An Alaysis of the Final Scenes of Alfred Hictcock'
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An Alaysis of the Final Scenes of Alfred Hictcock\'s NOTORIOUS
After viewing Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious for the first time, the
film did not strike me as particularly complex. Nothing specific about the
film lodged itself in my brain screaming for an answer—or, at least, an
attempted answer. Yet, upon subsequent viewings, subtle things became
more noticeable. (Perhaps Hitchcock’s subtlety is what makes him so
enormously popular!) Hitchcock uses motifs and objects, shot styles and
shifting points of view, and light and dark to help explain the relationships
between Alicia, Devlin, Sebastian and Mrs. Sebastian, and an overall
theme of being trapped. An analysis of the film from the first poisoning
scene to the final scene in the film shows how the above tools lead to a
better understanding of the character’s motivations.
The most obvious recurring object in the final scenes is the
poisoned coffee cup. In the first scene of the portion being analyzed,
Sebastian suggests to Alicia that she drink her coffee, and Hitchcock
zooms onto the object as she slowly takes a sip. In a later scene, Mrs.
Sebastian pours the coffee into the cup for Alicia, and sets it on a small
table in front of her. Here, Hitchcock not only zooms in on the small
teacup, but heightens the sound it makes connecting to the table, includes
it in every shot possible, and shows us not only the full coffee cup, but the
empty cup as well after Alicia has drank it. Again, the cup is zoomed in
on after Alicia realizes she’s being poisoned. Because the coffee is
poisoned, the coffee itself becomes a metaphor for life and death,
supported by the fact that the poisoner herself ours it, and the shots of the
full and empty teacup. In this way, it also suggests Alicia’s inability to
escape her situation—whenever she drinks the coffee, she becomes
trapped due to the poison in her cup—and the poison in her sham of a
A repeated object not so noticeable is Mrs. Sebastian’s needlework.
Mrs. Sebastian is constantly working on her needlepoint while Alicia is
being poisoned. Hitchcock, in fact, goes out of his way to make sure that
a shot of her ‘toiling at her work’ is included several times. One cannot
help but be reminded of Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities—with
Madame Defarge knitting everyone’s fate into her work. At the beginning
of the film, Devlin hands Alicia a handkerchief, and a scarf, which she
keeps, but returns to him in this segment. These pieces of cloth
throughout the film help tie Alicia to the different characters, and in
essence, help control her fate in different situations.
Hitchcock’s use of shot type is another hint into his character’s
personalities. Hitchcock is very fond of medium and close-up shots, and
rarely uses a longer shot in the film. This may suggest to the audience to
keep a closer eye on the character’s facial expressions, as Hitchcock lets
the actors express their thoughts and feelings in this manner. An excellent
example of this would be when Alicia realizes that she is being
poisoned—Hitchcock zooms in on her wide-eyed expression as she first
looks at the teacup, then at Mrs. Sebastian and her husband. Mrs.
Sebastian’s cold hearted stare back at Alicia tells us exactly just how
much hatred she has for her.
Hitchcock also uses devices in his scenes such as fades from shot to
shot. By doing this, Hitchcock illustrates his character’s different
viewpoints. The fades themselves are used to connect Alicia’s two
different worlds—her ‘fake’ world (her marriage to Sebastian), and her
‘real’ world (her relationship with Devlin). For example, when Alicia is
unable to make contact with Devlin due to her illness, there are several
shots of her in her sick bed, then fading to Devlin waiting impatiently at a
bench. The fading between shots usually comes at a point when Alicia is
feeling trapped, and this suggests that the fades represent her desire to
escape back to her ‘real’ world.
Since, obviously, it is difficult to use colour as a nuance in a black
and white film, Hitchcock makes use of light and dark images. When
Alicia and Sebastian are alone together, it is usually in darkness.—
implying safety in hiding, and also implying a
Topics Related to An Alaysis of the Final Scenes of Alfred Hictcock'
English-language films, Film noir, Films, Notorious, Suspense films, Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho, Saint Sebastian