The Cinematic Narrator

The spectator's view from the perspective of the murderer.

The spectator's view from the perspective of the murderer.

Post 1

            “Staging Hitchcock” explores the evolution of visual culture.  The development of technology and the advancement of filming techniques create greater verisimilitude providing the general public with films that appear shockingly realistic.  Hitchcock, during a career that spanned over five decades, experienced the transition from silent film to talkies to television.  He had the ability to embrace change and adopt new technology, utilizing it to his best possible advantage for the purpose of creating films shrouded in mystery, intrigue and suspense.

            Hitchcock manipulates the audience through the actor’s gaze and through focalization of the camera lens.  He controls the pace and direction of the film’s unraveling by tricking the audience into making false deductions about the film’s characters and deceiving the spectator into reaching false conclusions.  Hitchcock is the master of making things appear as what they are not.

            Seymour Chatman writes extensively on the “multiplexity” of the “cinematic narrator” (Chatman 483).  Although Chatman presents a complex diagram of the components that comprise cinematic narration, Hitchcock masterfully retains power and control over all aspects involved in the production of his films.  Chatman refers to theorist Christian Metz and the “enunciation theory” that include principles based on linguistics and the “telling” of stories through film by the use of language (Chatman 473).  But, Metz realized quickly that the “articulations of film contain their own language and semiotic system (Chatman 473).  Movies like Psycho and The Lodger rely heavily on the visual – images that flash across the screen drawing the spectator into the film and forcing him to interpret the tale as directed by Hitchcock.  This theory is one developed by David Bordwell who uses the concepts of “schemata” and “templates” to explain the unconscious actions undertaken by the viewer who “turn[s] flashes and sounds…into a series of perceptible images [that the viewer] interprets as a story” (Chatman 474).

            Hitchcock uses the camera to produce a voyeuristic effect.  Focalization through the camera lens intensifies the spectator’s visual and emotional experience.  For example, in Psycho’s legendary murder scene, the camera lens presents the audience with a view of Marion (Janet Leigh) from the murderer’s perspective.  The spectator experiences the shock, anxiety and terror that permeate from Marion as she faces her attacker.  Hitchcock tricks the spectator into believing the murderer is Mrs. Bates, Norman’s (Anthony Perkins’s) mentally ill mother.  In comparison, Hitchcock includes a scene in The Lodger where the viewer is confronted by a vision of the lovely Daisy (June) captured in a piercing scream.  Again, Hitchcock manipulates the audience into drawing false conclusions in respect to the object of her dismay.

            Chatman diagrams the complexity of the cinematic narrator.  He includes both “auditory and visual” components explaining the relationship of each aspect as it leads to the next (Chatman 483).  Chatman provides a complicated schematic that would be difficult for most people to understand or utilize but Hitchcock maintains control over all aspects of the film’s narration.  In addition, Hitchcock manipulates the spectator into following the threads of his tale in an order that produces a specific and desired effect.

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