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View Full Version : University paper: Alfred Hitchcock & M. Night Shyamalan


Geoff H
03-22-03, 02:01 PM
So the end of the semester is approaching, and I have a 15-page paper due in my Hitchcock class :-)

I decided to write something a little different than what I think a 'normal' sort of Hitchcock paper might be about (ie: transferrance of guilt, voyeurism, etc. etc.) Anyway, I've often believed that Shyamalan has taken a lot from from Hitchcock in terms of filmic techniques and (to a lesser extent) plot themes.
So basically, my paper is going to be something of a comparison between Shyamalan and Hitchcock (Shyamalan detractors move along please... thank you ;)).

I've got many ideas bouncing around in my head, and I'm fairly certain I can construct a decent paper. Two things I'd like to ask of you fine folks, however:

1. I suspect my main source for Shyamalan information will come from the various American Cinemtographer articles that have been written about his films (very significant, as I think the majority of similarities are technical in nature). My question here is, has anyone ever come across any other academically-slanted writings on Shyamalan's work, either online, or in any sort of academic journal?

2. The main thing I wanted to ask you all is if you have any ideas of your own about this. Have you noticed similarities in terms of style, technique, or theme? As a sidenote to this, I will admit that the most "Hitchcockian" of Shyamalan's films, I believe, is Signs, and that will probably be a main focus of my paper (though there are points to made regarding The Sixth Sense and Unbreable, too).

Anyhoo... anything you guys have to offer would be totally appreciated (hopefully this could make for a good discussion starter, too).

Tscott
03-22-03, 02:48 PM
Shyamalan has admitted that Signs is directly influenced by The Birds (as well as Night of the Living Dead) so a direct comparison between the two films might be interesting.

As just another suggestion, you could also consider working in the other high profile Hitchcockian film that came out around the same time- Panic Room by David Fincher. When I saw both of these I noticed a lot of Hitchcock touches and I thought they were both good exorcises in suspense that were harshly criticized by fans when the films didn't provide the famous twist endings that both directors are known for.

I've thought a compare and contrast between Panic Room and Rear Window might be interesting as both take place more or less in one place (although the security cameras replace the windows, and the criminals are directly involved with the "voyeurs" from the start in Panic Room, unlike Burr's character in Rear Window) ...of course, I'm not a film student, so I don't have any motivation to write my own compare and contrast paper.:D

RolloTomasi
03-22-03, 05:49 PM
That seems like a good paper topic. While I could easily see the Hitchcockian influence on Signs, I have never really considered how Hitch has influenced Night's technique. Two things I can think off the top of my head:

Night definitely makes use of voyeuristic camera angles (the opening scene of Unbreakable is a perfect example, as are the psychic visions.) However, I don't think Night makes us feel guilty for watching - his characters are too sympathetic for that. Also, the scene of Mr. Glass falling down the stairs immediately made me think of the first murder in Psycho. While one uses ultra quick cuts and the other uses slow motion, both scenes are so visceral that the audience are affected almost physically by what they're seeing.


Both Rebecca and Vertigo deal with the influence of the dead over the living, a similar theme to The Sixth Sense. Like Psycho, The Sixth Sense has a shock partway through the film that makes audience expectations take a major detour.

I'm sure if one pored over Night's work, there are probably dozens of examples and points you could find. I suggest watching all of Night's filims in one sitting - then all of Hitchcock's :)

Goldberg74
03-22-03, 10:21 PM
There is one more thing that Alfred and Night have in common... they like to put themselves in their movies with bit parts/cameos... although the latter gives himself speaking roles.

marty888
03-22-03, 10:26 PM
The first thing that crossed my mind when I saw the thread title was the <b>difference</b> between the two directors with regards to the main characters in their films. <p>In Shyamalan's three major features, the main character does have an arc, a journey of self-discovery that leaves him a changed man, and this journey is the focus of the film. <p>In Hitchcock, more often than not, the main character is <i>accidentally</i> a part of the story (he even titled one movie <i>The Wrong Man</i>), and rarely emerges at the end of the movie any different than he was at the beginning. Hitchcock even emphasizes this in <b>Rear Window</i> as James Stewart is back in a leg cast at the final fade-out.

Pants
03-24-03, 12:51 PM
Originally posted by marty888
<p>In Hitchcock, more often than not, the main character is <i>accidentally</i> a part of the story (he even titled one movie <i>The Wrong Man</i>), and rarely emerges at the end of the movie any different than he was at the beginning. Hitchcock even emphasizes this in <b>Rear Window</i> as James Stewart is back in a leg cast at the final fade-out.

1. James Sterwart DOES change, he's not looking out the window anymore. But more importantly it's Grace Kelly that has the biggest arc. It's her character that undergoes the most change.

2. Hitch's heros ALMOST ALWAYS come out different in the end then they were at the beginning.

LBPound
03-24-03, 01:17 PM
Just throwing in a close to the opened 'bold' HTML code. </b>

:)

Jack's Smirking
03-24-03, 01:22 PM
Originally posted by Pants
1. James Sterwart DOES change, he's not looking out the window anymore. But more importantly it's Grace Kelly that has the biggest arc. It's her character that undergoes the most change.
Hmmm, I'm not sure. Does she change, or does his perception of her change? I think she's still the same person, she's just thrust into a different circumstance, and it's opening his eyes that maybe there's more to her than meets the eye.

Just a thought.

Pants
03-24-03, 02:46 PM
Good point. Either way there IS change in the character.

Geoff H
03-27-03, 02:01 PM
Thanks for the replies, everyone (keep 'em coming!!).
I'm gonna start writing this weekend.

On another note, regarding that scene where Sam Jackson/Elija Pryce falls down the subway stairs... I watched Unbreakable again yesterday, and I think there is a strong case to be made for a comparision to the shower scene in Pyscho (namely for the reason already mentioned). But you know what seals it? The final shot of that sequence is a close-up of Jackson's eye...

(stretching even further here.. instead of the eye fading into the bathtub drain signifying life 'draining away' in Pyscho, the Unbreakable scene fades into a circular logo in the physiotherapist's centre... perhaps symbolizing something like the 'renewance' of life/health for Jackson's character).