Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Top Ten Films: Part Seven

Hitchcock made several films that should place in the top ten, but here we will merely cheat and place three in the seventh slot: Rear Window, North By Northwest, and Psycho.

"Rear Window" is a near perfect piece of filmmaking. The story is largely told without the aid of dialogue. Instead, the viewer comes to understand what is occurring as the main character does, through observation. We identify so closely with Jefferies, that when the killer finally looks straight at us, we are not scared for Jefferies’ safety, but for our own. This is a story of the commonplace nature of evil, in fact it is right next door.
In Hitchcock’s world, people are usually forced to fight evil or face death. This is shown best in "North by Northwest," the ultimate “wrong man” picture. What is the evil Thornhill must face? Who cares? The point is he will die if he does not outsmart it.
Evil is real and it is often irrational. Usually people die when they face it unaware or unprepared. In "Psycho," Hitchcock shocked audiences killing of the main star halfway into the film. He even killed off the “good guy,” Detective Arbogast. When the evil is finally revealed it is anything but commonplace. Yet Hitchcock tacked on a final scene, not to rationalize the evil, but to show that there was a natural explanation.

Evil may be irrational, but it is the norm in this world we live in. It can live right next door, or for that matter even in us. (For this see Vertigo another great Hitchcock film.) Hitchcock’s films are fear inducing, not in a shock filled, mindless, roller coaster ride sort of way, but rather in the thought provoking reality of evil they portray.

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