Alfred Hitchcock and Film Theory

Charlie Ritchie

Alfred Hitchcock’s work is crucial to the idea of cinema as a popular art form. His development as an artist and entertainer is integral to the progress of the medium itself as the dominant 20th century art form. Hitchcock’s films prompted the key movements in film theory, and have fundamentally shaped our understanding of visual and narrative language.

This course looks at some of these key theories and considers them in relation to Hitchcock’s provocative creativity. Hitchcock was a theorist himself, and we will examine his own engagement with montage, expressionism, auteur theory, psychoanalysis, gender and spectatorship as a portal to the different critical approaches he has inspired.

“I am interested not so much in the stories I tell as in the means of telling them”.

From The Lodger (1926) to Frenzy (1972) Hitchcock’s work pushes at stylistic and ethical boundaries, and manipulates audience reaction, within a determinedly commercial aesthetic. He was very happy to describe, explain and promote his films. We will discuss what they tell us now about how cinema works. The course will be accompanied by a short programme of full length screenings of key Hitchcock films which will cover the British, American and ‘later’ Hitchcock.

Intended Audience

This course is aimed at anyone interested in understanding and enjoying popular cinema. It may be of particular interest to film/media majors.

Previous Knowledge

The course assumes no prior subject knowledge and offers an introduction to film analysis and critical theory.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills

Taking this course will help develop skills of textual analysis, critical theory and debate.