Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Top Films: Me and My...Shadow?

Shadow of a Doubt belongs to the short list of those Hitchcock films that are considered by some to be his best. It is the answer to what a Capra movie would look like if Hitchcock directed it. In its crisp black and white cinematography the shadows stand out in every scene. Some even hold symbolic significance, such as when our first glimpse of Uncle Charlie is covered over as the landlady closes the shade, or when his train arrives in Santa Rosa and the shadow of the train combined with its smoke darken the whole screen.

A lot has been made of the doubling images and themes in the film as well: two characters named Charlie, two pairs of detectives, etc. The theme of the story however, lies in the loss of faith of the main character. Charlie Newton begins the film depressed and annoyed with the funk her family’s life has become stuck in. She begins to attach her hope for “salvation” on her Uncle Charlie, whose life she has idolized. Her belief is built up completely on reading into circumstances and coincidences, and seeing things that are not really there. She believes because she wants too. This aspect of the movie is highlighted in its many references to superstition.

As the movie progresses, Charlie begins to suspect the reality that her Uncle is not a savior, but a devil, and she is forced to act upon her new belief. Making matters worse, she is the only one to see the truth, and Uncle Charlie discovers that she knows his secret and attempts to kill her on more than one occasion. Fighting for her life, her family, and even her small town dreary existence, she bravely forces her Uncle to leave town. In the end, he tries to kill her one last time…

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