1 The Lodger SUNY Press

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6 The Lodger,T he Pleasure Garden 1925 a German,English coproduction filmed in Munich. was the first film Alfred Hitchcock completed as director The Pleasure. Garden of the title is a nightclub and the film which tells the back. stage story of two dancers anticipates Hitchcock s abiding interest. in theater No doubt The Mountain Eagle 1926 would be equally. worthy of study but no prints survive Yet however important these. films may be and however closely related to his later work Hitch. cock was not being arbitrary when he spoke of The Lodger A Story of. the London Fog made in 1926 and released early in 1927 his third. directorial effort as the first true Hitchcock film the one that inau. gurates his authorship When he returned to England fifty years. and fifty films later to make Frenzy whose protagonist may or may. not be a psychopathic killer of women it was to The Lodger that he. turned closing a circle, By 1925 the basic forms and techniques and many of the major. genres of the movies were firmly established A decade after D W. Griffith s The Birth of a Nation film had become a giant international. industry a powerful medium of mass communication and a great. art Hitchcock began his career as a director at the height of what he. always called the Golden Age of film The Hollywood studios were. astonishingly productive putting out films so universally popular they. were America s principal forum for dialogues on sexuality romance. marriage the family and other private matters of public concern in. an era of social change The great directors of the German cinema. such as F W Murnau Fritz Lang and G W Pabst were achieving. unprecedented expressive effects with camera movement set design. and lighting In France Louis Delluc Germaine Dulac Jean Epstein. Marcel L Herbier Abel Gance Ren Clair and the young Jean Renoir. were experimenting with subjective devices and other formal innova. tions and referring to themselves as an avant garde The Scandina. vians Victor Sj str m Mauritz Stiller and Carl Dreyer were probing. dark disquieting areas of the human psyche In the Soviet Union. amid an atmosphere of artistic and intellectual ferment Lev Kule. shov Dziga Vertov V L Pudovkin Sergei Eisenstein and others were. demonstrating and debating the possibilities of montage. Hitchcock started with a clear sense of film s traditions and a con. viction that film was an art His achievement in part was to create. the first films that fully embracing the medium reflected seriously. on their nature as films Perhaps we cannot really speak of modern. ism in regard to an art that was not even born before the modern. emerged in painting music poetry and theater If there is a mod. ernist cinema however it begins with Hitchcock in whose work film. attains a modern self consciousness,2012 State University of New York Press Albany. The Lodger 7, A measure and expression of the modernity of the Hitchcock. film is its call upon us to acknowledge at every moment not only. what is on view within the frame but the camera as well One of his. deepest insights is that no moment in any film can be fully compre. hended without accounting for the camera Another is that in the. camera s tense and shifting relationships with its human subjects. the author s and viewers roles are intimately revealed Yet another. is that the camera s presence is fundamentally ambiguous It frames. our views the instrument of our gaze it shares our passivity But it. also represents the author it is the instrument of his presentation to. us his narration and manifests his godlike power over the world. of the film a world over which he presides Within the world of a. Hitchcock film the nature and relationships of love murder sexual. ity marriage and theater are at issue these are among Hitchcock s. constant themes His treatment of these themes however and his. understanding of the reasons film keeps returning to them cannot be. separated from his constant concern with the nature of the camera. the act of viewing a film and filmmaking as a calling. Hitchcock did not gradually find himself as did Jean Renoir. for instance Rather at the outset of his career he announced his. central concerns and declared a position at once a philosophical. one on the conditions of human existence and a critical one on the. powers and limits of the medium and the art of film to which he. remained faithful for more than fifty five years The Lodger is not an. apprentice work but a thesis definitively establishing Hitchcock s. identity as an artist Thematically and stylistically it is fully charac. teristic of his filmic writing By writing I mean not what we ordi. narily think of as a script but a film s construction as a succession. of views what is technically called its continuity and in France its. d coupage The writing of The Lodger in this sense is amazingly. imaginative and complex Every shot every framing reframing and. cut is significant, This is not to say that all we mean when we speak of Hitchcock.
can be found in The Lodger or that it reveals his full stature as an. artist It is certainly not equal to his masterpieces of the 1950s and. early 1960s such as Rear Window The Wrong Man Vertigo North. by Northwest Psycho The Birds and Marnie or even to the classic. thrillers of the 1930s such as The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. For one thing the late films have a sensuality and visual power per. haps unmatched in all of cinema and barely to be glimpsed in The. Lodger or any of the other early films Nonetheless The Lodger amply. repays close analysis When film s Golden Age is celebrated Hitch. cock s silent films are never given their due Yet as I understand. it Hitchcock occupies a central place in the history of film a place. 2012 State University of New York Press Albany,8 The Lodger. already secured by The Lodger and the,small but remarkable body of silent films. that followed,The Lodger opens with a view of a,woman screaming then the screen fades. We are not shown what precedes this,scream or what immediately follows it but. in a moment we will understand that this,shot is a fragment of a scene of murder 1.
This is our introduction to the murderer,1 1 known as the Avenger who has been ter. rorizing London killing a golden haired woman on the Embankment. every Tuesday night The Avenger has just stepped forward into this. woman s view provoking her scream Yet we are given no view of. this figure we do not know who or what he has just revealed him. self to be or in what spirit he has stepped forward The shot is from. the Avenger s point of view and the woman screams in the face of. the camera this is the film s first suggestion that the camera and. the murderer have a mysterious bond The mystery of the Avenger. who and what he is is also the mystery of what the camera really. represents, The opening shot shows us what the Avenger sees even as it with. holds all views of this figure from us in particular it with holds the. woman s frightful vision Within the world of the film the Avenger. is a viewer The scene of which this shot is a fragment is rooted. in our own role as viewers We possess views of this world while. necessarily remaining unseen by the beings who dwell within it By. stepping forward to be viewed the Avenger enacts what to us can. only be a fantasy that of entering the world of the film and present. ing ourselves to be viewed This is not merely a personal fantasy. of course it is built into the role of the viewer of a film Here that. fantasy becomes a nightmare We step forward to be viewed only to. find that our presence engenders horror And this nightmare is also. Hitchcock s If The Lodger s opening is a viewer s fantasy it also grows. out of a fantasy intrinsic to the author s role It is as if Hitchcock. steps forward from his place be hind the camera only to find that. his presence is horrifying, After the opening shot the words TONIGHT GOLDEN CURLS. flash three times on the black screen Then the body of a woman. lying lifeless on the ground fades into view This view helps explain. the film s opening the body is that of the woman who was scream. ing The next shot defines this view in turn as from the perspective. of an old woman who now clutches her hands in horror and covers. 2012 State University of New York Press Albany,The Lodger 9. her eyes When Hitchcock next cuts to a policeman taking notes the. context of the previous shot is disclosed an eyewitness is relating her. story to the police gathering a crowd, This passage exemplifies another of Hitchcock s characteristic.
strategies Again and again he presents a view we cannot interpret. because he has withheld something about its context or we misread. because we take its context to be other than it really is Sometimes. Hitchcock makes no secret of cloaking his presentations in enigmas. and sometimes withholds information without our realizing it The. process of following any Hitchcock film is one of continual rereading. or rethinking By this strategy and others Hitchcock makes us aware. that what we view is presented by an author whose intentions are. enigmatic Here he specifically reminds us that authors are capable. of deception by introducing a prankster who plays a practical joke on. the old woman As she tells her story with dramatic flourish there. is a cut to a man in the crowd who pulls his collar up mimick. ing the woman s description of the murderer When Hitchcock cuts. to her point of view an expressionistically distorted image of the. man reflected off a polished metal wall we are not frightened as. the woman is We have been let in on this trick which deflates her. self importance and brings home the reality of her fear Yet if this. prankster does not deceive us but reminds us of any author s capac. ity for deception the passage also plants a picture of the Avenger. in our minds and furthers Hitchcock s central strategy for deceiving. us When the lodger first appears in the film we see him cast in this. image and believe he may really be the Avenger, A shot of a reporter telephoning the story in to his office provides. a transition to a quasi documentary account of the process by which. the newspaper the Evening Standard is produced and distributed. The main point of this account is that the Evening Standard whets. London s appetite for violence by invoking scenes Londoners desire. to view yet dread viewing and that what draws newspaper readers to. stories about murder cannot be separated,from what draws viewers to films 2. The idea that the Evening Standard s,readers are also The Lodger s viewers. is underscored by three characteristic,touches that punctuate this passage First. Hitchcock personally appears as an extra,in the editorial office He appears again.
at the film s climax Second as a truck,carrying bales of newspapers drives into. the depths of the frame two heads visi,ble through oval windows swing back and 1 2. 2012 State University of New York Press Albany,10 The Lodger. forth as though they were the newspaper,van s eyes Third a crowd is shown looking. upward all eyes moving in unison to all,appearances an audience viewing a film.
When Hitchcock cuts to the crowd s point,of view we realize that these people are. reading a huge electric sign spelling out,the Evening Standard s report of the latest. Avenger murder,In one of the most remarkable,se quences of the film Hitchcock dissolves. 1 3 from a radio announcer reading the sto,ry of the murder to one solitary listener. after another a man who rolls his eyes an,angry woman who yowls like a cat a man.
who listens taut with excitement a woman,so aroused that she runs her tongue sen. sually over her lips,Each listener appears less an individual. than a representative of the London pub,lic All these faces seem to collapse into. one a face with alternating male and,female aspects The series ends with a. 1 4 woman who gazes fearfully about her, To begin the narrative proper Hitchcock must effect a transition.
from London in general to the individual characters of his drama In. a brief scene several women enter what we recognize as a dressing. room apparently after a performance The camera isolates one whose. blond hair marks her as a potential victim Hitchcock cuts to her. point of view and we see a menacing knife wielding figure who rises. without warning into the frame The apparition is then explained it. is a stage hand in disguise playing a practical joke This time how. ever Hitchcock did not let us in on the prank We too were taken. in Hitchcock has declared his capacity for,deceiving us He has given us fair warning. A title reading simply Daisy is fol,lowed by a view of a beautiful blonde. who opens her ermine coat to reveal her,elegant evening dress. We cannot help recognizing Daisy as,another potential victim of the Avenger. in part because this framing echoes the,film s opening as though our view were.
once again the murderer s Our tension,increases when Hitchcock cuts to a news. 2012 State University of New York Press Albany,The Lodger 11. boy hawking the Evening Standard and,then back to Daisy who gives no sign. that she is listening and appears indif,ferent to the possibility that she is in the. stage story of two dancers anticipates Hitchcock s abiding interest in theater No doubt The Mountain Eagle 1926 would be equally worthy of study but no prints survive Yet however important these films may be and however closely related to his later work Hitch cock was not being arbitrary when he spoke of The Lodger A Story of the London Fog made in 1926 and released early in

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