I can see from this movie how Hitchcock would be regarded as the Master of Suspense. There were so many details. So many things that were conscious of perspective. The story is brilliant.
There were a couple of things I noticed that set up the story, and more importantly, the opinion of the viewer.
1. Stella's 2 Cents
In the beginning, Stella, the nurse, talks about how she has a bad feeling about looking out the window.
STELLA I can smell trouble right in this apartment. You broke your leg. You look out the window. You see things you shouldn't. Trouble. I can see you now, in front of the judge, flanked by lawyers in blue double- breasted suits. You're pleading, "Judge, it was only innocent fun. I love my neighbors like a father." -- The Judge answers, "Congratulations. You just gave birth to three years in Dannemora."
I think many stories have a character that comes in at the beginning and kind of sets up the theme. Stella is that character because this speech gives us an idea of what could happen. We're already assuming that there will be trouble for Jeff because Stella mentions it.
2. We see something Jefferies doesn't see.
We see Thornhill leave with his wife. This sets up our opinion that Thornhill is innocent. So when Jeff starts concocting all these crazy theories, we still maintain that Thornhill is innocent.
These two simple set ups are strong cornerstones for the story's suspense. We're expecting Jeff to get in trouble with the law because he's harassing an innocent neighbor. When that DOESN'T happen, it's surprising, interesting, and, most importantly, suspenseful.
Film Techniques Learned:
Hitchcock used the viewfinder in the on-screen camera to vignette the parts of the story that characters were seeing through the camera. For example:
This was also used in the Croods. Like below:
This is such a fun technique! I can't wait for an opportunity to do this.
Another specific thing I noticed was the chiaroscuro lighting used at the climax of the film. What a great way to make it absolutely nail-biting! Suddenly the shadows are huge and you can't see everything. The contrast is heightened and so is the blood pressure. When this happens in a film, I hold my ears.
I was thinking someone was going to die at any moment. I did NOT read the script to this film beforehand, and boy am I glad I made that decision! Reading the script before this movie would have taken the magic of suspense out of it. My husband, Josh, had seen the end though. He was laughing at me when I was yelling "You idiot!" at the screen.
Another really nice touch was all the non-dialogue storytelling that was done, especially at the beginning. We aren't told how Jeff's leg was broken, we are shown the picture he took and the broken camera to insinuate that's how he ended up in a cast. And then Stella is the insurance nurse, which tells us that Jeff's company is paying for his medical care because he was on the job when the accident happened. It's very simple, yet there's no exposition. Later in the film, Jeff talks about standing in the middle of a racetrack and getting run over, which confirms to us that's how his leg was broken, but we already knew that.
On a final note, check out this orange sky:
Unexpected should have been the title of this film. Because that's what I thought of that amazing ending. Kudos Hitchcock. I rank this one with North by Northwest. Really liked them both.
The last film I'm watching for Hitchcock month will be *drumroll* To Catch a Thief! Stay tuned.