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With over 50 feature films in his 60 years career, Alfred Hitchcock belongs in the pantheon of Cinema History. He is “The Master of Suspense” and his contribution to the art of filmmaking is undisputed.

Starting with silent films, Hitchcock evolved in filmmaking throughout his lifetime. The silent films helped him to understand how audiences responded to visual narratives. Gradually, he started to employ various techniques and aesthetic styles, influenced by the German Expressionism and the Soviet Theory of Montage. Eventually, he perfected his way into manipulating the cinematic medium and the viewers simultaneously.

As he once explained:

“We have rectangular screen in a movie house, and this rectangular screen has got to be filled with a succession of images. That’s where the ideas come from. One picture comes up after another. The public aren’t aware of what we call montage, or in other words the cutting of one image to another. They go by so rapidly, so that they absorb the content that they look at on the screen.”

When we talk about Hitchcock, the term ‘MacGuffin’ comes to mind. The legendary director, popularized it. He used this narrative device to create a distinction between the objectives of his characters and the concerns of his audience, who did not care about the “MacGuffin”. Later on, other famous directors used ‘MacGuffin’ in different ways. For example, George Lucas said that the droid R2-D2 was the “MacGuffin” of the first Star Wars film. And the audience definitely established a connection with it.

Alfred Hitchcock also revolutionized the use of the camera and the cinematic language in general. His innovations were so brilliant. The famous shower scene in ‘Psycho’ had 90 takes for 45 seconds. The beautiful illusion of ‘Rope’ feels like it was a shot in one single take. The later generations of filmmakers used his techniques. For example, one of his popular technique was the “Zoom Dolly“. He used it in Vertigo, where the camera zooms in and dollies out simultaneously. Stephen Spielberg also used this technique in his movies “Jaws” and “E.T”.

In a conversation with Bryan Forbes, Hitchcock revealed that he refrained from using descriptive words while constructing the screenplay.

There are no descriptions of any kind — no ‘he wondered’, because you can’t photograph the phrase‘he wondered.’

To understand how important is Hitchcock, it would be enough to mention that his work influenced the likes of Jean Luc Goddard and Francois Truffaut, leading figures of the French New Wave.

While writing about Hitchcock’s brilliance, Godard explained it best: “Broadly speaking there are two kinds of filmmakers. Those who walk along the streets with their heads down, and those who walk with their heads up. In order to see what is going on around them, the former are obliged to raise their heads suddenly and often, turning to the left and then the right, embracing the field of vision in a series of glances. They see. The latter see nothing, they look, fixing their attention on the precise point which interests them,” he continued. “When the former are shooting a film, their framing is roomy and fluid (Rossellini), whereas with the latter it is down to the last millimeter (Hitchcock).”

Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar or similar award, however his legacy lives on in the works of great filmmakers and his achievements which, without them the history of cinema would be different. In what way…. I guess we will never know.

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