Effective Use Of Macguffins In Alfred Hitchcocks Film
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It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says, 'What's that package up there in the baggage rack? Examples of MacGuffins appear in many of Hitchcock's films. The Alfred Hitchcock Wiki links wiki home page filmography gallery articles journal articles newspaper articles. Jump to: navigation , search. See Also Hitchcock explained the term "MacGuffin" in a lecture at Columbia University: [We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the "MacGuffin". Take a simple example from a basic narrative structure: a hero and a villain after the same thing in the movie only mentioned to be incredibly important, but no concrete explanation is offered as to why it is so.
Numerous chases, confrontations and run-ins until one of the following is finally revealed:. There could be other innumerable outcomes of the scenarios, but the core of the idea remains the same. To sum it up, the MacGuffin in films is a plot device, something that is told to be of immense importance, but in reality is just used to drive the plot forward. Plot device or not, come to think of it, MacGuffins have been an important, albeit unsaid or barely mentioned part of even daily conversations and exchanges. Borrowed as a literary object from Arthurian literature, literally, according to biblical sources, it would be the chalice Lord Jesus drank from during The Last Supper. Figuratively, it is a plot device used to denote something elusive that the protagonists were after akin to its modern definition and is of great significance.
A treasure, or a map to a treasure is also among the oldest used examples of a MacGuffin for plot progression. The term, though popularised by Hitchcock, may have been coined by his friend and screenwriter Angus MacPhail, but that is a discussion for another day. In that nerve, it would be informative to delve into what three accomplished personalities in the field of film have to say about it. Read on. In a series of lectures and interviews, Hitchcock has fondly narrated this story that indicates what the MacGuffin meant to him. In crook stories it is always the necklace and in spy stories it is always the papers. In a more modern sense, and very much in contrast with the Hitchcockian school of thought, George Lucas described the MacGuffin as such.
The protagonist, in the strictly narrative sense, is just someone who gets caught up in the pursuit and wants an out. Some of them are classical examples Hitchcockian and the others are more akin to the modern definition. That one of the greatest films ever made would incite dialogues and discussions over its plot years hence should come as no surprise. The MacGuffin in this one is quite tricky though. In those, it becomes more of something that actually holds and imparts meaning contrary to a MacGuffin that actually loses meaning as the film approaches its end. Then you show what he is looking at. Then you cut back to the close up and you see his reaction. Hitchcock built upon this phenomenon and wove it into his visual language.
Watch closely the reaction shots from Jimmy Stewart and rear window. In this version, were showing him looking at Thor Wald scolding a dog. Now we can replace the shot of the dog with Miss torso. Same reaction shot of Jimmy Stewart suddenly we perceive his thoughts differently. The emotion is portrayed less by acting and more with what Hitchcock called Pure cinema. But how did he do it? In order for suspense to work, the character on screen had to be an everyday person.
He often described it as an innocent man pulled into a bizarre series of events. The audience is terribly worried because the same thing can happen to them. He puts this person in motion, running from something hiding from something, and I know what coming next. And despite common misconception, putting suspense into a dark, creepy environment is not necessary. Hitchcock settings tend to bring crime out into the open, they become a functional part of the suspense.
In North by Northwest the flat, empty terrain becomes a trap with no place to hide the crop duster, a normal part of this farmland becomes an imminent threat. What seems to be the trouble captain. Breaking the cliche also applies to characters. And the policemen and politicians are usually the bumbling fools, the innocent are accused and the villains get away with everything because nobody suspects them. He has to be an attractive man. Not a bit he had to be charming, attractive. To further stir things up. Hitchcock would often tricked the audience into following the wrong person.
He said the easiest way to worry people is to turn the tables on them. Make the most innocent member of the cast the murderer, make the next door neighbor a dangerous spy. Keep your characters stepping out of character and into the other fellows boots. Creating this feeling of unpredictability makes the situation ripe for suspense. But suspense is a dimension above that linear story. For Hitchcock. A central fact is to get real suspense, you must let the audience have information. Research into his works has revealed a three step suspense structure.
First, the protagonist has a secret hidden from the other characters. The Secret tends to evoke basic feelings from childhood, like the fear of getting caught. The Secret could be a dead body, or stolen money, or even brake fluid leaking out of a car. Once the audience is primed with a secret, Hitchcock then creates a series of close calls to tease the secret almost getting out.
As the bumbling bystanders get closer to the secrets. The audience begins feeling a delightful anticipation. They just happen to be there to make Marion crane nervous. This is how Hitchcock reels in the audience. As the helpless character on the screen is pressured into fear. Audience empathy rises, and suspense rises. The body almost gets discovered the stolen money almost gets found. The suspense viewer gets addicted to watching the movie. But once suspense is created, it must be relieved. Hitchcock said, we have to fool the audience. You must relieve with a bomb must be found and quickly thrown out of the wind. And it goes off out there and the audience are relieved.
The fact is, suspense is nothing without tension. But suspense is the impending chance that he might fall off. Hitchcock believe that tension can be dissipated with anything vague or complex. If the plot was hard to follow where the characters look too much alike. He said blurred thinking is detrimental to achieving suspense. One of the fatal things in all suspense is to have a mind that is confused.
They believed everything in a story must be simplified to offer maximum dramatic impact. As he said, What is drama after all, but life with the dull bits cut out? For Hitchcock, the path to increasing tension included making the details as realistic as possible. No matter how fantastic the situation might be. And that is the most important moment when the man is buying a hat in the store in bonds street when the gun is thrust into his ribs.
The next level of detail is sound, adding a deeper sense of reality to the flat image on the screen. Hitchcock soundscape soundscapes were authentic. But sometimes he would make things silent to keep a secret from the audience, or he could exaggerate specific sounds for dramatic purposes. In his TV episode The horseplayer the sounds of rain dominates the scene so we soon understand exactly why this church needs to raise money. In most close call scenes, Hitchcock wants us to hear everything the characters hear.