Alfred Hitchcock: A Master of Duality

4 April 2015
An analysis of two Hitchcock films, “Vertigo” and “Psycho”.

This paper discusses the films, “Vertigo” and “Psycho” by Alfred Hitchcock portraying Hitchcock’s penchant for duality. The writer explains how Hitchcock makes clear that the essence of suspense is the permanent struggle between the obvious and what could be. The paper illustrates the duality evident in Vertigo – the struggle between life and death; and that in Psycho – the evaluation of openness and mystery.
For many, the name Alfred Hitchcock conjures hazy and disconnected memories of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Rio, Tippi Hedren being chased by killer birds, or Jimmy Stewart in a wheelchair; but for others those that are somewhat more experienced with the work of Hitchcock the utterance of his moniker means much more. Indeed, many consider Hitchcock to be not only one of the most prolific and entertaining filmmakers, but also one of the most profound. A recurring and certainly intriguing motif that holds together his body of work is his incessant interest and portrayal of duality: the conflicting, yet in some ways similar, nature of life. That is to say, Hitchcock (and no other, on as prestigious a level) was able to brilliantly compare, reduce, and then reevaluate polar opposites that every human encounters. Love or hate, man or woman, privacy or voyeurism, and dishonesty or fidelity were just some of the many themes he unraveled in the stories and aesthetics of his films. Two such films with particular interest as each illustrates by movement, mise-en-scen, and narrative strategy, Hitchcock’s penchant for duality are Vertigo, in which he juxtaposes the archetypal struggle between life and death, and Psycho, where he dabbles in the much more complex evaluation of openness and mystery.

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