The Bars Motif in Hitchcock Films


The often recurring motif of (prison) bars in Hitchcock films is used to visually emphasize that a character is trapped, caught, behind bars, physically or psychologically, as if in prison.

The Bars Motif in The Wrong Man

Henry Fonda behind bars in The Wrong Man.

Henry Fonda behind bars in The Wrong Man.

Peggy Webber (as Miss Dennerly) behind bars at the Associated Life office as she thinks she sees the man who previously robbed the office.

Henry Fonda behind bars at the Associated Life office foreshadowing his arrest and imprisonment.

Henry Fonda entering his prison cell.


The Bars motif in Rear Window

All the tenants are trapped in their own world.


Shadow of a Doubt

Little Charlie, Shadow of a Doubt

Little Charlie knocking on Uncle Charlie's door. Both are trapped.


Little Charlie.


The Bars motif in Saboteur

Frank Fry (Norman Lloyd) trying to escape in Saboteur (1942).

More examples of the bars motif

The Pleasure Garden, 1925/1927

The Ring, 1927

Jack and his wife have bars on their dining room window - they are trapped in the marriage

Murder!, 1930

Sir John's bathrobe has stripes, as if he is a prisoner

Sabotage, 1936

Mr Verloc is "trapped" in the exit at London Zoo.

Mr Verloc is "trapped" in the exit at London Zoo.

The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1934

Nova Pilbeam has a pyjamas with stripes when she is held prisoner by the bad guys

Young and Innocent (1938)

The Drummer Man has a tie with stripes at Grand Hotel
At home, Erika has a dress with stripes

Spellbound (1945)

Ingrid Bergman tries to make Gregory Peck remember what happened after he is arrested.

Rear Window (1954)

The songwriter's apartment has "bars", which may symbolize that he is stuck with his song.

The Wrong Man (1956)

Manny is seen through bars when he is in the insurance office
Manny is seen through prison bars when he is in jail.


Hitchcock's fear of the police

We come back again to my eternal fear of the police. I've always felt a complete identification with the feelings of a person who's arrested, taken to the police station in a police van and who, through the bars of the moving vehicle, can see people going to the theater, coming out of a bar, and enjoying the comforts of everyday living; I can even picture the driver joking with his police partner, and I feel terrible about it.
(Alfred Hitchcock to Truffaut)


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