Thursday, September 27, 2018

Hitchcock: Terror and Suspense

On Art and Aesthetics listens as Alfred Hitchcock describes the difference between terror and suspense:
In February 1949, Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) had a piece published in the Good Housekeeping magazine called “The Enjoyment of Fear” where he distinguished between the feelings and moods of “terror” and “suspense” with the help of vivid illustrations. The essay is included in a book called Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews. The legendary director writes: 
Fear in the cinema is my special field, and I have, perhaps dogmatically, but I think with good cause, split cinematic fear into two broad categories – terror and suspense.
He gives examples to make the distinction definite:
Walking down a dimly lighted street in the late hours of the night, with no other people about, a person may find his mind playing strange tricks. The silence, the loneliness, and the gloom may set the scene for fear.

Suddenly a dark form thrusts itself before the lonely walker. Terror. It does not matter that the form was a waving branch, a newspaper picked up by a gust of wind, or simply an oddly shaped shadow unexpectedly coming into view. Whatever it was, it produced its moment of terror. 
The same walker, on the same dark street, might have no inclination toward fear. The sound of footsteps coming from somewhere behind might cause the late stroller to become curious, then uneasy, then fearful. The walker stops, the footsteps are not heard; the pace is increased, so also the tempo of the thin sounds coming out of the night. Suspense. The echo of his own steps? Probably. But suspense. 
Read more at On Art and Aesthetics 

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