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Hitchcock's Style by Mark Duguid
Introduction Visual Storytelling Example: The Lodger Example: Blackmail 1 Example: Blackmail 2 The MacGuffin
The Look Women Suspense      
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Example: The Lodger
Still from The Lodger (1926)

The Lodger (1926)

"When we tell a story in cinema, we should resort to dialogue only when it's impossible to do otherwise. I always try first to tell a story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between" - Alfred Hitchcock

The limitations of silent cinema meant that directors were forced to be imaginative in using images to convey dialogue and effects. The use of 'intertitles' allowed some dialogue and exposition (setting the scene), but it was generally felt that too many intertitles interfered with the action. After the release of the German director F.W. Murnau's Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh, Germany, 1924), which used no intertitles at all, many felt that a 'pure' cinema should be able to do away with dialogue altogether, and convey everything with images alone.

Hitchcock's The Lodger (1926) concerned a Jack the Ripper-style murderer at loose in a fog-bound London. The arrival of a mysterious guest raises suspicions among the residents of a lodging house. In one scene, Hitchcock wanted to show the effect the lodger's pacing up and down in his room has on the other residents of the house in the room below. In a sound film, we could simply hear the lodger's footsteps while seeing the reactions of the other residents.

Hitchcock had a glass floor made up and shot the lodger (Ivor Novello) pacing backwards and forwards from below. By superimposing this shot over one of the ceiling - with the swaying chandelier further emphasising the force of the lodger's steps - and intercutting between this image and the reaction of the family below, Hitchcock creates an effect more interesting and more powerful than he could have achieved using sound.

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