A Challenge for All: ‘Lifeboat’ (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)

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After a non-movie related post on The Doors, I’m back to my old habits with good old Hitchcock. Yes, we discussed his films a lot on this blog and this isn’t going to stop! The occasion, today, is Maddy’s Second Annual Hitchcock Blogathon that she’s hosting on her blog Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. And Lifeboat (1944) is the film I chose. It might make Maddy seasick when she’s watching it, but it’s a pretty good one!

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A whole film that takes place in a lifeboat in the middle of the see…. This sounds like a challenge: it has to be interesting and also visually credible. Well, Hitchcock accepted that challenge and did it with brio.

Lifeboat was released during the war and that’s what the movie is about. After a boat is torpedoed by a German U-boat (that also sinks), the surviving passengers find themselves in a lifeboat. A German man from the U-boat is pulled aboard by the American and British passengers. They all have their different opinions on what to do with him as he is the enemy. He claims he was just a member of the crew following orders but, later, they learn he was the captain. The passengers have to deal with a cunning rival as well as with their own surviving.

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Lifeboat presents different characters that all have their word to say. I think that’s one of the first aspects that make this movie so worth-watching. Everyone participates and each actor has the occasion to share his acting skills. This is also the perfect kind of movie to observe how actors can work together as a team.

The first passenger to be seen on the lifeboat is the classy columnist Connie Porter. Actress Tallulah Bankhead is the one portraying her and that, with an impressive tact. In the line of Bette Davis or Marlene Dietrich, she’s one of these actresses who appears very sure of herself on screen. She flashes and is the center of attention, but only for good reasons. It is reported on IMDB that, in his book “The Dark Side of Genius”, Donald Spoto wrote that the actress often received an ovation from the crew. Interestingly, the last time Tallulah Bankhead appeared in a film before making Lifeboat was in 1932 (if we don’t include her cameo in Stage Door Canteen). Fresh as a rose when she’s first seen on the boat, Connie Porter wears her fur coat and her diamond bracelet. She still has her journalist material with her: a typewriter and a camera. Unfortunately, she will lose many of her possessions due to the agitated sea and careless passengers. Her own safety remains more important! Connie is constantly criticized by Kovak, an engine room crewman.

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Kovak is played by John Hodiak who was 29 at the time the film was released and he couldn’t look sexier. Lifeboat was among his first films. His teamwork with Tallulah Bankhead is incredible and the tension (as well as the passion) between the two characters adds a lot to the action of the film. His character, Kovak his the second one to access the boat. He’s a real man’s man who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. But, even if he’s rough and tough, he’s able to be nice when the occasion is presented.

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Not long after, they are joined by radioman Stanley who was played by Canadian-American actor Hume Cronyn. He’s one of my favourite characters in the film. This wasn’t Cronyn’s first collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, as he appeared the year before in Shadow of a Doubt (his first film) as Herbie, Mr. Newton’s friend. His role in Lifeboat is surely very different, which proves an appreciate versatility.

Stanley is in love with Army nurse Alice (Mary Anderson). The actress was seen before in one of the most important films in movie history: Gone With the Wind, in the very small role of Maybelle Merriwether. Of course, Lifeboat is a much better way for us to judge her acting. Alice is sweet but she’s among the ones who lose their temper rapidly. Her acting is nuanced. She and Hume Cronyn have a beautiful chemistry and their two characters are simply lovely together. They definitely form one of my favourite couples in a Hitchcock film. They remind simple and there’s no pretention.

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William Bendix plays the German-American Gus Smith who is in pretty bad shape has his leg was injured. This eventually gives place to one of the most shocking scenes of the film: a leg amputation. We don’t see anything, but we KNOW it’s happening. Oh yes, it’s surely an adventure…

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Henry Hull plays the wealthy industrialist Rittenhouse and is one of the most sympathetic characters of the lot. However, he’s one who ABSOLUTELY wants to respects law and always wants to make sure things are done in a fair way (to the annoyance of some other passengers). Henry Hull interacts with an impressive ease with the rest of the cast and  manages perfectly to make his character likable (despite everything).

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Actor and civil rights activist Canada Lee is the only African American actor in the film. Interestingly, he was the first one to be cast and was allowed to write his own line (I don’t know if that’s something Hitchcock often allowed!). Unfortunately, his character is victim of some stereotypes that were due to the racism of the time (liberal John Steinbeck who wrote the story wasn’t too happy about it and pointed-out Hitchcock’s racism). His character, Joe Spencer, Connie’s steward, his noticeable for his patience and good manners. Luckily, the fact that Canada Lee was able to modify his lines probably allowed him not to fall too much into the stereotypes that were associated with African Americans.

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The third woman of the film was played by British-American actress Heather Angel. She’s Mrs. Higley, a young British woman who’s baby child has died during the sinking. Drove into madness, she breaks our heart and [SPOILER] her death by suicide could have been pretty daring at the time. [END OF SPOILER]. Heather Angel had to play a role that could easily become wrongly too theatrical but she managed to keep it convincing and fittable for a movie. It’s a small part, but probably one of those we’ll remember the best.

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FINALLY, the German U-boat captain was played by Austrian-born actor Walter Slezak. This character is always very calm but an awful manipulator! He certainly can give you chills. He’s a brilliant and subtle villain! As the movie progresses, it’s easier to have an opinion about the captain (because he’s first very ambiguous, until he commits something unforgivable).

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As mentioned before, the story of Lifeboat was written by notorious American author John Steinbeck under the request of Alfred Hitchcock himself. The story was adapted into a script by screenwriter Jo Swerling. Lifeboat is a story that gives a perfect place to development, both of the actions and the characters. We follow their journey in the boat and the various misadventures make us wonder: what will happen next?? That’s how the “Hitchcock suspense” is installed.

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Lifeboat was, of course, not filmed in the middle of the sea. This wasn’t something possible in 1944 (and still today…) but the final result reminds pretty convincing. The scenes were shot in a big water tank and to that, some background footages were added to depict the width of the Atlantic sea. The contrast between the background image and what was filmed isn’t too sharp so the illusion of them really being in the middle of the ocean works. Hitchcock also preferred to focus on the boat itself and not showing too many large shots, which is a good way to create a credible visual. Artificial waves, fog, and wind were created in the tank in order to give even more realism to the scenes. We rarely see the boat completely immobile. Interestingly, Hitchcock actually used four different boats so he could obtain the desired camera angles.

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If most of the action takes place in the lifeboat, there are two scenes that involve more and that leave me speechless:

1- The beginning, where we see the boat sinking in the ocean. Actually, pretty much the whole boat has already sunk, but what we see is one of the chimneys disappearing into the agitated ocean. It’s very chaotic and, then, a dead silence is installed. Note that Hitchcock didn’t use any music in the film (except for the flute played by Joe). For the director, it wouldn’t be realistic to hear music on a lifeboat has we couldn’t determine where it comes from. He was right and, once again, it was a good way to keep things as realistic as possible.

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2- [SPOILER] Toward the end, the lifeboat reaches a German ration boat. The massive boat eventually advances towards them and the contrast between it and the small lifeboat is terrifying. A low angle shot and a very dark cinematography make it appear like a cold monster. As he’s getting closer and closer, the panic is more and more present and a delightful tension keeps us at the edge of our seats! [END OF SPOILER]

The actors often got wet during the shooting and this one wasn’t easy. Cases of pneumonia were reported, Hume Cronyn had two ribs cracked and almost drowned during the filming of a challenging scene. Due to these many incidents, the production had to stop twice so the cast could recover. But, they luckily survived!

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For such a thrilling film, it is surprising that the Lifeboat wasn’t a financial success at the time. It actually lost money. It also provoked certain controversies, but it didn’t prevent critics to recognize the good acting, good story, and good filming. Lifeboat was nominated for three Oscars: Best Director (Alfred Hitchcock), Best Story (John Steinbeck) and Best Cinematography (Glen MacWilliams). It is probably not Hitchcock most well-known films, but it remains among his most worthy.

I’ve already seen A LOT of Alfred Hitchcock films, but, interestingly, that’s one of the last I ever saw. When I watched it for this blogathon, it was actually only my third viewing! (Note to myself: buy the DVD). I’m glad I chose it as a subject as it is a revealing movie, one that has many interesting aspects to discuss and, let’s say the true words: it’s a perfect entertainment!

Let me thank the lovely Maddy for hosting this much-appreciated blogathon! Don’t forget to take a look at the other articles here!

See you (hopefully, not on a lifeboat)!

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Bibliography

“Lifeboat, Trivia.” IMDB, nd. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037017/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv. Consulted on Jul 6, 2018.

“Lifeboat (film).” Wikipedia. 29 Jun 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifeboat_(film). Consulted  on Jul 6 2018.

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Exploring Olivia de Havilland’s Performance in ‘The Snake Pit’ (1948)

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Today, the legendary Olivia de Havilland is turning 102 years old! What a victory! For a third consecutive year, Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting the Annual Olivia de Havilland Blogathon. I’m happy to take part in the celebrations with an article about The Snake Pit, a movie based on the successful novel by Mary Jane Ward. Last year for the blogathon, I presented a top 10 of my most favourite Olivia de Havilland’s films and ranked this one #3 behind Gone With the Wind and The Heiress.

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The following article will mostly focus on Olivia de Havilland’s performance.

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The Snake Pit is a 1948’s psychological drama directed by Anatol Litvak. The cast includes Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celest Holm, Ruth Donnelly, Beulah, Betsy Blair, and more. The story revolves around Virginia Cunningham (Olivia d Havilland), a woman who has been admitted to a mental institute after a nervous breakdown. Not “herself” anymore, she will receive the help of Dr. Kik (Leo Genn) to get better and understand the origin of her mental condition.

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In the late 40s and 50s, more and more Hollywood movies depicting mental health were being made. If Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945) was the first movie about psychoanalysis, it reminded quite “innocent” in comparison to The Snake Pit. Litvak’s film indeed presents more shocking scenes. It might not be a film about psychoanalysis as much as Spellbound is, but the general theme remains the same: trying to understand the psychological state of a person.

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Olivia de Havilland received an Oscar nomination for her troubling portrayal of Virginia Cunningham. This was not the first time she was playing a character suffering from mental illness: The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak) was released two years prior. Movie director Anatol Litvak insisted on the actors (and the crew!) to visit mental institutions and such in order to prepare their roles and certainly give a realism to their delicate portrayals of patients, doctors or relatives. Olivia de Havilland took the task seriously and visited hospitals, assisted to electroshock therapy and to social events organized by the institutions. Her serious researches were successful as it helped her to develop a complex character. Playing such roles is not only about doing mimics to look “crazy”. It’s also about understanding what you are doing in order to do it correctly and not fall into the trap of ridicule.

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Olivia de Havilland’s acting is done in a perfect way to make the spectator understand the evolution of her character. [SPOILER] Virginia does get better but this can’t be shown too “suddenly”. [END OF SPOILER] So, the actress adds a dose of serenity, a dose of confusion or a dose of sadness and solitude depending on the situation her character is facing. She chooses the right one so her acting remains natural and realistic. It’s almost like a recipe! There’s this scene at the beginning of the film where Virginia is introduced to us. She sits on a bench outside and smiles at the view of the singing birds. However, her apparent state of serenity doesn’t last long and a cloud quickly veils her face. Do you sometimes feel this way? You’re happy and suddenly you think about all the wrong things in your life and you are abruptly brought back to reality? The difference with Virginia is that she isn’t brought back to reality but to her “parallel” world created by her mental condition. This scene lasts only a brief moment but is well-done enough to make us feel this state of euphoria vanishing suddenly. Great job Livie!

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The electro-shock scene is quite shocking (!), maybe not as much as the one in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman, 1974) as it is not as explicit but, for a film made in the 40s, it probably wasn’t something people back then were used to see. What is disturbing isn’t only the archaicity of the electroshock themselves but also to see Olivia de Havilland in such a vulnerable position. Of course, it’s only acting and she didn’t really receive electro-shock treatments (!) but, in this scene, we completely forget about the actress and really think of her as a patient. This is the same as we are viewing her crisis scenes; in the flashback when she has her nervous breakdown in presence of her husband (Mark Stevens) or in this scene where she hides in a bathroom and is then trapped in a straitjacket by the nurses. Once again, this movie doesn’t really give a “beautiful” role to the nurses, who always seem to be rude to the patients. Well, they aren’t as bad as Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but they still play the type of people we prefer to avoid. Dr. Kik is, however, a man with a lot of compassion and we’re happy he’s here to establish a balance!

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The Snake Pit probably was a psychologically challenging role (that’s why it was important to be well-prepared), but it also involved a certain physical challenge. Indeed, Olivia de Havilland had to lose weight in order to look like a sick woman. The actors don’t seem to wear any make up either or, if they do, it’s used to make them look sick, not glamorous. Moreover, Anatol Litvak insisted they didn’t show up at the hairdressing department.

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On its release in 1948, The Snake Pit was generally well-received an even created a certain impact on the medicinal world. If psychiatrist Herman F. Weinberg questioned the way the subject was treated in the film, it, however, led the mental institutions in the United States to change their conditions. I think this is a perfect example of how important cinema is, and not only for the Arts but for every aspect of our society.

Is everything 100% realistic in this film? It remains a movie, and I’m not specialist enough on psychiatry to judge that, but I think the movie team did their best to make it as believable as possible. Anyway, if one their desires was to make us experience what Virginia Cunningham was feeling, it worked well. On its side, the “why” aspect of the film, embodied by Dr. Kik, sparks our curiosity and also makes us see things in an objective point of view. I personally have always liked films like taking place in mental institutions or that just include characters with an unstable psychological situation because they are so interesting! The mind is a complex thing and they are various ways to approach it. If cinema can be one of them, well goo. Not everybody is a psychiatrist, but everybody likes to have explanations.

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Of course, in another article, we could explore the more technical aspects of the film, but, today, I preferred to focus uniquely on Olivia de Havilland!

With her portrayal of a complex character, the actress proved us that she had a great strength of character and that’s probably why she is still with us today! At 102, I wonder how she looks back at these days when she was shooting the film and if she is proud of herself. Because she should be!

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Thanks to Crystal and Laura for hosting The Third Annual Olivia de Havilland Blogathon! Once again, the lady is a fascinating subject to write about.

I invite you to check the other entries here.

Happy 102 Livie!

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Sources:

Doll, Susan. ” The Snake Pit.” Turner Classic Movies, nd. http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/276838%7C0/The-Snake-Pit.html. Consulted on Jun 28, 2018.

“The Snake Pit, Trivia.” IMDB, nd. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040806/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv. Consulted on Jun 28, 2018.

“The Snake Pit.” Wikipedia. 13 Jun 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snake_Pit. Consulted  on Jun 28, 2018.

Narrative and Visual Connections in Hitchcock’s ‘Spellbound’

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Friday, I cam back from a one-month trip to England (where I even got the chance to meet the amazing Carol from The Old Hollywood Garden!). While I loved it very much, I must admit I did miss blogging a little. But I’m back! I had a nice surprise as I arrived home: my essay on Spellbound written for the Hitchcock and Orson Welles seminar had been mailed back to me with my grade and comments from the teacher. And well, I was very happy to see that the last essay I ever wrote for my Bachelor degree got an A-! So, because I’m quite happy with this grade, I decided I could allow myself to share this essay on my blog.

This is an analysis of Spellbound, not a review. So, if you haven’t seen the film, I highly encourage you to before reading the following text, otherwise, you might not “get” everything. 😉

Anyway, hope you’ll enjoy!

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      In 1945, the first film about psychoanalysis was released: Spellbound by Alfred Hitchcock. For the occasion, the Master of Suspense did not only dive in a Freudian subject but also signed an iconic collaboration with artist Salvador Dalí who designed the dream sequence of the film. Spellbound is, yes, a very psychological film, but like many Hitchcock’s films, it also gives an important place to the work of the camera and the visual aesthetic. Those two seem to be in justified relation all along the story as if they were dependent on each other. Spellbound is this type of film where the shots, the camera movements, and the cinematography are used to help the spectator understand the course of the story and the psychology of its characters.

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     The following essay will explore how the work of the image depends on the characters. Not only in connection with their movements in space but also with their psychology. Spellbound is a film of discussion, where the dialogues generally dominate the action, except for some crucial scenes such as the climax.

     Apart from the connection between the aesthetic and narrative aspects of the film, Miklós Rozsa’s score composed for Spellbound is another element of considerable importance that will eventually be discussed. The music in Spellbound is justified by certain narrative points, but also seems to depend on the camera work (or vice versa) as if Hitchcock was presenting a cinematic choreography to us. This and what was previously introduced will be analysed in the following essay with significant examples.

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     Spellbound‘s opening scene (after the opening credits) is a good example of how the camera focuses on the characters. First of all, the story is introduced with an establishing shot of Green Manors, the mental institution where Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) works. Without any camera movements, but simply with another shot, the camera then shows us the door of the mansion and this one takes most of the place of the screen from bottom to top. The spectator doesn’t need anymore clue to know what will come next and, indeed, the interiors of Green Manors are presented to the viewers, but, not only the physical space but also the characters of the story, the patients of the hospital who are the heart of its reason to be. Miss Carmichael (Rhonda Fleming), a patient, is the first character to be set in the story. When this one is called to meet Dr. Peterson in her office, she has to cross a long corridor. Here, Hitchcock presents an interesting shot that, once again, will put the emphasis on the characters, in this case, Miss Carmichael. She and Harry (Donald Curtis), one of the men who work at the hospital, are walking down the corridor and the camera shows a medium shot of them. As they are walking toward the camera, they are getting closer and closer to it. Finally, a close-up of Mary Carmichael’s face finally concludes this “long” walk. This allows us to see the type of person she is, a seductress, but the shot to follow, a close up of Mary’s hand scratching Harry’s hand, breaks our initial idea of the character. Indeed, not long after, one discovers that she actually hates men and is a patient in Green Manors so the doctors can understand better the reason for this hate. So, this example shows that, in Spellbound, the shots are sometimes settled in a chain reaction and always in a way to give importance to the characters and their mentality. After all, as we previously learned in class, Hitchcock was a montage director and Spellbound supports this perfectly.

Introducing Green Manors

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The truth about Miss Carmichael

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     The editing in Spellbound reveals to us a lot about the characters’ emotions, and how they connect each other. The camera generally doesn’t go for any extravagance but has for objective to capture every glimpse of the characters’ reactions and movements. So, when two characters’ have a discussion, it generally alternates from one of them to the other with the help of different shots instead of using horizontal camera movements like a pan. This scene where Mary Carmichael has her appointment with Dr. Peterson has some interesting visual connections. There are a lot of shot alternations between the patient and the psychoanalyst. After all, the doctor is here to analyse her patient. Hitchcock sort of makes the spectator participates to the scene because, if one were only seeing shots of Dr. Peterson listening to Mary, and no shots of Mary’s facial expressions while she’s talking about her hate for men, one wouldn’t totally be able to totally feel the patient’s problem. Shots of Dr. Peterson, on their side, help the viewer to understand Mary’s behaviour, which results in her throwing a book at Constance. When the camera moves, it is generally to follow a character. Rare are the scenes where nobody occupies a certain proportion of the space. Hitchcock chose to direct a film about psychoanalysis but, in a way, it’s also a film about mankind.

Miss Charmichael and Dr. Peterson

     The lunch scene where Dr. Anthony Edwardes/JB and Dr. Peterson meet for the first time is quite an interesting one for its visual variety. An establishing shot of the dining room first sites the action in space. Then, the camera moves across the table giving the viewer an idea of which types of characters participate in the scene, all doctors of course. In the next shot, the camera remains static and Edwardes/JB is introduced by entering the room. He moves toward the camera until the shot (always the same one) becomes a medium close-up of Gregory Peck. This is similar to the previously discussed scene of Mary and Harry walking in the corridor. The camera then alternates with a medium close-up of Constance Peterson who has obviously been struck by lightning and fell for the newcomer. At one point during the dinner scene, Peterson explains to her new colleague their project to build a lido at the institution. Peterson discusses how it will look like. The camera makes a close up of her fork engraving the shape of the pool on the white tablecloth. At this moment, Edwards is strangely feeling upset by the fact that she should be “damaging” that piece of fabric. The camera makes sure to seize every character’s (and extra) reactions to Edward’s panic, as none of them really understand the problem. As Constance tries to calm the atmosphere by telling a funny anecdote, the camera stays focused on Edwardes. He’s trying to calm down but is obviously still quite upset by the situation he’s in. Hitchcock’s then uses a close up of his knife trying to “erase” the lines of the tablecloth and ends the scene with a shot of Ingrid Bergman’s suspicious look.

The dining room
Dr. Edwardes meets Dr. Peterson

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Dr. Edwardes’s strange behaviour
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     If one continues to discuss the connection between the visual aspects of the film and the character’s psychology, the cinematography, as well as the use of white light would be a revealing element to look at. Dr. Edwardes is, in fact, a guy with the initials of JB suffering from amnesia and a guilt complex. He has taken the place of the real Edwardes and thinks he has murdered him. Dr. Peterson believes he is innocent and only ill. She will use her role as a doctor to discover what’s the origin of that amnesia and guilt complex. Oddly, JB is scared of white and more particularly of dark lines on a white surface. That explains why he was upset by Peterson engraving lines on the tablecloth during the dinner scene. But let’s come back to the cinematography itself. Interestingly, we look at a traditional horror movie for example; the moments where the characters, as well as the spectator, feel a certain sense of fear and imprisonment are those where the cinematographer uses a very dark lightning. Spellbound isn’t a horror movie but uses the same elements of twisted psychology and discomfort. However, the cinematographer chose a bright lightning in these scenes. This could make us think of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Despite being a horror movie, most of the lighting used in the film is very clear and takes place in a building with a lot of luminosity, except during the labyrinth scene.

The Shining

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     The way the cinematography is used helps understand how the story evolves and the development of Gregory Peck’s character. At one point in the film, the doctors are operating a patient who has tried to kill himself. Peterson and Edwardes, who have been alerted, soon join them. In the operating room, everything is white and strongly luminous, almost blinding, particularly for the spectators. Here, this particular lightning seems, once again, to be associated with a feeling of fear, insecurity, discomfort. This can make us think of some scene of Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962). The bright light seems to suffocate the new doctor (Edwardes), who finally passes out. Once again, with the help of the editing, the camera focuses on the other character’s reaction, especially on doctor Murchison (Leo G. Carroll)’s one, who’s obviously not sure about Edwardes’s honesty.

The very luminous OR

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Lawrence of Arabia

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     A similar situation occurs quite later when Ingrid and Gregory, who have run away, are staying at Dr. Brulov (Michael Chekhov)’ s place. Brulov was Constance’s teacher. She and JB (Edwardes) make him believe they are married and on their honeymoon but couldn’t find a place to stay. When they arrive in the bedroom, Constance insists on JB to sleep in the bed, and her on the couch, as he is the patient and the one who needs more rest. But when he notices the white blanket with a linear relief on it, he refuses to face his phobia and ends up sleeping on the couch. Later, he wakes up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, and goes to the bathroom. For a scene that takes place during the night, it is one of the most radiant of the whole movie. The light he turns on has a crude intensity and glows enough for the eyes to be attracted by it. At this point, the image is not totally of a bright white as Gregory Peck’s shadow adds some contrast to the image, but it will progressively be more and more clear. When JB takes the shaving cream and starts mixing in with the shaving brush, it forms his nightmarish image of lines on a white surface. This close up is seen from his objective point of view. He throws it away with a terrified look. Hitchcock then chose to focus on all the elements from the bathroom’s furniture with a fast and dynamic editing where each shot focuses on one of these goods: the chair, the sink, the bath, etc. Of course, these are all seen from Gregory Peck’s point of view and their immaculate whiteness occupies an important part of the shots. These static images alternate with reaction shots of Gregory Peck’s character, who doesn’t feel safe in a place when white dominates black and light accentuates this whiteness. When he gets out of the bathroom, a subjective shot of Ingrid Bergman in her bed is filmed. The camera moves from the white blanket to her sleeping face. Here again, although it looks like an angelic image for the watchers, it’s a nightmarish one for JB because of its whiteness and the focus on the “scary blanket”. The ray of light on Ingrid’s face obviously comes from the bathroom. However, shots of the window in the background reveal an outside light that, however, seems too bright to only come from a street light. This scene was more likely shot during the day.

The nightmarish bed and bathroom

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     Finally, in the introduction, the importance of the music in connection with the action and the characters’ psychology was mentioned. The music, composed by Miklós Rozsa, indeed participates a lot in Hitchcock’s film and, in connection with the image, creates a sort of cinematic choreography. The bewitching soundtrack fits the atmosphere perfectly and is not only here for the sake of putting music in a film. If one looks at the previously mentioned scene, aside from the use of a bright lightning, Rozsa used this score to increase the feeling of danger Gregory Peck is living in this fluorescent bathroom. The music is first tense but stays on a constant note until the viewers see that shot of JB’s shaving brush mixing the shaving cream. From this moment, it intensifies and is punctuated with musical accents as the camera focuses on these various white objects in the bathroom. When JB goes out of the bathroom, stand next to Ingrid’s bed and goes downstairs, the music follows his movement perfectly, which helps the spectator focus on him and shows that choreographic intention mentioned before. It is interesting how Miklos Rósza used a Theremin to express the mesmerizing atmosphere of the film, as well as its surrealistic and very psychological side. One could also mention the importance of the music in the climax scene, which, once again becomes tenser as Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck are going down the hill on their skis. As the stringed instruments play with more and more intensity, we are led to both to the key scene revealing us the reason for JB’s guilt complex and amnesia and to a musical climax.

The climax

     Spellbound is a complex film, so there obviously would be much more to discuss. As a matter of fact, each scene in the film contains elements deserving deep analysis. But what was previously written gives a good preview of the film’s visual essence and how it connects with the characters’ mentality, more precisely Edwardes/JB’s. Readers will notice that the famous dream sequence was not discussed. It could have been in a longer text, but if there’s something that has already been discussed often by various movie analysts, it’s this particular sequence. Spellbound also isn’t only about this scene and isn’t only defined by it. There’s much more to be talked about.

***

Filmography

Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945)

Other work mentionned

Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

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Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman and Salvador Dalí on the set of Spellbound