Hollywood’s most influential British film director Sir Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense returns to the big screen in Sacha Gervasi’s biographical drama Hitchcock. Based on Stephen Rebello’s non-fiction book ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho’, the film unveils behind the scenes of filmmaking and studies closely the personal predicaments and dilemmas Hitch faced in creating the most influential horror film Psycho (1960). Hitchcock is a warm, complex and an absorbingly interesting film and a pleasant departure away from the BBC/HBO TV film The Girl (2012), which presented Hitch as nothing more than a sexual predator who was out to ruin Tippi Hedren’s career.
The film opens at Edward Gein’s Farmhouse in Wisconsin, Ed and his brother Henry are out in the burning fields where Henry speaks ill of their mother, Ed furious, responds by spading him to the back of the head which is made comical with the jovial non-diegetic music. The camera pans away from the action to Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) who sipping on tea, speaks directly to us in the same manner that Hitch did in Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This very small act and Hitchcock’s explanation covers the pretext behind what influenced the birth of Norman Bates character before we join the press outside a screening of the successful North By North West (1959) where questions are thrown at Hitchcock, soon turning icy. Hitchcock’s voyeuristic filming techniques used throughout his film career are presented as an extension of him, as he peeps at his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) from his bath tub. Gervasi uses this technique which Hitch became famous for to build a connection with the audience, however it could be misread as indulgent and boastful. The film which sets out to discover the process behind the making of Psycho soon blossoms into a beautiful, outrageously witty love story about a genius who was incomplete without his love, Alma.
The film moves steadily bringing with it sex appeal with Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) who is elegant and charming but little of her character develops to get a real sense of Leigh’s relationship with Hitchcock. Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy) character is again reclusive and confined to the minimum, perhaps a good thing for much commentary has been made on his character over the years. Gervasi merely tells Rebello’s story and little new ground is unravelled which leaves behind a clunky and difficulty manoeuvred final act. The climax is plausible despite being so formalistically approached; Gervasi plays it safe and by doing so delivers a motion picture that is wholesome, satisfying but feels somewhat incomplete.
Hitchcock is a light-hearted, pleasant film filled with some excellent drama delivered so wonderfully by Mirren and at times charismatic wit by Hopkins. One needs to see pass the prosthetic makeup of Hopkins to appreciate how quite simply excellent he is at capturing Hitch’s mannerisms and charisma. Helen Mirren delivers a phenomenal performance which has secured her a BAFTA nomination and she has a fighting chance at winning it. Hitchcock is a must for fans, but also fans of Psycho, which is a great companion to this film.
Hitchcock is released in UK cinemas, Friday 8th February.]]>