By Roger Thomas for the SNAP
Friday, January 3, 2013 —
I was a freshman in college when I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” for the very first time. I could describe the room for you. I could describe the screams. I could describe my surprise when everything came clear in the plot. Many others could probably offer similar stories. There are few films, the original “Star Wars” would be another one, that I can describe not only the film but what was happening around me as I first witnessed the motion picture. Some films are experiences, at least for those who truly love the cinema.
“Hitchcock” is a film about the making of “Psycho.” I am not sure how historically accurate everything is. I rarely investigate those things, because they do not ultimately matter when it comes to evaluating a film. Films, even documentaries, are ultimately art. One does not look at Da Vinci’s Last Supper and critique what the disciples are wearing. So I will not offer any information as to whether the film is true. But it does hold truth.
“Hitchcock” is a small film with a simple story. Hitchcock has had much success in his life and some individuals wonder why he does not retire. Rest on his laurels, so to speak. But he wants a challenge. He wants to succeed again, in a new way.
One of the themes of the film is aging. Early on a reporter points out to the director that he is 60 and says, “Shouldn’t you just quit while you are ahead?” At what point does anyone cease to desire success? And especially when does a gifted artist decide the world needs no more contributions from him? Hitchcock in the film is not ready to fold up the director’s chair and lay down the megaphone. Few with great talent are ever ready to extinguish the artistic flame.
Another theme of the film is human nature. Hitchcock believes in the dark side of mankind and when his wife gives him a book about a very dark true crime situation, he wants this to be his next film. Others, including the studio head of Universal, are not sure this story is filmable in 1960’s Hollywood. But Hitchcock has made up his mind.
A third theme is risk. Hitchcock, believing in the commercial value of this shocking story, mortgages his house for his art. He is driven and passionate almost to a fault. And yet he never gives up, well, he almost never gives up.
Which is the fourth and most important theme of “Hitchcock.” This film is a love story between Alfred Hitchcock and his wife of many years Alma Reville. Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, two of our finest actors, portray the couple and they are perfectly cast. The Oscar buzz surrounding these two is not as energized as it should be for the performances. Alfred and Alma work together, live together, sacrifice and risk together. Theirs is not an easy or simple relationship in the film, but it rings true. In real life Alfred and Alma were married 54 years. Much of the portrayal of the marriage was probably fictionalized, but a 54 year marriage in Hollywood has to be a testimony of a great love, compassion and grace.
Finally, going back to where I started, this is a film about the making of “Psycho.” If you love films, and especially if you are a fan of “Psycho,” this movie is a lot of fun. Inside stories on the casting, direction, censoring of the plot elements (including a side-splitting discussion about showing a commode on screen), filming and editing of the shower scene, the original audience reaction to the film and so much more make this one of the funniest and fun films for movie-lovers everywhere. And if you are like me, it will take you back to a simpler time, when you were young and first saw “Psycho.” For me, it was in the crowded lounge of the girl’s dormitory at Furman University in the winter of 1982.
There are a lot of bigger films in theaters right now. Many of them I like more than “Hitchcock.” But if you are looking for a small, moving and quite humorous story of love and movies, you will find few better than this one.