Monday 26 September 2011

Thrilling the Ears: Sound in Hitchcock's cinema

Hitchcock's use of sound in Blackmail and Murder is important in three respects. As historical documents the two films overturn some accepted notions of what was technically possible in filming with immobilized cameras and uneditable sound systems. As personal documents they represent Hitchcock's first major experiments in combining sound and image in ways that would not subordinate pictures to dialogue. As films that extend Hitchcock's expressionistic interests into the sound era, they reveal Hitchcock's earliest efforts to use aural techniques to convey a character's feelings. In addition, Blackmail already establishes Hitchcock's predilection for integrating music and sound effects with plot and theme, and it introduces most of his favorite aural motifs. Both films are interesting historically, but Blackmail is the more successful work of art because its aural techniques and motifs are an integral part of a stylistic whole. [Elisabeth Weis, Chapter 2: "First Experiments with Sound: Blackmail and Murder", in The Silent Scream - Alfred Hitchcocks Soundtrack (Rutherford, Fairleigh: Dickinson University Press, 1982), p. 28]
A new academic year is upon us and Film Studies For Free's author is very happily gearing up to teach, inter alia, Alfred Hitchcock's film Blackmail for the umpteenth time.

It's a truly great teaching topic, one which usually takes off from the fact that Hitchcock converted his silent film to sound during its production. And it has very fruitfully inspired today's entry on scholarship about sound in Hitchcock's cinema.

There are some excellent, openly accessible resources linked to below, most notably Elisabeth Weis's wonderful book on this topic, now added to FSFF's permanent listing of online and freely accessible Film Studies e-books.

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