Suspense, horror, and creative are some of the words that describe Alfred Hitchcock s films. Something that no one had ever seen on screen was the techniques Hitchcock used. He was known as the master of suspense for his ways of manipulating and creating the sense of fear in the audience. Knowing the meaning of fear since childhood, he was believed to be the inventor of the suspense and horror genre in the film industry, improving movies with new technology and ideas to deliver exactly what he wanted to viewers to feel and understand. The film The Birds (1963) was a masterpiece and a thriller directed by Hitchcock that had many effective and brilliant techniques that are still used to this day.
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Alfred Hitchcock (August 13, 1899-April 29, 1980) was born and raised in a middle class family in London, England. Fear was the key emotion Hitchcock was very familiar with while growing up that played a huge part in the films he directed. At the tender age of five, his father sent him to a local police station many times after misbehaving and was put in jail for several minutes. The policeman returned to let him go, just to remind him that this is what naughty boys go though if they get into trouble. His mother would punish him by making him stand up at the foot of her bed for hours. Because of his overweight body figure, he stated that his childhood was very lonely and sheltered .
He first went to school at St Ignatius’ College, but right after his dad died when Hitchcock was 14 years old, he went to the School of Engineering and Navigation, where he was fascinated by photography and film. His first job was working as a title-card creator for the film company Paramount Pictures. It took Hitchcock five years to become a film director.
Being a perfectionist, Hitchcock would draw every single scene on his storyboard before shooting a film. This was one of his styles for which Hitchcock became famous. He was very dedicated to his art from the start of his career. Some techniques Hitchcock used were with the camera. The camera would capture shots that were made to build suspense so the audience can see something that the actors themselves don t see. An example of this technique being used was in The Birds. Melanie Daniels, the protagonist of the film, was sitting in front of a jungle gym smoking a cigarette. Black birds, which had attacked Melanie viciously earlier in the film, started gathering behind her, but she did not know, the viewers knew. This technique agitates the audience because something frightful can happen and we can do nothing to warn her. Knowing something that something bad can happen to an innocent makes the audience worried mixed with fear. Another technique he used was the subjective shot where the camera was placed in the human eye perspective. The camera would stray around the setting or place mischievously looking for something unusual in a room, as if it is a detective itself. This allows the viewers to feel like they are involved in revealing the problem. Before sound films came out, the directors of films had to find a way to communicate to the audience what is the plot of the story, and Hitchcock used this technique even after sound films came out because it was so successful. He used this technique in The Birds. Perhaps the most suspenseful part of the movie was when Melanie was walking slowly up the stairs in the dark with a flashlight in her hand. The camera was put at Melanie s perspective, and we can see how frightening it can be to be in that position when we know that if she goes to the room on top of the stairs, the malicious birds will be there, waiting. The camera would start with a close-up of the actor, and then cut to the shot what they are seeing, and then back to the actor to see his reaction. The sound of her footsteps was quiet, her breathing shallow, almost no sound was being heard. Finally, when she opened the door, she was attacked brutally. Suspense building was a major technique Hitchcock was famous for using.
What we as humans find most horrendous is to know that nature can turn on us and that no place is safe. The Birds had several scenes where this technique was used, one of which was at a children s birthday party. The evil black birds came swooping down and started attacking the children, pecking until their flesh was open and bleeding. This behavior by the birds was unexplained; there was no answer as to why the birds were like this, which caused insecurity to the actors which is framed closely to show the emotion, therefore causing the audience to feel insecure also. The house was attacked during a night, windows were broken, doors were being pecked open, and the roof was being destroyed. At this point in the movie, the actors show deep concern about their safety and that their fear doesn t stop from the horror from coming, and the fear the viewers gain is exactly what Hitchcock was going for.
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Hitchcock s movies were planned to perfection. His ideas were sketched for every scene and chose his actors carefully that would break the clich or stereotype of people. He was well aware of what the audience was about to go through when they are watching the film, and this is what makes a great film director. Hitchcock wrote, produced, and directed films up until 1979. Despite his fondness for murder, chaos and shock, Alfred Hitchcock led a quiet life with his wife and daughter. In the last year of his life, Hitchcock was honored with the American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award. The master of suspense died in 1980 in Los Angeles, but his techniques are still alive today.
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