December 2016

Taking Cues from Hitchcock

A reflection on my inspiration


Since I was young I’ve loved all things old: music, fashion, movies, etc. This interest was enabled by the two VHS collections my aunt and uncle kept at their cabin – James Bond and Alfred Hitchcock. I always looked forward to a visit because I knew it would involve watching one of those movies at some point.

As I have grown older, my affection for both series has not dwindled, but each has manifested itself quite differently. My appreciation for James persists despite his lasting faults, bolstered by the dependable formula of corniness, glamour and winning. But it is Alfred who makes me view anew each time, magnetizing me with every watch.

Rear Window was my favorite from an early age. I think I liked the mini stories spied through the opposite apartment windows. 15 years later, it does not escape me that what is so remarkable about the movie is that Hitchcock seamlessly weaved these six or so side tales into the plot, all from the point of view from a single window. It’s like watching moving photographs, each story unfolding through the frame of a window, each perfectly composed to express modest but potent details, and mostly without sound.

I appreciate this frugal use of speaking time—he uses the quiet as a tool. It’s not uncommon for older films to be less noisy than movies of today, but Hitchcock makes his silences speak so loudly. A friend once asked me how I could watch such movies (Dial M for Murder was playing at the time). He had been watching the movie for a few minutes and there hadn’t been any dialogue or music; I hadn’t even noticed the so-called silence.

Each scene is so carefully considered, the actors’ movements through them intentional, yet artful; every moment lends itself to a screenshot worthy of hanging on the wall. It is this way of communicating only what is necessary, and doing so with elegance, that continues to captivate me as a designer. Hitchcock took care not to add unnecessary complexity to the storyline, approaching it with straightforward camerawork and limited use of scenery and sound. His discipline is a lesson in restraint for us all, and it has left us with some beautifully balanced work.

Article originally published by AIGA Boston. Photo by Insomnia Cured Here Flickr user, published under the CC BY 2.0 license.

Give me a holler

 © 2018 Emily Hamre