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According to the book A Short Guide To Writing About Film: Ninth Edition, author Timothy Corrigan discusses that themes in film “become the foundation for analysis because they point to the main ideas in a movie.” This statement serves to be very true. The theme alone has played such a significant part in how film is created. The theme consists of four key components that collectively piece the film together: mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound. These elements have created a significant impact on the art of film.
As a whole, these elements are used to display the driving purpose behind the film. With that said, the question is brought up: which film in particular clearly demonstrates this notion? The film Suspicion is a romantic psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which clearly represents this idea. The theme with this film is that miscommunication will create mistrust. Through mise-en-scène, the film utilizes the set, blocking, and costumes to show the lack of trust between characters. The certain sounds that are heard throughout the film help dictate the mood and feelings of uncertainty and doubt. The cinematography and shot structure in this film conveys the idea of characters being uncomfortable. Also, the proper use of sound establishes a sense of the characters’ direction.
To begin with, the use of mise-en-scène contributed to the theme of mistrust in the film Suspicion. One characteristic of mise-en-scène that was heavily present in this film was the use of props. A set is just not placing objects that are shown in the background. It creates a particular background that influences the direction of a scene. Selecting the right set is important because it helps deliver a certain message that can be conveyed to the audience. For example, one specific set that was effectively utilized was Lina and Johnnie’s house. In this specific scene, Lina comes to a miserable conclusion that Beaky might have been killed. She drives home in fear that this may be true. The set in this scene really showcases the high level of suspicion between Lina and Johny and Beaky. As Lina cautiously enters the house through the front door, the set is filled with a different arrangement of lights and a huge staircase. This created very dim lighting and dark spider web patterned shadows, giving the impression that something eerie and unexpected was going to take place. This gave her more of a reason to not trust Johnnie and Beaky. The set plays such a major role in another quality of mise-en-scène, which is known as blocking. Blocking involves the specific movement of cameras and actors on scene. In this film in particular, the objects on set created blurred lighting. The lighting from these objects played a big role in the actors’ movement and positioning. In the same scene, Lisa approached everything with caution. Lina’s movement was slow, sneaky, and steady as she gathered more clues about the suspicious activity. Another factor that exemplifies the amount of mistrust between characters was the costumes that were used. Lina’s costume during this scene was a long, dark black coat. This coat from the beginning shot indicated that some mysterious event was going to occur. As the film progresses, we do see a connection with the dark coat. Once Lina finds out that her expectations about Beaky were actually wrong, she takes off the dark coat. She becomes relieved, excited, and joyful that everything was okay in the end.
The coat resembles dark, negative thoughts, such as mistrust. Once she removed it, she was a completely different person. This change of mood goes from fearful to relieved, as she switches from dark coat to bright dress. As you can see, mise-en-scène contributes to the theme of disbelief in one another. The type of cinematography that was used in this film showed characters not being comfortable with trusting one another. In one big scene with Lina, the camera shows multiple cuts of her frightening reactions. For instance, one scene showed her slowly walking towards the dark room as she tried to find Beaky. The camera was dollying backward and tracking to the left, as if a person was following her every move. The film also displayed a good use of fast match cuts. At most times, Lina was standing still at other times. The small space that she was in, with the shadows, reminds me of closure and tension. At this rate, she did not have trust in Beaky or Johnnie. This type of cinematography was very effective. The camera would switch from one scene to another scene, with Lina’s scared reaction. This would make the viewers assume that some terrifying event was going to occur. Based on the film Suspicion, cinematography shows the theme of uncertainty and mistrust. Lastly, sound amplified the idea of mistrust in this film. Nondiegetic and diegetic both serve great importance in this film.
Most important in this film was the use of nondiegetic sounds. There consisted of music that showed discomfort between characters. For example, the striking violins would let viewers know that something suspicious was about to happen. Author Timothy Corrigan states that the theme “are the large and small ideas that help explain the actions and events in it”. This combination of elements create a unified notion: it pushes the intention behind the film.
An effective theme would not be possible without mise-en-scene, cinematography, sound, and editing. It is about the combination of these four factors that make a film great. It is important to realize that the theme of mistrust and miscommunication wouldn’t be possible in the film Suspicion if it weren’t for these elements.