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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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Suspense

Although it was during his Hollywood phase that Hitchcock earned the name 'Master of Suspense', he began experimenting with different ways of generating cinematic tension from quite early in his career

We have already looked at one example from Hitchcock's third film, The Lodger, in which the mysterious lodger paces his room, while the anxious family listen below. In this scene, Hitchcock develops the idea that there is something strange about this young man (we have already seen him turn all the portraits in his room to face the wall). Is he really the murderous Avenger who the police are seeking?

Slightly later in the film, the lodger takes a night time stroll, overheard by his landlady, who takes the opportunity to explore his room. While the lodger is out, another murder takes place. The scene generates suspense in two ways - it frustrates our desire to learn the identity of the murderer, and it causes us to worry that the old woman may be discovered.

In his discussions with the French film director Fran├žois Truffaut, Hitchcock cited a scene from Sabotage (1936). A young boy, Stevie, is delivering a package on behalf of his stepfather. Unknown to him, the package contains a bomb, set to detonate at a particular time. As Stevie finds himself increasingly delayed, our anxiety grows that he will be unable to deliver it in time. We are tense because we know something that the character doesn't - what's in the package, and when it is due to detonate. In case we should forget, Hitchcock reminds us by interposing a series of shots of clocks and of the package's contents. A recurring ticking sound is heard on the soundtrack.

Hitchcock argued that the scene was unsuccessful, because of the way the scene ends. Whether or not we agree, until that point it is highly effective.

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