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Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

How to make suspense thrillers; or Why a MacGuffin is a superb abstraction; or What gives me an erection

I saw Notorious today. Every time I watch a Hitchcock film, I go back Truffaut�s book and get new insights from the words I have already read. Notorious is a quintessentially Hitchcock movie�but this description does no justice to the fact that every Hitchcock movie is a hit because of what it has to give the audience. Therefore to slot Hitchcock as a thriller director, or his movies to be great suspense flicks, is, even though being the truth, does not explain why his movies are so great.

One good explanation that is often offered is that Hitchcock is a director who never withholds anything from the audience. Simply by giving, (and this being his method of storytelling), he takes care of the fact that his stories and plots can afford to be rather unreal (even distortions). (Taking off from the earlier discussion with Mitochondria)

Hitch films are always �logical� and superbly so, but mostly not �fundamentally real�. Therefore, his story content has closure (even while showing a distorted reality), but the method is an abstraction of reality. His MacGuffin, which is more a �form� element rather than a �story� element, is never closed. Hitchcock himself said that a drama is just like life, but only with the boring bits cut out (paraphrasing). This process of cutting-out is what I understand as an abstraction. The choice of cutting out the boring part of explaining the MacGuffin seems to be a superb form of abstraction.

A contemporary filmmaker who works very well on similar lines is Manoj Shyamalan. But I have to be quick to say that except for Birds, Hitchcock never came close to anything supernatural about his thrillers; and except for Signs, Shyamalan has not come close to making a statement of the human condition while the plot itself centred around an unimportant MacGuffin. Moreover, Shyamalan seems to be too fond of withholding information from the audience. (Note: I have not yet seen The Village, but am talking about the other three popular movies of his I have seen.)

I would most certainly want to work in the way Hitch did. Joseph Conrad to me, worked out to be a writer who, despite his work being not too much in the Hitchcock style, seems to have the right kind of stories, with the right pivotal emotions to make for one. When I read one of Conrad�s books recently, I was always thinking of adapting it. Of course as real project, it has to wait while so many other things in my life get sorted out.

Watching Alfred Hitchcock movies gives me an erection. I am absolutely thrilled with the way the man can tell a story in this medium. That to me, pretty much explains what I want the audience to feel about my work too.


6:28 pm

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Comments to How to make suspense thrillers; or Why a MacGuffin is a superb abstraction; or What gives me an erection

Anand,

"Watching Alfred Hitchcock movies gives me an erection"

Am sure never has the word "movies" had more significance in your bloglife than this sentence!

posted by Blogger Rama The Drama 

7:22 am, August 12, 2004
 

Anand: I have to agree with you about the dexterity and sophistication with which Hitchcock tells his stories.

"One good explanation that is often offered is that Hitchcock is a director who never withholds anything from the audience.." We may be saying the same thing is different ways, but to me hitchcock takes the utmost care never to tell the whole story. His narration is always restricted and measured, and this is what makes the audience beg for more. And when the McGuffin reveals its omnious face, the audience is in a swoon of climactic ecstacy. And reiterating what you said earlier, this is a format-based device that is a chamellion, serving to enhance individual stories. In fact, it was uniquely associated with Hitchcock before it came to be integrated as a narrative device.

Your analysis on Hitchcock somehow reminds me of another great filmmaker, Tarkovsy, who moulds the same logic that Hicthcock implements. As you paraphrased, Classic Hitchcockian Plot=life-boring bits. Parallelly, Tarkovsky scrutinizes these very boring bits (what you and I could regard as boring..)to adapt the exact inverse of the same formula, elevating the otherwise listless everyday normalcy to the glamor of cinema. This, he achieves by superbly executed one-takes devoid of suspense (unlike Mr. H)pulsating at a lulling tempo. However, what enjoins these two great filmakers is the format rife with restricted narrations, moulding the content into unique masterpieces. To reinforce our earlier discussion, these lend themselves as prime examples of content that are married to the format which are unique to the masterpieces of the respective auteurs. The format in these cases acts like a scabbard into which the content finds the perfect fit. (forgive the sexual pun..)..

posted by Blogger Mitochondria 

12:43 pm, August 12, 2004
 

Anand: I have to agree with you about the dexterity and sophistication with which Hitchcock tells his stories.

"One good explanation that is often offered is that Hitchcock is a director who never withholds anything from the audience.." We may be saying the same thing is different ways, but to me hitchcock takes the utmost care never to tell the whole story. His narration is always restricted and measured, and this is what makes the audience beg for more. And when the McGuffin reveals its omnious face, the audience is in a swoon of climactic ecstacy. And reiterating what you said earlier, this is a format-based device that is a chamellion, serving to enhance individual stories. In fact, it was uniquely associated with Hitchcock before it came to be integrated as a narrative device.

Your analysis on Hitchcock somehow reminds me of another great filmmaker, Tarkovsy, who moulds the same logic that Hicthcock implements. As you paraphrased, Classic Hitchcockian Plot=life-boring bits. Parallelly, Tarkovsky scrutinizes these very boring bits (what you and I could regard as boring..)to adapt the exact inverse of the same formula, elevating the otherwise listless everyday normalcy to the glamor of cinema. This, he achieves by superbly executed one-takes devoid of suspense (unlike Mr. H)pulsating at a lulling tempo. However, what enjoins these two great filmakers is the format rife with restricted narrations, moulding the content into unique masterpieces. To reinforce our earlier discussion, these lend themselves as prime examples of content that are married to the format which are unique to the masterpieces of the respective auteurs. The format in these cases acts like a scabbard into which the content finds the perfect fit. (forgive the sexual pun..)..

posted by Blogger Mitochondria 

12:54 pm, August 12, 2004
 

Mito: Even though I have so far seen only one Tarkovsky movie fully, I have to agree with how Tarkovsky beautifies mundane things. That�s the whole point of poetry isn�t it? Take life as raw as it gets and narrate it beautifully. The one movie I am talking about is Mirror. The first time I saw it, I was determined not to succumb to peer pressure when a friend of mine was ogling about it. (He had seen it some fifty times before) I just said that it was a nice movie with its �moments�. I saw it the second time alone and saw more �moments�. The third time I saw it, I was sure that this was a great director. Of course I have heard since that Mirror is one of his more abstract works. (Am I correct?)
Would want to watch more if only I can lay my hands on good DVDs.
Hey! It is my blog. No problem about the pun. Anything sexual is welcome. :p

posted by Blogger Anand 

12:19 am, August 13, 2004
 

Mito and Mdeii combo makes for some good lessons in cinema!! Carry on...awaiting for the instalments.

posted by Blogger mahesh 

8:56 pm, August 14, 2004
 

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