According to The Independent of London, some of the dozen-odd silent films by Alfred Hitchcock have been restored and will be made available for the public in 2012. That’s a long wait but I bet it’s going to be worth it.
Recently I watched Shadow of a Doubt with a friend. “It has to be Hitchcock’s simplest film,” commented my friend, who has watched the film before. But I couldn’t agree. The storyline is simple no doubt but the psychological layering and the emotional stakes make it complex enough, taking it much beyond a thriller. Now it’s firmly on my favourite H-list, along with Rear Window, Rebecca and Dial M….
The opening scene itself gives away that our handsome New York guy Charles Oakley has some truly dark secrets. So when he arrives at his sister’s house at Santa Rosa, we have more than shadow of a doubt that he isn’t what he makes himself out to be—a successful businessman with charming, velvet-smooth ways. But the unsuspecting Newtons and the friendly (typically American) Santa Rosa community welcome him with open arms.
If there’s one person who's more thrilled than anyone else at Charles’s arrival, it’s his bored teenaged niece Charlie. She is particularly fond of him and is proud of the fact that she has been named after him. The emotional thrust of the film comes from the fact that the young and sensitive Charlie will have to discover the true character of her beloved uncle and keep the secret to herself lest her mother never recovers from the shock.
This poignant underpinning, as well as the device of using the innocent and sensitive Charlie as a foil to the sinister Charles, gives the film its soul.
I have never analysed Hitchcock’s techniques. To me his greatest achievement is the apparent lack of any studied method. His shots appear to be straightforward, the scenes and settings simple, the stories often moving in a linear fashion, but you always sense that there’s something lurking in the shadows or under the table...
Next on my list is To Catch a Thief. Shall keep you posted.