After taking a course dedicated exclusively to Alfred Hitchcock, I fell in love with the director’s body of work. Like all film auteurs, it is always best to examine Hitchcock’s pictures within the context of their larger filmography. Hitchcock is constantly playing and reinventing motifs, characters, situations, and, most importantly, gags. If you love Hitchcock, or just want to learn more about his films, here are five video essays you must watch:
“Eyes of Hitchcock”
This video essay is a mesmerizing two minutes that illustrates the importance of the eye in Hitchcock’s films. This essay, by Kogonada, reminds me of what Truffaut said to Hitchcock regarding Gregory Peck’s performance in Spellbound: “Whereas Ingrid Bergman is an extraordinary actress, ideally well suited to your style, Gregory Peck isn’t a Hitchcockian actor. He’s shallow for one, but the main thing is the lack of expression in his eyes.”
“Alfred Hitchcock// Point of View”
This essay by Jorge Luengo Ruiz uses 24 films to examine Hitchcock’s use of eye line matching and point of view shots, two shots that are so common in film we don’t ever really think about them too much. Perhaps that is because directors like Hitchcock make it seem so essay. This essay compliments “Eyes of Hitchcock” very well since we get to actually see what the characters are looking at.
“How Alfred Hitchcock Blocks a Scene”
Though this video essay deals with only one Hitchcock film, Vertigo, it does a great job explaining, like the title says, how Hitchcock blocks a scene and, specifically, how he creates tension. Using the scene when Scottie Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) reconnects with his old friend Galvin Elster (Tom Helmore), the essay shows how blocking can suggest that a character is being manipulated and deceived, as is the case here. Deception is an essential theme in Hitchcock’s filmography, and this essay does a great job in explaining how it materializes on screen.
“Alfred Hitchcock’s 39 Stairs”
As I watched this video essay by Max Tohline, I was reminded of one of the many videos I have found on my late-night YouTube deep dives. It is this video of Roger Ebert asking Alfred Hitchcock a question about the role of staircases in his films. Hitch, in his deadpan style, says, “I think staircases are made to go up and down.” After his little joke, Hitchcock goes on to say his use of staircases was mostly an aesthetic choice since they can be very pleasing to the eye and are an ideal way to capture movement.
Hitchcock is the master of the staircase, so much so that it is easy to forget just how difficult it is to make something so seemingly simple so suspenseful: the camera movement, blocking, pace of the action, and camera angle all must be in perfect harmony to deliver the maximum dramatic effect.
“Hitchcock & De Palma: Split Screen Bloodbath”
Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation was made by other filmmakers praising and borrowing from him. One need only read Hitchcock/Truffaut and watch the 2015 documentary of the same name to understand what I am talking about. Hitchcock’s influence is beautifully illustrated by Peet Gelderblom in this video essay. He takes eleven films by Brian De Palma and illustrates how they all borrow from a single Hitchcock picture, Psycho. It’s a wonderful essay that illustrates just how influential Hitchcock was and is.