Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Master of Suspense: Hitchcock

I just watched a TV programme where the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, was interviewed. The programme looked quite old, well, I suppose it had to have been as he died in 1980. As a writer, I found a lot of the things he said fascinating. After all, I see my novels and short stories in my head too as if projected onto the big screen.

One thing he mentioned was how it was important to introduce the audience to a ticking time bomb and then go back to normality, as that way they will be on the edge of their seats. He also stressed that it was important that the bomb shouldn't go off at the end.

How very true. Readers need to feel suspense as if something could happen, even if it doesn't. I also think he's right in saying that 'the bomb shouldn't go off at the end', otherwise, the reader will feel cheated.

I also notice how he used some of his settings as characters in his movies. For instance, the large brooding Victorian house became just as sinister as Norman Bates ever was. That is a lesson we can learn as writers: to allow the mundane, the innocuous, everyday things in life to take on a life of their own.

Even Hitchcock's early silent movie [1927] 'The Lodger' was packed with suspense as an innocent man runs away from the baying mob, only to be caught up by his handcuffs on some wrought iron railings. The final scene reminiscent of the crucifixication of Christ.

His 1963 movie, 'The Birds' also made use of the fact that a creature that normally seems pretty innane could turn on man after years of use and abuse. As Hitchcock put it himself, "One should never mess around with nature."

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