Scene Analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s Film Shadow of a Doubt Essay

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Scene Analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s Film Shadow of a Doubt

Alfred Hitchcock’s film Shadow of a Doubt is a true masterpiece. Hitchcock brings the perfect mix of horror, suspense, and drama to a small American town. One of the scenes that exemplifies his masterful style takes place in a bar between the two main characters, Charlie Newton and her uncle Charlie. Hitchcock was quoted as saying that Shadow of a Doubt, “brought murder and violence back in the home, where it rightly belongs.” This quote, although humorous, reaffirms the main theme of the film: we find evil in the places we least expect it. Through careful analysis of the bar scene, we see how Hitchcock underlies and reinforces this theme through the setting, camera angles,
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Hitchcock seats the Charlies across from one another and the action plays out in accordance with the classic 180-degree rule for conversation. The 180-degree rule is the most basic way to film two people having a conversation while sitting opposite from one another. This series of shots usually consists of: establishing shots, two shots, close-ups of each actor, insert shots, and then possibly a re-establishing shot. Hitchcock manages to bring a lot of tension out of this fairly conventional set-up by the way he constructs his scene. The two characters sit down across from one another and are positioned on the far edges of the frame, which emphasizes the emotional and psychological distance between the two. In the same shot Hitchcock sets up for the “shot, reverse shot” conversation, by having Uncle Charlie lean in towards his niece. His leaning serves as a lead in to the conversation about to take place. It is important to note that during this same shot, Uncle Charlie lays out a napkin on the table and smoothes it with his hand. The napkin exists to provide a parallel to the way the scene will play out. The hands of Uncle Charlie can be seen as those of the director, and the napkin as the fabric of the scene. The napkin is laid before us smooth as the scene begins, and becomes increasingly tight and twisted by the hands of Hitchcock as he slowly tightens his hold on the audience. It also has the importance of revealing something about Uncle Charlie’s character. It
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