Voyeurism in Hitchcock Movies

Voyeurism takes many forms in Hitchcock's films, from simple spying in a surveillance setting, like in Topaz, to the sophisticated identification between the voyeur and the audiences, like in Psycho and Rear Window. Voyeurism is here to be understood in a broad meaning, including the meta level.

We are all voyeurs. Hitchcock says to Truffaut: "I'll bet you that nine out of ten people, if they see a woman across the courtyard undressing for bed, or even a man puttering around in his room, will stay and look; no one turns away and says, "It's none of my business." They could pull down their blinds, but they never do; they stand there and look out."

Voyeurism, Identification, Sexuality, Power

Psycho

The ultimate voyeur: Norman Bates in Psycho. Voyeurism as an aspect of repressed or perverted sexuality.

 

The camera as a voyeur in Psycho.

 

Shadow of a Doubt

Uncle Charlie as voyeur and one of us in the audience watching to see if little Charlie is killed or not.

Waltzes from Vienna

The cook as voyeur in Waltzes from Vienna.

Topaz

We are watching you. A member of the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen is watching the defector Kusenov and his family as they leave the embassy.

The Lady Vanishes

Voyeurism as repressed sexuality. Here the innocent hotel employee before opening the phallic Champagne bottle.

Young and Innnocent

The voyeur as photographer meets the cameo in Young and Innocent.

The Ring

"The girl" (Lilian Hall-Davis) watches through a hole in the tent to see how her boyfriend is doing in the boxing ring.

Family Plot

Blanche Tyler spying on Mrs Rainbird.

The 39 Steps

The hypocritical farmer.

The Wrong Man

 

The camera as voyeur. The camera is entering Manny Balestreros' prison cell through the observation slot.

 

See also: Films in the film

 

 

 

    

 

      

 

 

MacGuffin

Hitchcock explaining to Truffaut what the MacGuffin is: "It's the device, the gimmick, if you will, or the papers the spies are after. [...] the "MacGuffin" is the term we use to cover all that sort of thing: to steal plans or documents, or discover a secret, it doesn't matter what it is. And the logicians are wrong in trying to figure out the truth of a MacGuffin, since it's beside the point. The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the plans, documents, or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. To me, the narrator, they're of no importance whatever.

Hichcock Films with a MacGuffin

  • The 39 Steps (the mechanical formula for the construction of an airplane engine)
  • The Lady Vanishes (secret hidden in a melody)
  • North by Northwest (microfilm containing government secrets)
  • Torn Curtain ("Gamma Five" project, concerning an anti-missile missile)
  • Similar to, but no MacGuffins are: Number Seventeen (the necklace), The Man Who Knew Too Much (assasination), Notorious (uranium)

 

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