DOUBLE OR NOTHING
“A glimpse into the world proves that horror is nothing other than reality.” ― Alfred Hitchcock
The reality is this -- all humans are flawed. Some have repressed personality traits that are recessive until they come to the forefront because of an unusual challenges or unexpected event. Some struggles bring out the best in us, while other challenges force us to show our “dark side.” When pushed there, most humans are capable of doing things that would normally seem unthinkable. Alfred Hitchcock, the self-acclaimed “Master of Suspense” explores the theme of duplicity in three of his well-known American films: Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Strangers on a Train (1951), and Psycho (1960). Ironically, the definition of duplicity is two-fold. First, it refers to deceitfulness and double-dealing. Second, it refers to doubleness or pairs – the quintessential doppelganger. By definition, a doppelganger is a double of a person and it is typically an omen of bad luck or evil. (New Oxford American Dictionary) Hitchcock expertly uses the theme of characters as doubles to demonstrate the struggle between good and evil, and to illuminate the role of mothers in popular culture. The duplicity in these famous films comes in many forms. The more you look for the doubles, the more you see. You literally start seeing double! Hitch’s directorial genius utilized various techniques to expand on the theme of characters as doubles using pairs, look-alikes, mistaken identity, double-dealings, crisscrosses, shadows and reflected images. Most often, these pairings represent the battle between good and evil. The director’s characterizations demonstrate the philosophy that there are “general truths about human nature” (Fromm 162). Hitchcock’s audience can learn practical lessons for the actions, thoughts and motivation of the director’s fictional characters. Looking from his perspective and how he frames the characters, we the audience begin to question our own morality. (Wells )What are we capable of doing when put into a predicament like one Hitchcock’s protagonists or antagonists? Since we see only what Hitchcock crafts for our eyes to see and ears to hear, he can frame his characters to decide who is good or evil based upon the cameras point-of-view. Then he can change that view, and our perceptions are altered.
In Shadow of a Doubt, Charles Oakley, the family’s favorite Uncle Charlie, seems to be the answer to the family’s prayers. His namesake, young niece Charlie, is clearly taken with her mother’s younger brother and sees him as almost a savior from her dreary existence in a small town Santa Rosa, CA. The theme of doubles is seen in this film in that Charlie is the namesake of Uncle Charlie. The camera point-of view introduces the pair as parallel visually as though they are one in the same. Charlie even says, “It’s like we are twins.” That’s right, you and your evil twin Uncle Charlie. Though we already know Uncle Charlie is on the run from another twosome, the two detectives, young Charlie has no idea. What at times looks a little incestuous, the relationship between the two Charlies darkens as the niece discovers the unsavory facts about uncle and the Merry Widow Murderer. Charles is two-faced and though he promises Charlie he will leave the town, he double crosses her and attempts to throw her from the speeding train. Lucky for us our protagonist wins the war of good vs. evil and turns the tables to send Charles Oakley under the tracks of an oncoming train. Justice is done!
In Psycho, both Marion Crane and Norman Bates show two shades. First, there’s lovely Marion Crane. On one hand, she is an attractive, hard-working, long-term employee of a reputable real estate firm. On the other side, she takes long lunches to have a little afternoon delight with her non-committal boyfriend Sam. Her lingering dissatisfaction with the status quo is motive for her to seize the opportunity to change her life by stealing $40,000...
Cited: Fromm, Erich. “The Autodidact Project.” Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965.
Gallagher, Tag. “Hitchcock, Machines, and US.” Sense of Cinema. 23 Jan 2003.
Mogg, Ken. The Alfred Hitchcock story. London: Titan Books, 1999.
"New Oxford American Dictionary." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 13 May 2012. Web. 23 June 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Oxford_American_Dictionary>.
Schaffer, Bill. “Cutting the Flow: Thinking Psycho”. Sense of Cinema. April 2000.
Walker, Michael. Hitchcock’s Motifs. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005.
Wells, AJ. “Hitchcock – Good vs. Evil”. Cinemarollling 9 Mar 2009. 30 June 2012. http://cinemaroll.com/cinamarolling/higchcock-good-vs-evil.
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