Kogonada has made a career of producing elegantly conceived video essays that dissect the stylistic eccentricities of cinema’s greatest formalists. In one video, he neatly illustrated Wes Anderson’s love of symmetrical compositions. In another, he observed how frequently Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, a director with more stylistic quirks than just about anyone else, populated his movies with shots of corridors and doorways. And, in perhaps his best, Kogonada shows just how often Stanley Kubrick relies on one-point perspective. Kogonada’s latest video, called The Eyes of Hitchcock, explores how the director used facial expressions to convey suspense and fear. You can watch it above.
Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” This is a guy who directed the greatest slasher scene in movie history – the shower scene in Psycho — but famously never showed Norman Bates’s knife actually stabbing his victim, Marion Crane. The horror of the scene was conveyed through actress Janet Leigh’s shocked expression. Though directors have always understood the power of the face, Hitchcock consistently used facial expressions to carry a movie’s suspense. A person’s face relates primal emotions much more efficiently than shots just of knives, guns or explosions. (Michael Bay, take note.)
For this video, Kogonada strings together expressions from Hitchcock’s vast oeuvre, from Jimmy Stewart’s wild-eyed baby blues waking up from a nightmare in Vertigo, to Ingrid Bergman’s tearful, anxious look in Notorious, to Norman Bates’s bat shit crazy death stare in Psycho. Hitch tended to frame these moments in extreme close up with the eyes right in the middle of the frame. Kogonada rolls back and forth on a couple frames of these moments, giving the video an otherworldly shimmer, timed perfectly with the music. It’s completely mesmerizing.
If you have a hankering to watch complete movies by the master, check out Open Culture’s list of 23 Hitchcock Films. You can watch them right now, online, for free.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily. The Veeptopus store is here.