Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #5: Heard About the Murder? (Scene from Blackmail)

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1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  


 


I'm not real clear on what being put "in the subjective mind of Alice" means. Is it that I am experiencing the scene from her POV or is it that I "get" what she is thinking? 


 


I Googled it and found


"A point of view shot (also known as POV shot, First-person shot or a subjective camera) is a short film scene that shows what a character (the subject) is looking at (represented through the camera). (I also found references to how it differed from objective POV...)


But it seemed to me that the question was asking how did Hitchcock's use of sound help me get into Alice's head. So that is what I will respond to. I started to follow Alice's thoughts when the camera zoomed in on the police phone number - not the number she had asked for. A visual cue not audio. The lack of sound in the telephone booth in hindsight does serve to isolate my thoughts to Alice, but initially, the lack only registered as she was entering a new "room" where the sound did not carry. As she sat at the breakfast table, I noticed via her lack of eye contact with the others, that she was "miles away." Again, a visual cue, not an audible one. However, when the gossiper started chatting about how unBritish knives are, Alice did cut her eyes towards her and reconnect with the conversation, but then she drifts away again into her own thoughts only connected via the repeated "knife" that cut into her revery. Her father's words were clear when he asked her to, "Cut us a bit of bread..." while the only clear words of the gossiper were "knife." This draws my attention to the selective focus of Alice's "hearing" of the word knife and the final utterance of knife was shrieked An interpretation of what Alice was "hearing" and not what how the gossiper uttered the word. In the same way, the sound of the bell announcing the customer was distorted to sound more alarming than it did in the "real world." The audience did not even hear the bell announcing the man who came in to buy the paper; however, now the audience and Alice are hearing an alarming, reverberating version of the bell. 


 


2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 


 


The shriek of the word knife at the end of the gossiper's monolog was a counterpoint to the visual way she casually presented and matter-of-factly spoke her lines. Shock registered when Alice (and the audience) heard the shriek of the word knife, while simultaneously seeing a close-up of the knife cutting the bread, and immediately after saw Alice's hand fling upward, and heard the thunk of the knife hitting the floor.


 


3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? 


 


Realism is more in vogue - even when it is si-fi. The director uses realistic elements to help audiences buy into the believability of the plot. 


 


 


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Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 

 

Hitchcock cleverly uses the woman's voice - a shrill voice to begin with - to shock Alice and the viewers. If the woman's voice was calm and low-key, there would be no shock, no surprise. But by making it so sharp and grating to the ears, anyone would jump when she shrieks, "A KNIFE!"

 

As the scene builds up, you can see the stress/tension on Alice's face, with quite a bit of fear. Hitchcock is very clever in concentrating on the visual, while keeping the sound in the background until the appropriate moment (when Alice has the knife in her hand). I'm sure when this film played in the theaters, the audience jumped and/or screamed!

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1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  

She can only concentrate in the word that means something else to her – that’s why she can only hear “knife”. The repetition is a sign of both paranoia and trauma – after all, Alice killed in self-defense.

 

2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 

Since the beginning of the sequence we can see that Alice is tense, not acting naturally. When she sits on the table and the “knife” is everything she hears, we have a focus on her nervous face. All the other words said by the obnoxious woman are unclear, but we can hear knife. Then Alice is told to cut the bread, and her hand is shaking. The greatest surprise is that she throws the knife exactly when the word “knife” is shouted – probably symbolizing the edge in her troubled mind – and I, at least, hoped the knife would cut the obnoxious woman.

 

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? 

First, I’d like to say that I really liked that, when she entered the phone booth, it became quiet, and her intention was shown through image alone. Also, it’s as if she shot herself down and stopped hearing the voice of the talkative woman.

And I know the answer for this question: when synchronized sound became possible, everyone wanted to earn money with the possible fad, so the studios chose the easy way out: to use voice, matching with images, as the main source of sound.

Some filmmakers, however, wanted to experiment with sound just like Hitchcock. Among those who used “subjective sound” we have Alberto Cavalcanti and René Clair.

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1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  

 

​The sound design plays into the Paranoia of Alice. The words that mean something to her predicament are louder. The sound of others is also very invasive. Alice is on edge. 

 

2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 

​Alice is very unhinged. There is a lack of control in what she does as she tries to have control. There is a close look at her face and it scans to her hand as she picks up the knife and begins to use it. The sound gets louder. He sets up the shot to show us where her mind is at and how holding onto a knife now makes her feel. 

 

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? 

This sound technique should be used sparingly and only in certain films. It adds to suspense but if over used it will have less of an impact. It can also make certain things seem unrealistic so you want to make sure that this specific use of sound will be the better choice. 

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The use of sound is brilliantly used as a device to gain aural insights into Alice's mindset. It's clear in Ondra's performance that the character is filled with trepidation. She's skittish and paranoid. The use of sound helps to give her worried state greater depth. Examples of this include her isolated hearing of the word "knife" repeatedly from another character, and the pronounced bell at the very end of the scene, which signifies that something is amiss. In the shot in which the knife flies out of Alice's hand, the knife is initially relatively still as Alice appears to examine it with care, but as the word "KNIFE!" is loudly exclaimed, the calmness is drastically interrupted and the knife--meant to innocently cut a slice of bread--is violently tossed. It becomes a weapon ("Might have cut somebody with that"). Similar to modern horror movies where a music track suddenly crescendos to strike fear in the audience, the exclamation of "KNIFE!" strikes fear into both Alice and the audience.

 

As sound is now commonplace--and long has been--it's difficult to take what audiences are used to and find new, unexpected ways to present it in order to garner a reaction. During the early sound days, sound was a novelty. It was new and unexpected on its own. Perhaps that's why we don't see subjective sound used as much in modern cinema. Rather, we resort to visual tricks (film is a visual medium, after all) and special effects to dazzle and excite us--to show us things we've never seen. Modern technology for picture and effects enables this, and perhaps technology for sound hasn't changed as regularly.

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1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  The woman who is constantly talking about the murder, along with other topics, keeps reminding Alice of the murder. The statement about it is more British to use a brick instead of a knife along with the constant repetition of the word knife really affects Alice.  When she is asked to cut the bread she touches the knife with trepidation and fear. 

2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. .  When she is asked to cut the bread, she touches the knife with trepidation and fear, turning it one way and then the other. All the while the lady keeps repeating the word knife and then screams the word “knife,” Alice drops, albeit, almost throws, the knife.

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? In my opinion, the constant talking of the lady and repetition of her words is very obnoxious. This method would get very tiresome. 

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In the scene we studied from Blackmail, I'd like to comment on three elements of Hitchcock's sound design.

At the beginning of the scene a the soundtrack is filled with a customer's patter. All this conversation is exuberant, it's as if we're making up for the silence of all the movies that came before. When Alice enters the phone booth, she is bathed in a silence that contrasting with the voices in the shop. In the phone booth Alice can organize her thoughts in the refuge offered by lack of sound.

For the next technique, one word is intelligible, knife, while any other words are gradually reduced to a buzz, like static. As the key word, knife, is repeated, somewhat rhythmically, a closeup on Alice's face shows how she is effected by its mention. Shots of her holding the knife emphasize a loss of self control. Finally, Alice (alone) hears the word screamed, and she throws the knife she's using to cut the breakfast bread.

Another sound, the shop's bell, is emphasized to reflect how Alice perceives it. The sound focuses her attention, and draws her from her thoughts, yanking her to the reality of the shop. The next time the bell rings, we hear it as she does, reverberating louder. Her face is lined with tension the sound produced.

 

His innovative use of sound in the scene reflects the excitement Hitchcock may have felt with ability to add sound to his pictures. He was exploring how to use sound to advance the tale. Could using the techniques I saw in the scene be too obvious for modern moviegoers? We don't seem to expect sound to illuminate character. Conversations in movies advance the plot, and sound effects (sometimes) push us back in our seats. In comparison with Hitchcock, sound doesn't appear to being used in the same way. Maybe modern audiences don't have patience for innovative use of sound?

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​1. The audience is put into the 'mind of Alice' not so much through a subjective camera angle or any visual cues, but more through a subjective audio. We only hear what Alice hears, even though the camera may be pointed at her. For example, when Alice goes into the telephone booth, the sound of the woman talking is muffled beyond comprehension, as it would be if we were in the booth with Alice. We also hear what Alice is thinking, when the word 'knife' is the only word she pays attention too in the woman's rambling. Her mind is preoccupied on the knife, so even though the woman says whole sentences, we only hear Alice's word.

 

​2. The audience is just as startled by the throwing/dropping of the knife as Alice is because we have her perspective. When we keep hearing KNIFE KNIFE KNIFE the tension builds so that we are as stressed as she is, and when she freaks out and drops the knife, we are right there with her.

 

​3. It is probably not popular just because images are clearer and easier to follow, and you might get confused by whose point of view you are listening to if you only have sound to go on

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1.  In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  First, Sounds that she hears are exaggerated.  Second, when she is in the phone box, even though the nosy customer is talking, we can’t hear it.  She is in a totally silent world because she is preoccupied with her problem (I assume she has seen the murder; beyond that I don’t know the plot of this film) even though in reality the woman’s voice would still be audible to her in the box.  The woman’s chattering signifies the things swirling around her even though she is submerged in this concern. When she sees the knife, the only thing that starts to be going around in her head is knife.  Since we don’t really hear what the chattering woman is saying, she might not be saying knife over and over and might not even yell it; everything is in Alice’s mind. 

  1. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific.  

I think we are sort of hearing the words over and over again at the same volume and then it gets loud to surprise us and her. Again, I don’t think the woman screamed it, especially since her words “and then in Chelsea” don’t have any thing to do with “knife!’ Alice only heard it loud. She also hears the last doorbell louder than it really is.  Visually, Alice is summoning all her strength to touch the knife so she can cut the bread.  Aurally the tension is building.  

  1. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? Well, first movies tend to use music for a lot of purposes nowadays.  Second, it comes across a little melodramatic to today’s audiences.  We associate it with people with mental problems.  Third, it can be confusing to have the subjective sound and the real sound at the same time. 

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1. How he uses sound design putting us into the subjective mind of Alice? We get more sounds from her vantage point, focused on the customer/acquaintance's non-stop talk of the murder & use of a knife therein. As Alice goes into the phone booth, all outside sound is silenced, then restarts as soon as she opens the door. Also, having the woman's conversation become just muddled words, with the exception of one word jumping out over & over again, the word "knife," clearly, we know it only sounds that way to Alice.

2. Different ways sound design operates in counterpoint to the visual track. What is happening visually & aurally, be specific. The idea, again, that we, as the audience, hear what Alice hears - like blah-blah-blah - "knife" several times; the visual focusing in on Alice grasping, gripping the knife before it flies out of her hand. Also, the final time the woman utters the word "knife," it is much louder - again, probably as it is this way in Alice's mind, not in reality.

3. Why this use of subjective sound is not frequently used in cinema? I think some of it could be that it would involve having to give your audience some credit as to being able to figure out what is being done there, that it is a subjective presentation, not a view of straight reality. Also, if not done carefully, it could indeed be a bit confusing.

I thought this whole scene was very interesting and well-done!

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1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  


Hitchcock seems to let Alice wander visually, which reflects audibly with her surroundings. The gossiping customer's prattle goes in and out, and the emphasis on the word "knife" betrays it's importance to Alice's thoughts.


2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 


In the example of Alice and the Knife, Hitchcock sets up the shot with Alice at the table. Already distracted by her thoughts, her mind starts to audibly tune out most of the prattle with the exception of the word "Knife". She's then asked to cut the bread, which further sets her into a mental culdesac/ Now distracted by the cutting knife, the constant prattling of "knife" become a sort of consistent pattern until Alice and the audience are startled by the loud change in the word's mention.  


3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema?


  The extra effort of planning dubbing and the need to have consistency are probable factors. Part of the effect of sound on film is the synchronization between sound and image. Disturb it too greatly, and either it becomes distracting or too old hat to be very useful.


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1.  In this sequence describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice". 

Alice looks as though she is in shock and in a world of her own. The constant talking of the customer in the background and the slowness of her responses isolates her within her own mind. The same is true in the phone box because the contrast is very powerful while she is inside it with the door closed as opposed to the counter outside. She is so afraid she cannot even make the call and the silence makes it more scary.

 

2.  Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in the counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific.

 

He starts with a close up of Alice to that we can begin to feel her emotion and get inside her head. When she is ask to slice the bread she can hardly even pick up the knife. The camera moves around to behind the table allowing full view so you can see the contrast of the other players in the frame giving us the chance to see each individuals reaction. The whole time we hear all of Alice's thoughts, because they are written on her face, and the gradual elevation of the word knife which builds the suspence.

I also think that it is important to notice before the knife scene the door of the shop keeps calling and she has no idea who will be walking through the door.

 

3.  Why do you think this is particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema?

 

 if you are referring to today's movies I think it is because they tell us everything and nothing is left for the imagination.  There are exceptions, of course, but most cinema today is very noisy and they tell and show us everything.  All the wonderful things that used to be done with different sounds and close ups is now just bad language. I guess I am a little biased because I love old movies best.

 

 

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1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  

 

The use of chatter from a client and the the silence in the phone booth puts you directly into the Mind of Alice. Silence is used here to contrast the nervous state of Alice which no one seems to see.

 

2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 

 

Again, the use of chatter together with the specifics of gossip and gibberish counterpoints with the visual of Alice and what's going on inside her head.... as the talking scatters and the word knife starts to pop, the audience starts to pay more attention to what's visually happening at the table. The knife becomes the focus of and the reason why for what's in the Mind of Alice.

 

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema?

 

Modern audiences became used to not pay much attention to what's visually happening in movies as the talkie and dialogue centered films became more popular. So making the connection of visual and audio used to send out information becomes tedious.

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1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.

 

I think he begins by using the chatter of the customers as they ask about whether Alice and her family have heard about the murder. The woman customer continues chatting about it nonstop. When Alice goes to the phone booth to get away from the noise, the phone book flips to the police telephone number. We can see the strain in her face and eyes. As she returns to the store and then joins her parents for breakfast, the neighbor/customer continues her incessant chatter about the murder. Her escalating descriptions of the best "British" murder techniques include discussions of the knife. Whether the woman is actually doing it or it is in Alice's mind-either way, we hear both the repetition of the word and the increasing sound until it becomes a scream-her repetition of and the volume of her voice repeating the word, "knife," escalates until Alice practically throws the knife in fear, remembering the events of the previous night.

 

2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific.

 

When the sound of the woman's chattering about the knife reaches its apex, it's a surprise as the woman has been talking in a conversational tone, albeit in an excited, almost irritating, manner, but the family is calmly starting their breakfast, with Alice distracted, tired and concerned. Her father has just quietly asked her to slice the bread. Just as she is beginning to do so, we hear the woman's scream-whether actual or, likely, imagined by Alice-which causes Alice to drop the knife with force.

 

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema?

 

Part of this may be due to the fact that Hitchcock dubbed a lot of the sound and sound effects of Blackmail in after he made the movie as a silent film. Some of these effects may simply not be considered by modern filmmakers. Also, most movies made today are more obvious, less concerned with illuminating the subjective, especially of a character's inner life.

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1. Alice walks into the store and greeted by her father and a customer.  While she acknowledges them she is clearly preoccupied by her own thoughts.  The customer continues to talk but the camera is focused on Alice's face.  We understand that something is wrong.

 

2. The conversation continues throughout the scene.  Every so often Alice looks up as to acknowledge what the conversation is about.  When her father asks Alice to cut the bread, the way she slowly reaches for the knife..and all of a sudden the conversation changes to one word, "knife".

 

3. Subjective Sound is sound that a character hears in their mind.  Perfect for this film.  Objective Sound is sound that the physical world inside the film generates.  It is literal. 

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1. Well the scene begins with Alice appearing in the middle of a conversation about a knife murder. As soon as she closes the phone booth door, we hear absolutely nothing until that door is opened again. We are practically hearing what Alice is hearing at this point.

 

2. When Alice goes over to sit at the table, the conversation from another character suddenly turns to murmurs, with the only word sticking out of that being "knife". When she is asked to cut the bread, it sounds as though the word "knife" is being spoken more harsher and harsher until it is yelled out.

 

3. Film is primarily a visual form of art, therefore, audiences are more focused on what's happening on the screen than just hearing the movie. This way of thinking applies more today as opposed to back then.

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Considering that sound was in it's early stages,Hitchcock showcases his technological ability by keenly allowing the viewer to hear and see Alice's terror.He use the sound of doorbells, the constant chattering of a female client, the silence in the phone booth (escape) the repetition of the word knife and it's build up to a scream, and the vibrating knell of the doorbell.Visually Hitch presents his story via the character's facial expression of fright. Aurally, the audience hears what her terrified mind is exaggerating like the woman saying knife at a scream pitch and the clamorous door bell.I credit him for creating a bread cutting scene to include a knife just to jar our nerves. I think that the use of the subjective sound is no longer needed because in modern movies the viewer has information from the dialogue and from the visually packed scenes.

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1. Hitchcock uses sound design to put us into the subjective mind of Alice by amplifying ordinary noises and sounds to make them grate on our nerves the way they are grating on the frayed nerves of Alice. The doorbell ringing, the cash register, the endless chatter of the female customer ... all combine to help us feel her distraction and preoccupation.


2. What's happening visually in this scene seems very normal and calm. The family is sitting down to breakfast, the female customer is gossiping. I thought it was very clever to muffle the words other than "knife". When we hear the last, shrill scream of "knife" we can tell from the reaction (or lack thereof) of Alice's parents that the customer didn't actually scream the word. The shot had been tight on the knife in Alice's hand so the combination of hearing the word screamed and the toss of the knife takes the audience by surprise.  


3. I'm not certain why the use of subjective sound isn't used more often in contemporary cinema. Perhaps it's hard to pull off without seeming gimmicky these days. At the time Hitchcock used the technique it was cutting edge. 


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Hitchcock hits another milestone in film production. I am curious how the silent film compares. The human condition of Alice is still easily seen and felt without the sound design. Toying with the knife and facial emotion shows clearly she is tormented. The sound is bonus and draws us deeper into the character as we now can hear what the character hears. The sound design envelops the audience to her alarming state with all the objective being sifted through Alice's mind as calamity is prevalent. i can't really comment on use today. One actor comes to mind who I think might fit this, Tom Hanks, multiple movies. Great comments everyone!!!

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1. In the dialogue the lady talks about the murder. The more she talks about it the more it is affecting Alice. All Alice seems to be focusing on is the word knife. The last time knife is spoken I think Alice's mind made it seem louder.

 

2. The woman is continuously talking about the murder. Alice is listening but it seems that she can hear and feel the word knife. Alice's face is full of subtle anxiety. By the time we get to that last KNIFE she is a bundle of nerves.

 

3. I think filmmakers have come up with more creative ways to get us to view a scene in a particular context. Visual effects or manipulations are easier for an audience to follow.

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1. By making things sound louder, and as with the word knife it was repetitive as if that was the only word that could be heard. Also by making the word knife louder it deemed as if the woman was being accusitive to someone with that word you can see how it makes Alive get more and more scared and agitated thinking why is she saying that word so much what does she know, did she see, does she know, things in that manner we can see how it would be to be in Alice's place.

 

 

 

2. Whole the tone of the scene is a bit somber, it is not rushed and while the one woman does talk about the murder, gossiping away, the tone is not one of fear or panic it is well there was a murder, and they are set down to breakfast no one seems upset well other than Alice. The underlining tone which centers around Alice lets use see that while everything is going on around her, she is in a state of fear, she is scared of what people are talking about about what they know, and what is going on. So it mixes the two tones letting use know that the way people are thinking is very differant and we can feel both with the tones.

 

 

3. I think because even with sound in movies we still focus more on visual than anything else and the scenes usually speak for themselves, while when sound was first being strted in movies, having relied more on  visual that anything they were just trying to get everything to mix well the sounds and the movements of the people.

1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  

2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? 

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1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  


When Alice goes into the phone booth, and closes the door, it's silent.  You can no longer hear the chatting going on in the shop.  


When the woman starts talking about the knife, eventually the only word you hear audibly is 'knife'.  It's what Alice is focused on.


 


2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 


When the knife flies out of Alice's hand, it is triggered by the woman saying 'knife' loudly.  the loudest up to that point.  The shot is also lined up so that when the knife leaves Alice's hand, it flies in the direction of the audience.


 


3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? 


I think part of it is that film makers just don't think about sound in the same way anymore.  They rely more on the visual. 


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While Alice is in the phone booth, looking in the phone book, it is silent. The chatting is not there.

When the woman says "knife", it is the word Alice is focused on. When the woman says the word "knife", the knife flies out of Alice's hand, scares her and the audience. Filmakers these days are more focused on the visual, not the sound.

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1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  

The changes in the sound, from just idle banter by the woman, to sudden silence in the phone booth, heightens the viewers' attention to what is being said and what Alice is subconciously focusing on. You can sense her turmoil as she looks in the phone book and goes to the listing for the police.

 

2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. 

Alice is now focused on the word 'knife' being repeated by the woman, and Hitchcock has almost eliminated the other parts of what she's saying.  (I couldn't hear what else she said.)

Everytime she said it, it became louder in Alice's mind as she was holding the knife for the bread until it became a loud outburst and she reacted in surprise.

 

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? 

I think other methods are used now. More visuals, flashbacks are common now, and CGI.

Sound was a new medium then, so of course it's going to be used in a more creative manner.

 

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When you are completely distraught about something, you often don't hear everything that is going on around you.  The brain gravitates towards particular sounds, words, or phrases.  I haven't seen the movie yet, but it's DVR'd and ready to go!  I suspect poor Alice has had a traumatic experience with a knife because as the older woman chats on while the family sits down to breakfast, the only thing Alice hears is "knife"....to the point she ends up accidentally throwing the knife.  That knife just doesn't drop on the table, if flies right out of her hand.  I'm sure this would have totally shocked the audience that is already feeling the suspense of the scene.  Hitchcock, early in his career, has proven to be brave enough to experiment wherever possible.  It takes careful planning and foresight with a lot of early set-up of the scene in order for subjective sound to work.  I imagine this strategy isn't used more often because it's probably very tough for all of the elements to fall into place for this to actually work successfully.  Leave it to Hitch to make it work!!  

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