Analysis of the Final Scenes of Alfred Hitchcock\'s Notorious



Analysis of the Final Scenes of Alfred Hitchcock\'s Notorious


After viewing Alfred Hitchcock\'s Notorious for the first time, the film
did not strike me as particularly complex. Nothing specific about the film
lodged itself in my brain screaming for an answer—or, at least, an attempted
answer. Yet, upon subsequent viewings, subtle things became more noticeable.
(Perhaps Hitchcock\'s subtlety is what makes him so enormously popular!)
Hitchcock uses motifs and objects, shot styles and shifting points of view, and
light and dark to help explain the relationships between Alicia, Devlin,
Sebastian and Mrs. Sebastian, and an overall theme of being trapped. An
analysis of the film from the first poisoning scene to the final scene in the
film shows how the above tools lead to a better understanding of the
character\'s motivations.

The most obvious recurring object in the final scenes is the poisoned
coffee cup. In the first scene of the portion being analyzed, Sebastian
suggests to Alicia that she drink her coffee, and Hitchcock zooms onto the
object as she slowly takes a sip. In a later scene, Mrs. Sebastian pours the
coffee into the cup for Alicia, and sets it on a small table in front of her.
Here, Hitchcock not only zooms in on the small teacup, but heightens the sound
it makes connecting to the table, includes it in every shot possible, and shows
us not only the full coffee cup, but the empty cup as well after Alicia has
drank it. Again, the cup is zoomed in on after Alicia realizes she\'s being
poisoned. Because the coffee is poisoned, the coffee itself becomes a metaphor
for life and death, supported by the fact that the poisoner herself ours it,
and the shots of the full and empty teacup. In this way, it also suggests
Alicia\'s inability to escape her situation—whenever she drinks the coffee, she
becomes trapped due to the poison in her cup—and the poison in her sham of a
marriage..

A repeated object not so noticeable is Mrs. Sebastian\'s needlework.
Mrs. Sebastian is constantly working on her needlepoint while Alicia is being
poisoned. Hitchcock, in fact, goes out of his way to make sure that a shot of
her \'toiling at her work\' is included several times. One cannot help but be
reminded of Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities—with Madame Defarge knitting
everyone\'s fate into her work. At the beginning of the film, Devlin hands
Alicia a handkerchief, and a scarf, which she keeps, but returns to him in this
segment. These pieces of cloth throughout the film help tie Alicia to the
different characters, and in essence, help control her fate in different
situations.

Hitchcock\'s use of shot type is another hint into his character\'s
personalities. Hitchcock is very fond of medium and close-up shots, and rarely
uses a longer shot in the film. This may suggest to the audience to keep a
closer eye on the character\'s facial expressions, as Hitchcock lets the actors
express their thoughts and feelings in this manner. An excellent example of
this would be when Alicia realizes that she is being poisoned Hitchcock zooms
in on her wide-eyed expression as she first looks at the teacup, then at Mrs.
Sebastian and her husband. Mrs. Sebastian\'s cold hearted stare back at Alicia
tells us exactly just how much hatred she has for her.

Hitchcock also uses devices in his scenes such as fades from shot to
shot. By doing this, Hitchcock illustrates his character\'s different
viewpoints. The fades themselves are used to connect Alicia\'s two different
worlds—her ‘fake\' world (her marriage to Sebastian), and her \'real\' world (her
relationship with Devlin). For example, when Alicia is unable to make contact
with Devlin due to her illness, there are several shots of her in her sick bed,
then fading to Devlin waiting impatiently at a bench. The fading between shots
usually comes at a point when Alicia is feeling trapped, and this suggests that
the fades represent her desire to escape back to her \'real\' world.

Since, obviously, it is difficult to use colour as a nuance in a black
and white film, Hitchcock makes use of light and dark images. When Alicia and
Sebastian are alone together, it is usually in darkness.— implying safety in
hiding, and also implying a different world. Alicia is safe and free to do
what she wants in the darkness, as she is with Devlin, and can easily hide
within it. For Sebastian, it is the opposite, for to him, Alicia\'s darkness is
a world that he cannot enter, although he tries.