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6 - Hitchcock's Debt to Silence: Time and Space in The Lodger

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2024

Gary McCarron
Affiliation:
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
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Summary

Introduction

In this chapter I offer a scene-by-scene analysis of one of Hitchcock's most important films, his 1927 silent classic, The Lodger. This type of analysis is different from the approaches pursued in the other chapters in this book, but I have in mind the same ambition despite the shift in method. I want to illustrate several of the broader issues at work in Hitchcock's films as these are revealed not by placing the work under a specific philosophic or ideological lens, but by adhering strictly to the task of describing the film's various tableaux in sufficient detail as makes apparent the underlying principles on which the narrative is based. In other words, I construct my argument as a sequence of scenic analyses. However, rather than train my eye on a single scene, or mise en scène, I consider the film as Hitchcock might have described it: the arrangement of individual elements in the style of cinematic montage. The relative brevity of the film makes this a more feasible approach than is possible with one of his later, and thereby more complex, films. Moreover, the fact that the film is silent eliminates the need to consider the relevance of sound as a contributory element in the design of the production.

Yet I would be guilty of misdirecting my reader should I be understood as saying that these are the only reasons why I have selected The Lodger for this form of analysis. There is a further reason for choosing this film over the later, more mature works, and that is the fact that the argument can readily be made that The Lodger is the first of his films to define for Hitchcock the cin¬ematic aesthetic that would come to signify his style, his narrative interests, his directorial preoccupations – in short, his artistic vision.

This proposition is not an original proclamation. In 1966, Hitchcock himself commented that The Lodger “was the first time I exercised my style […] you might almost say it was my first picture.” In offering this description, Hitchcock was hinting at the idea that with this early, black and white, silent picture he had come to understand his role as a filmmaker; that is, he could look back to 1927 and see, in nascent form, the formal properties of all his later works.

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Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2023

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