Notes on the Auteur Theory
Notes on the Auteur Theory
The auteur theory consists of a director’s own personality or attitude in each film that they create. Each film has his or her own style and they use their own personal technique in each film differently. In the article entitled “Notes on the Auteur Theory,” written by Andrew Sarris, he states that there are three different premises of the auteur theory. The first premise is “the technical competence of a director as a criterion of value. ” A director can be either good or bad, it all depends on the types of films they create.
The second premise of the auteur theory is the “distinguishable personality of the director as a criterion value. ” In every film a director correlates his or her own personality into the premise of the film in some way. This creates a relationship between how the film looks and moves to how the director thinks and feels. The third and final premise of the auteur theory according to Sarris is “concerned with interior meaning, the ultimate glory of the cinema as an art. ” This premise projects the director’s attitude towards life during their films or their vision on the world.
Over the years, many directors have met the criteria of an auteur director, but none have fit the characteristics of suspense and mystery like Alfred Hitchcock has. Alfred Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone, London England on August 13th, 1899.
He had two older siblings, William and Eileen and the three of them grew up in a strict catholic family with their parents named William Hitchcock and Emma Jane Whelan. Hitchcock did not join the film industry until the 1920s, and prior to that he attended St. Ignatius College and a school for engineering and navigation. In the beginning of his film work, Hitchcock began drawing sets because of his skills in art and eventually got into filmmaking. Some of Hitchcock’ include, The Pleasure Garden, Jamaica Inn, Frenzy, The Lady Vanishes, Psycho, The Rear Window, The Lodger, Vertigo, and Dial M for Murder. In 1942, after Hitchcock directed a film called, Saboteur, film companies began referring to his film after himself; such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy.
Hitchcock was awarded the Life Achievement Award on March 7th, 1979 and by this time he was becoming very ill. Unfortunately, Alfred Hitchcock passed away on April 29th, 1980 from a renal failure. Hitchcock may be gone, but his films are never forgotten and to this day Hitchcock will be remembered as the most famous suspenseful and mysterious filmmakers. (IMDB, N. P) Alfred Hitchcock, said, “There is no terror in the bang, only the anticipation of it”. This statement falls true in almost all of Hitchcock’s films.
An auteur director “illuminates the style of a single artist through a consideration of formal elements,” and one of Hitchcock’s elements that he incorporates in his films is the use of suspenseful tone during certain scenes. (Bywater, 52) In the film, Dial M for Murder, Alfred applies ominous tones to make the audience on the edge of their seats. During the scene when Margot is about to be murdered, the music starts off slow and begins to increase in volume right before the murderer strangles her, forcing the audience to wonder what will occur next.
The same type of suspense is used during the film, Vertigo. There is a scene when John is attempting to makeover Judy to fit the aspects of a former lover, Madeline. While he is awaiting her arrival from the bathroom, the tone of the score begins to rise. As John is anticipating Judy’s appearance, the music starts to grow and right before she opens the door of the bathroom, the volume is at its loudest, making the suspense for her arrival at its peak for the audience. Another scene from Vertigo is when John follows Madeline to see her jump off of the bridge into the San Francisco bay.
Prior to her jump, the music is light and calming, making the audience wonder why John and Madeline are there. The moment Madeline dives into the bay, the tone immediately heightens and the audience feels a sense of terror not knowing what happened to her. Hitchcock incorporates this style of score into one of his most famous films, Psycho. In an article its states that “Psycho is the mother of all modern suspense films,” and the audience witnesses this in one of the most famous scenes from the film, the death of the main actress, Marian, during a shower (“The Greatest Films”).
As Marian steps in and begins to take a shower, there is no music playing. While the scene progresses and the shadow of the mother begins to appear, as does the screeching music. This high-pitched tone terrifies the audience as the mother quickly kills Marion. Hitchcock combines the use of score and the use of a drawn out dialogue scenes to create a sense of anxiety between the characters. By using long dialogue scenes, Hitchcock is able to create anticipation from scene to scene, allowing the audience to wonder what will come after.
In Dial M for Murder, there is a scene between Tony and Swan discussing how the two will kill Tony’s wife, Margot. The two deeply discuss what will happen during the murder and as the scene progresses the audience becomes worried whether or not the plan will succeed. Hitchcock used the same technique in the film Vertigo during a scene between John and Meredith. The scene consists of the two in the woods while Meredith begins to go into an odd mental breakdown. The audience learns that there is something deeply wrong with Meredith and that John is trying to help her.
This scene shows the progression of Meredith’s condition, causing the audience to think about what is left to come. The same technique appears in the film Psycho during an intense conversation between Norman and Marion. This is the first night that Marion stays in the home with Norman and his mother. Norman begins a conversation with her, but instead of coming off friendly, Norman starts to become much more creepy. As the scene advances, Marion begins to become scared of Norman and starts to feel unsafe in his presence.
This scene gives the audience a feel of uncertainty with Norman and begins to see that there is something wrong with the man. With the use of long dialogue scenes, Hitchcock was able to convey certain emotions within the scenes to the audience. Alfred Hitchcock will go down in filmmaking history as an auteur director because of his use of both suspenseful score and long mysterious dialogue scenes. Throughout every one of his films, the audience is able to feel scared without the use of cheesy tactics, but from intelligent techniques that incorporate Hitchcock’s personality and the use of his own spin on every film he creates.
Subject: Alfred Hitchcock,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 10 January 2017
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