1. Based on this opening scene, what do you anticipate is going to be more important in this film--the characters or the plot? (It is fine to make an informed guess about the 2nd question if you haven't seen the film yet)
Definitely the characters are more important than the plot. In fact, it can be argued that the plot of this film is a MacGuffin, itself. From what I have seen the films mostly seems to focus either entertaining the audience with various touches of humour throughout or pulling them into the anguished states of the parents, particularly the mother, to get their kidnapped daughter back.
The plot serves as a blueprint and catalyst that sets events in motion. But, after that, is the emotional journey of the main characters and the ethical implications they are forced to contend along the way. Example: The mother struggling to stay quiet for the sake of her daughter’s safety, during the Albert Hall climax, all the while wrestling with the knowledge that an assassination is about to take place.
It's interesting because about the plots of these types of films focusing more on the emotions of the scenes and characters; as opposed to its American counterparts that tend to focus more on plot progression.
2. What do you learn about Abbott (Peter Lorre) in his brief scene? How might this introduction affect your view of the character Abbott later in the film?
Abbot is a very easygoing character. He doesn’t mind being overwhelmed or knocked down by a crowd. He even uses self-deprecation as a source of humour when referring to his limited English.
Humour usually makes it very difficult to dislike a character, especially a villain, no matter how despicable they may show themselves to be ethically. Almost anyone that entertains in the fictional world (or even in real life) earns a very hearty appreciation from the audience and is even exempt from ethical consequences, that main characters are required to be bound to, as long as they continue to entertain.
3. We saw two opening scenes from Hitchcock's silent films in the Daily Doses last week (The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger). How is this opening both similar and different from those two films' opening scenes.
Just like in The Lodger, there is a moment of frenzy in The Man that Knew Too Much. Betty’s dog escapes from her clutches and runs to the path of a Luis Bernard, the skier. Frightened, Luis topples over and barely misses Betty as he falls to the bottom. The crowd is in a panic. They rush over to the fallen Luis, and topple all over themselves as a result. The event goes by so quickly, it hardly even lasts 20 seconds onscreen.
Unlike The Lodger though, after the moment has passed, everyone is strangely calm and humourous about it. Bob, Betty’s father jokes is constantly “knocking ‘em cold” while Luis flippantly comments about the possibility of meeting his demise amidst of Betty’s outrageously unapologetic smiling demeanor. In fact, the girl is more sorry that that day is Luis’ last day of vacationing St. Moritz than the fact that she was the cause of Luis’ accident. While the Brits are good about keeping a stiff upper lip, this American still has to question the priorities of these characters in this particular scene.
In The Pleasure Garden, there is a series of character interactions and events that take place, from a dance number featuring chorus girls to a pickpocketing outside the theatre.
The Man Who Knew Too Much also focuses quite a bit on character interactions. The difference is this opening stays on consistently on the same set of characters while The Pleasure Garden goes from one set of characters to another.