totality. Hitchcock could have introduced Henrietta in a still shot.
But he opted to let his camera move and zoom to add more drama in it. This clearly exemplifies how such director has perfected this so-called mise-en-scene. He is proficient enough to manipulate his frames and shots to convey certain symbolisms. For example, when Flusky is suspicious about the absence of his visitors’ wives and the seemingly illicit relationship that occurs between Henrietta and Charles, a close up of Flusky always comes into place. Thus, the expression of doubt is further emphasized. This is also true when Henrietta made a confession about her brother’s death.
In as far as mise-en-scene is concerned; another solid manifestation of such skill was shown during the end part. This the time when Flusky discovered that it was Milly (one of Flusky’s maids) who has been causing all of Henrietta’s misery. While Henrietta was sleeping, a dim light was focused on her face. She opened her eyes and slowly the camera presents a frightening skull. The way in which Henrietta’s face is lighted, already signals that an unfortunate event will come into place. This was even emphasized when the skull was shown. And the suspense becomes more intense when Milly comes into the picture.
Meanwhile, in his 1958 film Vertigo (Gottlieb & Brookhouse 2002, p. 150), Hitchcock was on his peak form and nowhere to go but up. As the title suggests, the acrophobia somehow manages to attribute the fear to Hitchcock’s career. Hitchcock successfully established himself as the master of mysteries and suspense by dominating the genre, add to it a glorious career on television by his ‘Hitchcock Presents’ (Walker 2005, p. 401). . Vertigo is a testament to the man’s achievements through the years, and that no other thing greater than love can suffice the auteur’s goal of staying at the top.
The film opens with an eccentric collaboration of camera close-ups and sound effects that blended well with the sequence, telling the audience that Hitchcock owns this one. As the film starts, a heart pounding chase sequence on the roof by the protagonist, Detective John Fergusson (James Stewart) and a man was shown. Though Hitchcock may not be a director of endless interpretations, John Fergusson can be attributed to Hitchcock himself as a man afraid of falling down, and searches for a greater thing nobody has given him yet.
Due to this fear, Fergusson quits the police force and one day meets his acquaintance to accept an offer he thought would just bore him but resulted in his severe obsession. Hitchcock once again inputted his fetish with the individual’s string for sanity. As Fergusson continues to follow his subject Madeleine (Kim Novak), he becomes obsessed with her. Hitchcock might have not noticed but Novak as much as she tried to preserve her icy blonde image, worked into the film’s advantage. The tandem looked more exquisite, giving justice to the burning fire of John’s obsession.
Vertigo is mostly a follow through film. Cars play a major role on this film, as Fergusson always follows Madeleine wherever she goes. And just by this it already tells a lot. Vertigo is a suspense film, it is also a love story, and sadly, a tragic one. Hitchcock successfully blended the three factors in creating one great movie. Camera work is the key factor in this film because as much as the protagonist needs to show the audience of his vertigo, the audience as well feels it. Robert Burks used wide-angle zooms every time John feels the vertigo.
Vertigo boasts the transitioning of Hitchcock from Black and White to Colored. The use of the colors green and red is a perfect pitch for Hitchcock’s burning love for his craft. On the other hand, it can be also argued that Hitchcock has also exploited the realms of story twists. In Under Capricorn for example, the twist is not merely attributed to Milly. During the final part, Hitchcock revealed that the latter was deeply in love with Flusky. But it was rather premeditated. The real turn around is when Henrietta admitted that she was the real murderer.
That she was the one who killed her brother and Flusky simply took the blame. Her guilt combined with Flusky’s jealousy and Milly’s obsessions were perfectly intertwined. His movie, The Birds also presents a twist. But that is rather too unconventional and way ahead of his time. Using birds as horrifying creatures is unlikely. Here Hitchcock deviates from the canonical plots of uncovering the true serial killers. Conclusion Truly, the techniques and methodologies used by Hitchcock is indeed, avant-garde in nature.
He is a master storyteller who knows how to maximize space and exploit the endless realms of possibilities. Hitchcock is a man of details. Aside from the witty dialogues of his films, he also gives the audience a dose of their medicine by getting involved in the film. Hitchcock would not want the audience to just sit and relax but exercise their minds in thinking, by presenting them the evidences, one at a time, by his camera zooms. A true auteur in his own, who has mastered his craft and elevated film’s artistic dimensions. “Put your head high up Hitchcock! You’re not beaten yet! ”
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