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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Friday, March 1, 2013
7:00 p.m. Spellbound
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1945)

The subject of guilt, which is implicit in so many of Hitchcock’s films, becomes the explicit theme in Spellbound, a whodunit whose means of investigation is psychoanalysis. “I did it,” says the guilt-obsessed patient (Gregory Peck). “No you didn’t,” says the analyst (Ingrid Bergman), thereby leading to the discovery of the real murderer. Conceived of by David O. Selznick, who was himself undergoing analysis at the time, Spellbound’s beautiful analyst in love with her patient is an analysand’s dream come true—as long as it’s just a movie. Perhaps it’s inevitable that Hitchcock, whose films abound in subtle dreamlike sequences to convey psychological states, would disappoint in the presentation of literal dreams, and the dream sequences designed by Salvador Dalí are a little silly. Yet the film’s preoccupation with unconscious guilt and the eruption of violence when one is most threatened by love were clearly deeply felt by Hitchcock and given masterful and terrifying visual expression.

—Marilyn Fabe

• Written by Ben Hecht, Angus MacPhail, John Palmer, based on the novel The House of Dr. Edwardes by Hilary St. George Sanders. Photographed by George Barnes. With Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov, Leo G. Carroll. (111 mins, B&W/Color, 35mm, From Swank Motion Pictures)