An Analysis Of Three Key Poisoning Scenes

1899 words - 8 pages

In one of the Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1946) advertising posters, Ingrid Bergman is holding a coffee cup, and her expression is anxious. The coffee cup does not represent the normal impression of leisure time. In contrast, the coffee cup plays a key role in one of the most intense moment in the film. What is the relationship between the coffee cup and the actress? Hitchcock did not give the answer to the audience immediately. He uses it as a Maguffin to trigger the audience’s curiosity to seek the answer of the film. Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is an American agent. An assignment requires her to spy on the activity of a Nazi organization, so she marries to Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), the leader of the organization, in order to get information from the Nazis. Shortly afterwards, Alicia and the other agent T.R Devlin (Cary Grant) found out the Nazis are developing a nuclear project. Meanwhile, Alex also figure out his wife is spying on him. Thus, he gets lost in that situation, because he might be murdered if his colleagues knew he is a betrayer whose wife is an agent. Therefore, he seeks help from his mother, and figures out a solution: to make Alicia die slowly and without other people’s suspicious. The conversation ends with an incomplete sentence of Alex’s mother who says, “She could become ill and she may ill for a time, until…” Thereafter, a poisoning plan is practicing on Alicia without her awareness. There are three key poisoning scenes in the movie. However, Alicia awares her situation until the most significant poisoning scene which takes place in the Sebastian’s living room. The editing and sound effects did a great contribution to the scene of suspense. Hitchcock not only manipulated various shots and dialogues to guide Alicia in the process of truth-exploration, but also let the audience psychologically get involve to the scene.

Hitchcock filmed the establishing shot in a wide visual space that the audience can see the main characters are having a family gathering in the Sebastian’s living room. However, the audience might not expect such a harmonious scene from a suspense film. In fact, Hitchcock use this big contrast reminds the audience that there is always sunshine before a storm. The audience might eagerness about what disaster might happen on Alicia. This shot emphasises Alicia and the coffee pot in the centre of the composition, which indicates their importance in this particular scene. Moreover, the director also uses the reflection of Alicia’s diamond and the light shining on the coffee pot to draw the viewers’ attention to them both. All these elements constitute a carefully constructed setting where the viewer could anticipate that an unusual plot will unfolds.

In this poisoning scene, on one hand, the line of Dr. Anderson is a clue for leading Alicia get closer to the truth. On the other hand, it is the chance that Hitchcock to have a psychological interaction with the audience. Every key word that...

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