Samstag, 23. November 2013

The Paradine Case (Alfred Hitchcock, 1947)

A lawyer falls in love with the woman he is supposed to defend in a murder case.



This highly entertaining movie was not as consistent story-wise as some of the other of Hitchcock's movies that I've seen. There is still a bit of Freudian over-interpretation in some of the actions that the characters did. But nevertheless, I enjoyed it - I would have loved to see more of Laughton's performance, him being one of my favorite actors in films from that time. (Especially in This Land is Mine, a Renoir film, unfortunately forgotten by and large).


I wanted to look a bit at Hitchcock's camera work in one scene. Peck has been traveling to his client's home to investigate and encounters the mysterious "gardener" and personal butler of the deceased for the first time. But the gardener has been avoiding the lawyer and suddenly shows up at his hotel room during a stormy night.

The camera is quite mobile in this scene and it is fascinating to watch how the image has been framed using props, or better: one prop - the lampshade.



Peck studies some papers. He is disturbed by some banging on wood. The music is tense.

Cam starts high up. Dollies and cranes towards the table. The lampshade is the point of reference in the otherwise very dark room. It will reappear in most of the shots.

The shutter is banging against the window frame.

A static cutaway, revealing the window frame and at the same time establishing the "Entry door" into the scene.

He gets up from the table and fixes the window. The moment he sits down, he hears another knock, this time it's distinctly human.

The camera dollies and pans with Peck as he walks to the window. Then it goes back with him as he sits down at the table again. It reverses the whole movement back.

The knock is coming from the other window. (?) A fixed camera pan reveals the other window (same ugly curtain).

He gets up and opens the curtains in one swift motiion

Again the camera pans and dollies with Peck's movements.
(It is a bit unclear, which of the two windows he opens)
The gardener stands outside the window, transfixing Peck.

A reveal of the new character - the lighting on him is moody and dangerous. It comes from the side, not from the window.

The lawyer's reaction is subdued.
(He lets the man come inside)
Reverse shot on the reaction in close up, but low angle.

He asks the gardener to come in. They have a conversation in which Peck wants to know how the gardener found him.

The camera is on Peck as before (The pipe is gone) and at the end of the dolly the two end up with the lampshape right in the middle.

The gardener states his intention that the visit might be good. He is asked to sit down.

A medium shot, the lamp covering a good third of the screen in the foreground. The camera then dollies back and reveals the two sitting down.

Here the two are sitting practically opposite of the table.

They discuss.

A back and forth of medium close-ups of the two.
Peck gives a little speech about his client. He seems to get a bit upset. The second medium close-up starts to move between 3-points that Peck is moving around the room.
1. Getting up
2. Standing in front of the gardener
3. Standing behind the gardener.
The interesting thing is that the motion is reversed the moment it has ended.

The last position is again Peck facing his guest, but this time the shot is a little wider.

What is interesting about this move is the speed of the camera inbetween points. It feels almost like he could have cut it.
The butler makes his point.

Medium close-up. And countershot of a medium, when Peck turns his back to the camera.

Peck returns to the table and sits down. They seem to decide to finally exchange some information. Peck even offers a cigarette.

From the last POV on Peck the camera dollies backwards with Peck leaning on the chair, then sitting down, leveling the two men.
But the gardener makes a point of not smoking.

Close-ups of the two. The camera is much closer now. There is standard back-and-forth cutting now.

The gardener makes accusations against his former mistress.

The two are sitting much closer now. The lampshade only hangs in from above the frame.

Peck gets up in anger.

The camera follows him in close-up.

The butler also gets up in anger. He calls Mrs. Paradine "evil". As a consequence, Peck opens the window again and shows the man out.

The camera follows him too, but dollies back to reveal both of them standing very close together.

Peck then walks towards the window and opens it.

But the camera stays with the butler, accompanies him to the window, where they have another exchange (with switched sides) and then stays on Peck's back.

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