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Today I wanted to take a little bit of a closer look at a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Vertigo.
It's an early scene in the movie where the retired detective Scottie, played by Jimmy Stewart, visits an old college friend, Gavin Elster.
Scottie: How did you get into the shipbuilding business, Gavin?
Specifically I want to look at how Hitchcock blocks this 5 min 20 sec scene,
and how his staging of the characters adds to the story.
Gavin: I married into it.
Now should I say that there are two ways to look at this scene.
From the perspective of a first time viewer who has to take the information it presents at face value
Or from the perspective of someone who has already seen the film and knows the true intentions and outcomes of what is revealed here.
Now I am going to take a look at this from the second perspective which means that there is going to be spoilers, so just a heads up.
So if you have seen Vertigo you know that in this scene Gavin Elster is spinning an elaborate lie in order to create an alibi
So that he can get away with murdering his wife
In his plan, Scottie is the alibi. Gavin tells Scotty that his wife is possessed by an old spirit
Asks Scottie to spy on her, then switches his wife out for an actress who plays that part
cleverly exploiting Scottie's desire and his vertigo, Gavin and the actress murder his wife
and leave Scottie traumatized believing that the wife committed suicide.
The scene in question, the one in Gavin's office at his shipbuilding business,
comes only 11 mins into the film
and comprises Gavin's attempt to lure Scottie into his deception.
Scottie: How did you get into the shipbuilding business, Gavin?
Gavin: I married into it.
The scene starts with Gavin seated at his desk and Scottie standing behind a chair in the center of the room.
In the beginning, it's Scottie who's dominant.
He's asking questions, moving around Gavin's desk,
leisurely inspecting various objects like a retired detective might.
By acting and sitting rather coyly, Gavin lures Scotty into his space and his confidence
under the illusion of sincerity.
Gavin: Always liked it here.
Scottie: How long have you been back?
Gavin: Almost a year.
Scottie continues his inspection, moving to the other side of the room to see an old picture of San Francisco.
His back is turned just as Gavin makes a key confession.
Gavin: Yes, I should like to live here then, color, excitement, power, freedom.
It's that freedom he desires, freedom from his wife, that's launching this cruel plan.
Of course, the audience can't know it then but Hitchcock's foreshadowing is there
And it's in the staging too.
While he sits, Gavin in front of a window that shows a ship behind being put together piece by piece
not unlike the story he's about to spin for Scottie.
Scottie moves towards Gavin again and sits in the center chair, asking him the purpose of their meeting
And here, the power changes hands.
As Scottie sits in the hot seat, Gavin stands and begins to tell his story.
He moves around the desk and up a couple of stairs so that he's towering over Scottie in height.
Gavin: I want you to follow my wife. No, it's nothing. We're very happily married.
Scottie: Well, then.
Gavin: I'm afraid some harm may come to her.
Scottie: From whom?
Gavin: Someone dead.
When Gavin makes his big reveal that his wife is being supernaturally possessed,
Hitchcock brings him in closer to Scottie so that the angle is even more extreme.
Far now from being coy, Gavin's blocking becomes aggressive.
And the next thing that happens is perhaps the most interesting moment in the scene.
Gavin and Scottie remind fixed in their positions but the camera dollys backwards to bring them both into frame.
Now the camera moves all over the scene but this movement is the only that really calls attention to itself.
This is reminder that for Hitchcock,
blocking involves the position of the camera too.
There are three elements in scene, not just two.
Scottie expresses his disbelief at the situation
and Gavin, sitting again, softer in tone, acts like he understands.
Gavin: Sorry I wasted your time. Thanks for coming in, Scottie.
Scottie gets up and moves toward the door to leave.
Gavin lets this happen because he knows that to really rope Scottie in,
he has to make it seem like it's his own choice.
Scottie apologizes and Gavin moves into his space again.
Before Scottie can say anything, Gavin starts in on the details of his lie
How his wife seems to fade in and out of her personality, how she wanders around odd places.
Gavin himself is wandering in the second room which is raised a few steps like a stage
And Scottie moves to the chair on the opposite side, like an audience member watching his performance.
Gavin: I followed her one day. Watched her coming out of the apartment, someone I didn't know...
Gavin: She even walked a different way. Got into her car and drove out to Golden Gate Park. Five miles.
Gavin: Sat by the lake, staring across the water at the pillars that stand on the far shore, you know, the Portals of the Past.
Gavin: Sat there a long time without moving. I had to leave, to get back to the office.
Gavin: When I got home that evening, I asked her what she'd done all day.
Gavin: She said she'd driven out to Golden Gate Park and sat by the lake, that's all.
Scottie: Well?
Gavin: The speedometer of her car showed that she'd driven 94 miles.
Of course, what Gavin is doing here isn't recounting details, but planting them in Scottie's head.
Details that will match with his actress' actions in the following scenes.
This layer of stage performance is a stroke of genius on Hitchcock's part because on one level
Vertigo is a about the power of film and the power of narrative
How a really good narrative can manipulate us,
Whether it's for the purposes of entertainment or something more sinister.
The narrative laid out for Scottie in this scene will drive the whole rest of the story.
It will drive Scottie's actions in the first part of the film.
Eventually, it will drive his own obsessive narrative creation in the second one.
Gavin: I've got to know, Scottie. Where she goes and what she does before I get involved with doctors.
Scottie: Have you talked to the doctors at all about it?
Gavin: Yes, but carefully.
When Gavin steps back down into the lower room, the monologue ends and the conversation resumes.
Scottie gets up from the chair to protest Gavin's request for help, but he's moving toward him.
Gavin mirrors his movement and approaches Scottie, entering his space again this time with his final bargain
A simple request.
Gavin: We're going to an opening at the opera tonight. We're dining at Ernie's first. You can see her there.
The scene ends with Gavin literally leaning into Scottie, and Scottie finally relenting.
The trap has been set. Hitchcock even frames it so that the two are overlapping.
I've always loved this scene in Vertigo.
In college I used to diagram it out in my notebooks, trying to figure out
Where he put the camera, what lens he used.
But it's the blocking for these five continuous minutes that are the real mark for Hitchcock's mastery of the form.
This scene is small and often overlooked, but it holds up the rest of the film.
How many other directors could choreograph this conversation in such a way that it works like a dance?
Where one man is leading and performing, and the other is a spectator and a patsy without knowing it.
Both Gavin Elster and this scene have Hitchcock written all over them.
In other words, I don't think it's a coincidence that the man himself isn't too far away.
Hey everybody, thanks for watching. I really did diagram the scene in my college notebooks
And I encourage you guys to pick out a favorite scene of yours with complicated blocking and do the same.
I think it can be really illuminating.
Thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this video.
The Nerdwriter is my full time job so pledges and sponsorships on this channel
Help me keep my nose to the grindstone just to make more videos which I love to do.
And Squarespace is actually really great, really professional-looking, sleek, intuitive website.
Don't have to know coding to make one and you get a free domain if you sign up for a year.
Can start that free trial at squarespace.com and if you use the offer code: nerdwriter
You get 10% off your first purchase at Squarespace. You should.
Thanks guys, I'll see you next Wednesday.


希區考克《迷魂記》布局大剖析 (How Alfred Hitchcock Blocks A Scene)

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鄭小鬼 發佈於 2016 年 7 月 2 日    鄭小鬼 翻譯    Mandy Lin 審核
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