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Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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What I like the most about Hitchcock is his great concern of the details. He is the king of details.

Though this is his first sound film he treated sound smartly to be a part of the storytelling and not an ornament.

 

Alice is the main character in this scene. You can know that even if you did not watch the film. He uses sound to prove it from the first second.

 

The voice of the gossipy lady is low at the beginning because Alice listens to it from another room. Once she enters the shop the lady voice comes loud and clear. As if you enter the shop with Alice.

Then there is Alice anxious voice when she asks for the telephone number. You can share her uneasy feelings once you listen to her at this moment and in the entire scene.

 

She enters the telephone cabin and there is a total silence.   Even the gossipy woman loud voice could not   Penetrates glass barrier like what happened in the first second of the scene. It is because Alice forgets about the entire outside world and she concentrates only with her inner thoughts and the phone book that you can hear its turning pages sound.

 

On the dining table once the word knife is uttered the camera picks Alice face, her worry face. You can feel it not only from the facial expressions of Alice but also from the very smart use of the gossipy lady voice. She is talking and talking as she does from the beginning but only the word knife that you can catch! It is not you, it is Alice who is fully bothered and concerned about this horrifying word "knife" until the peak of her worries comes when the knife fall off her hands and the background a very loud and even shouty "knife" explodes. It happened in her mind and in yours at the same moment. At the end of the scene Alice is totally involved in her inner thoughts even the strong sound of the ring does not disturb her. She needs someone to tell her "Another costumer Alice!"

 

But this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema because the modern audience are sound oriented comparing to the silent cinema audience. I think one needs to make more efforts if he chose to use the Hitchcock style of subjective sound  to have the viewers attention.  

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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 uses a simple visual technique to shift the focus from the realistic dialog of the woman talking about the murder and her theory on knives to the subjective sound that Alice has going on in her head. As they are sitting at the table, he pans from the woman speaking down to Alice. All during this, the woman's dialog is realistic. He then cuts to a closeup of Alice. For a few seconds, the dialog is realistic, but then shifts to barely distinguishable muttering with only the word, "knife," being clear in Alice's mind.


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. 


You see it early in the clip. Alice asks her father for a phone number, Fran, I think. He says it is in the phone book. Alice goes in the phone booth and is isolated from the dialog happening in the shop. There she looks up the phone number of the police. This is something that Hitchcock spoke of in the Mike Scott interview. Characters say one thing and do another. Alice asks for a friend's phone number, but is really contemplating  turning herself into the the police. 


As I mentioned in the previous question, when they are sitting at the table, Alice is obsessing on the word, "knife." Then Hitchcock pushes it further by having the father ask her to slice the bread. This is spoken clearly amid the word knife over and over in Alice's mind. Hitchcock wants this to be clear to the audience that it is the father talking. It also forces her to pick up the knife, the very object that she is obsessing over. Visually,  we see her hand trembling as she reaches for the knife. She literally fumbles with the knife in her hand as if unable to grasp it firmly. She literally throw the knife from her. 


Also there is something going with bells, Alice reacts mildly to the bell on the cash register. Then right before the end of the clip, she reacts more severely to the sound of the bell ringing. The second time the sound of the bell is exaggerated. I assume that relates to something earlier.


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


I think most film-makers shy away from the subjective, not just sound but visuals, because it is hard to do well without having it disorient the audience or seem gimmicky. Whereas other other film-makers in the early talkie period were focusing on the ability to show people talking, Hitchcock was already looking to see what else could be done with sound. Also Professor Edwards often mentions the Hitchcock touch. Often Hitchcock has people obsessed with a recreational interest in murder and contrasts this with the people who are affected by murder. In the Daily Dose, the woman gossips about the murder, while Alice was affected by it. It's very similar to a scene in Shadow of a Doubt (1943), also at the family dining table, Theresa Wright knows that her Uncle (Joseph Cotten) is a murder. Meanwhile, her father (Henry Travers) and the next-door neighbor (Hume Cronyn) both of them fans of murder mystery fiction are talking about how they would go about killing each other. Theresa Wright has a verbal outburst not unlike Alice's in the Daily Dose.


 


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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 sound off camera with the focus on Alices' face, shows us what she is thinking and her distress. 

 

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.  

 

While they are sitting down and the neighbor is talking of different types of murder (with a brick) and the focus of Alices' hand holding the knife handle and how the voice of the neighbor fades and then amplifies on the word KNIFE.  He sets up the shot wide-screen with us looking at the family from a distance and the clanking sound of the knife hitting the floor surprises us. 

 

 

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

​I think the modern viewer needs the dots connected closely together and the attention span is very short with modern audiences. And to focus on the face of only one character and not others doesn't play well with today's actors.  Her focus is on her face and her emotions playing across it, no dialogue at all.  Most of today's actors can't do that. 

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1. You see Alice's nervousness and jittery behavior which clue you into her state of mind.

2. The constant repetition of the word knife, the loud outburst of the word from the customer sends the knife flying from Alice's hand.

3. Since Blackmail was an early sound movie, Hitchcock expertly use the limitation of sound to add tension to the movie. With the advent of better sound recording and background music this technique would seem didtracting.

 

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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 uses subjective sound and POV so you can understand what specificly happening in Alice mind. She going thur a very disturbing moment to think what she did with the knife.
 
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
 
He set up the scene with Alice being out of it as soon as she walk into the store, the customer rambling about the murders make Alice more nerves.
As Alice is about to have breakfast her father asked her to cut a piece of bread with the KNIFE, the customer talking about the murders and that she would never use a KNIFE makes Alice mind go thru the whole ordeal what she went thru so the only thing she hear is the word knife over and over making her get more stressed.
 

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema?  Not sure why subjective sound isn't used anymore I'm thinking because we just all used to sound more. 

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Use of sound: It seems Alice is in a very distracted place, and every sound out of the ordinary leaps out at her, makes her jump. By contrast, the droning voices of the store personnel and the female customer barely register with her. The use of the word knife repeatedly is so unusual, but so effective. It's all she can hear. Then the bell at the end when a customer enters really makes her jump again.  This is all so creative in terms of use of sound. Sets Hitchcock apart from other directors and producers, my guess. 

 

When the knife jumps out of Alice's hand, she is still in her dazed state, listening halfheartedly to the chatty customer, thinking of what she has been through (dunno, haven't seen it yet), and the shininess of the blade startles her, the audience.  Have to see more to understand this topic better, I think.

 

Subjective sound seems complex here. Maybe not everyone (i.e., directors at the time) could master this.   Need to see more.  That's my excuse.

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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. 

 

To disorient the main character from her peers in a low muffled voice that distances herself from the conversation, except for the use of the word knife. The word knife is repeated over and over again to display the guilt on Alice's face and her shaky hand as she is about to cut the knife.

 

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.

 

Hitchcock decides to start the scene in a soft tone with the normal conversation about the recent murder that is in the news. Then as the camera glides from Alice to the customer with a cockney accent and back to Alice, Hitchcock moves to a close-up of Alice only to hear the muffled sound of the chatter with the exception of the word knife. As her father asks her to cut the bread, the camera focuses on her hand as she is trembling to cut the bread with the knife. When she hears the word knife out loud she panics and the audience is shocked. 

 

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

 

As Technology is advanced, most filmmakers and sound designers in general avoid using this idea, since they do not think it is realistic. And because we are in the age of digital and computer technology, the industry also changes the viewpoint of how to use subjective sound in modern-day filmmaking. 

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1. When Alice enters the phone booth the sound of the chatting patron is abruptly cut off. This silence is similar to the experience of being in a phone booth, to which most viewers can relate. There is no distracting chatter and Alice can seemingly focus on her problem with the murder. However, we also hear nothing as she rustles through the pages of the phone book, which is a surprise and, I would argue, conveys just how much of the outside world Alice has shut out due to her being hyper-focused and fearful. The lack of sound also suggests how isolated she is from the other characters due to her fear. We viewers, however, are privy to this intimate moment and are thus drawn into the mind of Alice. The intimacy of the phone booth moment is echoed at the end of the scene as the sound of the doorbell, normally a staccato, is drawn out and vibrates, as the camera closes in on Alice's face. We feel her increasing panic; the tone of the bell is almost a ringing in the ear or like the reverberations of a knife hitting the floor.

 

2. The audio track, as discussed in the lecture video, is manipulated to emphasize the word "knife". The scene begins audibly, with the chatty patron gossiping about a murder and we can hear each word she says. We also view a long, seemingly innocuous shot of the entire breakfast nook, watching the family try to eat their breakfast. Gradually the chatter increases in speed and becomes more and more muffled, the word "knife" jumping out more and more frequently. The camera begins to cut between the gossiping patron and Alice more frequently as well, making a visual connection between the two. Alice, who was able to be "alone" with her thoughts in the silence and privacy of the phone booth, is now constantly interrupted: by the gossiping patron, by her father, and by shop customers. A feeling of impatience and fear permeates the scene, which reaches a crescendo when the word "knife" is practically yelled out, causing Alice to jump and throw the knife away.

 

3. Perhaps cinema has relied too heavily on dialogue and narrative to convey this kind of subjectivity? Or the use of a film score supplanted the need?

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It is interesting how Hitchcock uses sound in Blackmail, and this is a great scene for showing his ability to experiment. Barely hearing what is being said as Alice turns the knob to open the door, then louder as she opens the door and enters the shop. To us Alice looks scared, fearful, perhaps even guilty, while the female customer and Alice's father talk about her looking “peaked”.

 

Then when Alice asks for Packy's number and father tells her it's in the book, the sound disappears as she closes the booth's door to look up the number. The anxiety clear on her face as she thumbs through the pages and then spies “Police Courts”, and almost faints, no longer caring about finding Packy's number. Then when she opens the door the woman is discussing another murder.

 

Mom, calls Alice and her father in for breakfast and the woman customer stands in doorway talking constantly about the murder last night and the KNIFE, how it is a wrong way to go, terrible, going on and on about the knife, Alice only hearing the word KNIFE over and over. Alice is remembering the psychological issue is on her face for the audience to see. Father asks for her to cut a slice of bread and hearing the KNIFE discussion and the word over and over she throws it over her shoulder—Then cuts to knife heading towards audience. Almost a hint of the cheap 3D effects of the 1950's, though Hitchcock must be aware of the idea of 3D when he made this film. (First 3D was 1922 Power of Love).

 

Father picks up the knife and tells her “be careful, could have cut someone”. Then a customer comes, asking as he buys the paper if there is any news of the murder? Alice is totally downcast, beat up psychologically as the audience can see. Father sees it as “Did you have another row with Frank?”

As the female customer, who has been talking non-stop since the scene began, says she has to go, can't stand around talking like some can, but in Hitchcock way her words are not true, since she keeps talking.

 

As the customer bell rings again, almost stretching out into a siren sound, and Alice looks lost as she gets up.

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

 

The woman starts talking about the murder, and tends to dwell on the fact that a knife was used. As Alice sits at the table, starting at the bread knife - similar to the one she stabbed the man with - the word 'knife'  triggers her focus on it. Hitch gradually lowerd/muffles the conversation leaving only the word 'knife' audible, as in her mind, that is what she is focusing on - the knife.This sound technique creates a subjective aspect - we enter her mind as she obsesses over the knife.

 

There is also the shot where she enters the phone booth, debating on whether or not to call the police and turn herself in. When she enters the booth, all sound - the conversation - is cut off. While being realistic, it also makes us focus on Alice and helps us to think what she's thinking as we stare at her face in close up.

 

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.

 

The great part about the conversation at the breakfast table is how it starts normal, but gradually all the words become inaudible, all except the word 'knife' as we gradually begin to enter Alice's mind. The word 'knife' becomes more frequent as Alice slowly reaches for the knife. At the moment she grabs it, the word is seemingly screamed, causing her to flinch and drop the knife. The slow rising to prominence of the word 'knife', and it's frequency act in counterpoint to her slowly reaching for the knife itself.

 

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

 

It is rare, to be sure. More common are 'inner monologues', where what the person is thinking is spoken in his/her own voice. For example in Gettysburg, Lawrence Chamberlain is ordered to hold his position to the last. As he contemplates the upcoming battle, a voice over says "Hold to the last. To the last what? Exercise in rhetoric. Last shell? Last man? Last foot of ground? Last Reb?" We subjectively hear what he's thinking. This type of sound technique is more common. The closest thing I can think of similar to Blackmail is the last scene of 'Gone With the Wind'. As Scarlett contemplates her life without Rhett, she begins to hear voices of her love ones, in what they had spoken to her in the past. This is the dialogue she hears:

 

"You mean to tell me Katy Scarlett O'Hara that land doesn't mean anything to you? Why Land is the only thing that matters. It's the only thing that lasts."

:"Something you love better than me, though you may not know it: Tara."

"...it's this from which you get your strength, the red earth of Tara"

"...why land's the only thing that matters. It's the only thing that lasts."

"...something you love better than me, though you may not know it: Tara."

"...this from which you get your strength, the red earth of Tara"

"...land's the only thing that matters..."

"...something you love better than me..."

"...the red earth of Tara..."

"...Tara."

"...Tara."

"...Tara!"

"...TARA!"

 

As she slowly begins to realize her next course of action is to return home, to Tara, the word 'Tara' comes to prominence in the voice overs. She achieves her focus at the moment the word 'Tara' is repeated again and again. We are seeing subjectively into Scarlett's mind, and we follow her thought process as she slowly realizes she must return to Tara.

 

It is similar to the scene in blackmail, where a single word - representing an object the person is focusing on - is highlighted to subjectively show what's in their mind.

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1) Sound is extremely important in Blackmail because it puts us inside Alice's head. Through the repetition of the word knife and the shot of Alice examining the bread knife you get the impression that the even that took place was very scarring and traumatizing. Through the repetition the of the word knife and the unheard muffled quality of a the other words of the conversation showcases how much Alice is in her head. The others don't have a problem with what is being said, or have a handle on what is making Alice so odd. She is completely isolated among her peers, and customers which that in itself with such a hardcore event weighing down on your shoulders is enough pressure to make anybody go crazy with the constant "what if" thoughts buzzing around through your guilty brain, etc.

 

2) Alice's grip on the knife loosens and the knife flies through the air momentarily before clattering to the ground. A few things make this particular shocking: Alice losing the grip of the knife and tossing it up momentarily for no "apparent" reason at all showcases that Alice is losing her grip on reality personally, and then it doesn't help when the man picks it up and remarks "you could have cut somebody" if only he knew. I love the use of a knife and it's everyday uses and making Alice get caught up in her head over the terrible scenario with such a common household tool was genius. She can't avoid a knife even when eating, and this is even more apparent when the word cuts so deep during conversation. The tool has now become a weapon, and a burden to Alice. 

 

3) I don't think many films could pull of this good of subjective sound today. They might pull it off but then use it as a crutch of sorts to make it new and refreshing in this day and age of Hollywood remakes and repeats. Also not many people can remake or reboot Hitchcock films (take Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake) let alone copy of his original genius. Blackmail is just one of the films I'm most excited to watch on TCM this month. 

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First we are subjective to Alice, when she is in the phone cell and there is no noise, while the door is closed. There we hear what she is hearing -or not hearing. 

When she is sitting at the table, the monolog from the woman becomes vague, except the word "knife". and that word becomes louder and louder. 

When she finally sits back at the table, i don´t really listen to what the woman says, but looking for Alice and what she will doing. Then the door bell rings in an specific way and i know, that is important. 

It´s like a silent film to watch, but with elements on the right place to hear. 

 

I´m not sure, what you mean with the counterpoints of sound and visual. Do you mean for example, that we see Alice, while the woman is speaking? 

 

When the talking of the woman becomes a noise, Alice is shown in a close up. So we can see the emotions on her face. I feel uneasy, when the camera shows her hand and the knife, which she takes. I know she would make something with it, but nevertheless get shocked.

When she throws the knife at the same time with the loudest "knife", the scene changes to a long shot. So i can be calm again, because i see that nobody is hurt. 

 

When the door bell rings with a very strange sound, Alice again is shown in a close up. The sound makes me feel uneasy again. 

 

Perhaps, we don´t find such subjective sound in cinema today, because it doesn´t work when we get used to it. Hmm... no, that´s wrong: even if you know shock-effects, they can shock you again in other surroundings. Perhaps there is too much sound in films... 

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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.  

       It is obvious that Alice is totally distracted from what is going on around her in the shoppe and at the breakfast table. We too are seeing and hearing things from her perspective. All the talk around her appears to be idle gibberish. The comments of the customers that come into the shop and especially the chatterbox woman who just yaks and yaks and yaks. We too begin to tune out this noise and begin to sense what is going on in Alice's mind. We hear her father with his "Alice customer!" and we also jump as another customer rings the bell at the counter and of course asks about the "murder"! The chatterbox woman lulls us and repeats the word "knife" at least 14 times before Alice freaks out and sends the knife flying. Regarding sound design we see Alice wanting quite and trying to move around with hardly any sound almost like in a silent movie but Hitchcock brings in so much noise to disrupt her.

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 bread cutting scene we see Alice picking up the bread knife ( was it not the same kind of knife used in the murder?)  and reluctantly holding its handle as the chatterbox woman drones on about using a knife to kill as just not being British. The rest of her words are just gibberish and we too begin to be lulled by her use of knife at least 14 times when suddenly (close-up on Alice's face) the volume goes up and she just about screams "KNIFE" that causes Alice to freak out! We as the audience didn't see that coming, we thought that Alice would just hang in there. We are shocked!

 

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

           The use of subjective sound was another example of Hitchcock experimenting in a film.

          In one respect I think that this use of subjective sound would detract from the flow of dialog or hinder the flow of the story. It may be great for getting inside a particular characters head (psychology) but all of this gibberish sound can become confusing and perhaps distracting for the audience. Imagine the American audiences who were having a hard enough time understanding the British accents becoming even more confused with the meaningless sound of gibberish. I can hear them asking "Mabel what is she saying? Did you get any of that?"

​          Another point could be that subjective sound is only effective in certain genres and scenes. I can't imagine subjective sound being used effectively in say "The Wizard of Oz" ("Not in Kansas... Not in... Not in... Not in), or "Gone With Wind" ("Frankly... Frankly... Frankly my dear") or "Casablanca" (Play it ... play it... play it Sam).

​         I am also tempted to think subjective sound no matter how artistic might be looked at by the "suits" as a waste of good sound that people are paying to hear. Just some thoughts!

         Note: When you watch the film don't forget to watch for Hitchcock's cameo appearance.

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1. From my observance of this clip, it see,s to me that Hitchcock tries to get the audience ro see and hear things from Alice's POV. (the word knife being repeated).

 

2. The shot is made with the close-up of Alice grabbing the knife and re-positioning it in her hand like she was going to stab someone with it the tensions build. She gets startled by the bell and the knife goes sailing through the air.

 

3. Maybe because this technique was a brain-child of Hiychcock himself and it was uheard of by many.

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The use of sound by Hitchcock in such a way in Blackmail was very wise. I certainly was in Alice's head with her as she has her reactions to everything and everyone around her. Especially the lady going on and on about the murder when all Alice can hear is the word knife repeated over and over getting louder and louder to the point where the knife flies out of her hand.

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In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific. Alice goes into the phone booth in the store and all sound is cut out to her as she looks up the address for the police department. This shows how she's isolating herself in her horror of what has been done. And of course, when she is at the dining table and the gossiping woman keeps saying "knife!" we hear it repeated in a louder fashion to illustrate how Alice is internalizing that word which increases her anxiety.

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. As explained above, the word "knife" is heard repeatedly to Alice's ears and in her mind. This increases her level of terror and anxiety so she drops the knife in her fear.

Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema?I really don't know why, as it is a useful tool to hear inner dialog of a character. Not sure how to answer this question.

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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 used the sound or absence of sound to show us how Alice is thinking. She feels safe when she is by herself in the phone booth but once she emerges everyone is talking about the murder. Hitchcock is showing us her fear by letting us hear the conversation with the customer but all Alice hears is the word knife over and over. It's almost as if she is going a bit mad hearing about it.

 

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.

 

I think the knife flying out of her hand is meant to jolt people to show us how on edge Alice is. When the second customer comes up she is terrified of going in the other room. Her fear is real. It shows she's thinking about this murder.

 

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

 

I am not sure. I was trying to concentrate on the lady's conversation then realized all I could really make out was the word knife. I think it can be confusing to the audience if not prepared for it. But if you are prepared for it, it loses its shock value.

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OMG, so much in just this one clip from Blackmail is evident in later Hitchcock!  I have never seen the full film and can't wait until Wednesday night!

 

1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific.  As has been observed in previous modules, Hitchcock has likely already given the audience enough information to identify with Alice, and the gossiping woman serves to repeat and dwell on the murder in a darkly humorous way, providing constant sound.  Initially, the sound  of the woman is muffled before entering the room, Alice removes herself to the silence of the booth after hearing more, becoming more disturbed. As Alice tries to put the murder out of her mind, the word "knife" keeps 'stabbing' back into her consciousness.  Her facial expression and wide-eyed stare add to the anxiety she, and the audience, feels.

 

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 long, lingering shot of Alice's hand picking up the knife compels the audience to wonder if she will ever be able to use it, after the gossiping woman says she would NEVER be able to use a knife on anyone.  As noted above, the word "knife" keeps stabbing the muffled silence.  The knife flying in the air is a sudden unexpected moment after a long deliberate setup -- a similar approach seen in later Hitchcock films.

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? Not sure, as I think the use of subjective sound (especially the word "knife" leaping out from the woman's muffled monologue) is an extremely effective and creative technique here.  Perhaps it's similar to audience's tastes after the advent of color in film -- once audiences got a taste of color, it was likely difficult for film makers and studios to go back to b/w.  Perhaps here, as observed by others, studios felt that audiences wouldn't tolerate not being able to hear entire stretches of monologue or dialog.

Another thing I see here that will later be evident in Hitchcock: his disdain and fear of police. 

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In this film we are able to see for the first time how creative and willing to experiment Hitchcock is, not only with images, but with the sound too. He again uses the POV but this time through the sound and passes the character's anguish to the viewer making us enter in her mind and feel the anxiety caused by the word "knife" due the way the word is repeatedly stressed, causing her to even throw the object. 

Though very creative and innovative at that time, I have my doubts if this technique of experimentation with the sound would cause a very positive impression in the audience nowadays, it would maybe give a sense of unnaturality since the audicence is far more used to sound pictures, and perhaps it seems to be preferable now to focus on the images to cause a sense of subjectivity rather than 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. 


At the beginning, the scene seems to be an usual conversation between characters, but when the woman starts to talk about the crime and mentions the word "knife", the volume of the conversation changes and suddenly the word that we can hear louder and clearer is "knife". The volume of the voice of the woman increases and even the intention becomes different, it became kind of angry or agressive. Because of the expression of Alice and the unawareness of the people there (confirmed by the fact that the man asked Alice to cut the bread despite the fact that we heard the angry voice of the woman saying knife), the spectator realized that this is happening in Alice's mind. She is the only one that could hear it. The fright that comes later when she dropped the knife at the precise time when the bell from the door rings announcing the pressence of a customer reaffirms the subjective nature of that sound.


 


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 woman begins to speak, the camera stays with her a little moment and then pans to Alice. At this point, everything seems normal, but after this, Hitchcock opts for a closer shot, so it becomes clear that something about the conversation has disturbed Alice. It is amazing the way Hitch builds this moment by keeping the image of a troubled Alice while we hear the woman and as I mentioned in my previous answer, the volume and intention of her voice changes. After the man asked her to cut the bread, the camera makes a slow and subtle tilt down and we only see the Alice's hand that hesitates grabbing the knife, near to the bread. Again, Hitch stays there untill the volume and intention of the woman voice progressively gets its highest level, then the sequence gives its final stab visually, when Alice lets the knife fall followed by a fast cut, and aurally, when the bell of the door rings.


 


Personally, I think this is amazing, because he is demonstrating that the sound can have a creative and expressive use beyond the sync with the objects in the picture and he is doing this at the beginning of the sound cinema. Simply, outstanding.


 


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


In my opinion, the subjective sound needs to be well established in the scene in order to not to be confusing for the audience. The first reaction when we heard something on screen is to look for the source of that sound, if we cannot find it, then we realized thar it could come from the ambience, the music or the mind of the character (subjective sound like in this scene). The problem is that this can cause a distraction for the audience in some cases. Also, I think that there is a culture of not taking enough consideration of using the sound as a way of subjective expression of the characters (I am not referring to the atmospheres that are non-diegetic sounds or the ambiences that could be created with the purpose of convey the state of mind of the character) transmiting thoughts, ideas, memories or feelings. The most of the times, the image acquires more relevance. Therefore, the audience see what the character is thinking or remembering.


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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 enters the store, the gossip is chatting away to the clerk--and really to herself, if not to thin air. We hear every word of the dialog. But when Alice enters the phone booth and closes the door, she also closes off the sound. The glass both--and the abrupt lack of sound--is a wonderful metaphor for how cut off from the world Alice feels. This gives us a subjective sense of how isolated she feels at this point.
 

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 Alice enters and closes the door to the phone booth, shutting out the gossip's chatter, we can still see the gossip talking but (thankfully) not hear her. It's almost as if Hitchcock is on our side: knowing we're already tired of the chatterbox, he mutes her. This is almost a visual joke. 

​When Alice sits down at the breakfast table, she's obviously still preoccupied with the attempted rapist and the knife. Hitchcock cuts from the wide shot to a tight shot of Alice. We see worry in her eyes. The voice track of the gossip is muffled, all of it, in essence, "blurred" except for the word "knife." The word is crystal clear, with each successive "knife" practically slashing like a shriek right through the screen to the viewer's ears. We become Alice. We hear through her ears. We feel the anxiety she's experiencing. 

 

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

​While Hitchcock's experimental use of subjective sound was apparently novel--and I felt quite effective--to today's audiences I believe it would sound artificial, hokey.

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Hi everyone!  I've been thinking more about "subjective sound" as the day has gone on and I've read more and more comments.  I think that it's a technique that may be used more than we think.  It doesn't have to be like what Hitchcock did here (with distortion and one word coming through).  There are lots of other possibilities, at least if I understand correctly what it really means.  I’m assuming "subjective sound" means sound that is comparable to a POV shot: sound that the viewer hears “as if” they were the person in the film, from that person’s POV.

 

Someone mentioned the last moments of Gone With the Wind and Scarlet hearing all those voices.  That's very cool.  Here are some others that I can come up with that I thought I'd share for folks who are interested (there are some spoilers that I warn about):

 

1)  The Varsouviana Polka in A Streetcar Named Desire.  This really functions a lot like the word “knife” in Blackmail since (SPOILER ahead!) it was music that accompanied Blanche’s husband’s death which she believes she caused.  And so Blanche hears this music (and a gunshot) when she is reminded of her late husband.

 

2) Many moments in Amadeus where both Mozart and Salieri hear music in their heads.  Salieri often hears the music he sees in scores.  Mozart hears it as he composes.  And there are moments for both when the music suddenly stops when someone comes in the room, or gets their attention, or snatches the score away.

 

3) My guess is there are several moments in The Lost Weekend.  (SPOILER again) Certainly Ray Milland hears the bat and the mouse that are only hallucinations, but there are accompanying visuals.  But I bet there are other moments when he hears things in his head that he doesn’t hallucinate.  Come to think of it, that would be a perfect technique to use in The Man With The Golden Arm, though I can’t recall any since I haven’t seen that film in a while.

 

4) In The Best Years of Our Lives, we hear Fred’s nightmares the way he experiences them even though we don’t see them.  (SPOILERS)  The first time, when he’s in bed, is vivid for sure, and we hear what he hears.  Then things switch and we also get Peggy’s POV because we hear Fred at first more muffled like she does from the living room.  But the sound is even more incredible in the final scene when he’s in the shell of the airplane.  We simply see him and the plane.  But we know exactly what is going on in his head because of the sound and score.  The sound does 90% of the emotional work.  His face does the rest.  Next time you watch that film, notice how the orchestra provides the sound effects for the plane starting (in his mind) and how the camera angle and movement is an optical illusion that makes it seem like the plane is moving and taking off.  All of this is subjective – we’re in Fred’s mind.  If you haven’t seen it – finish this course and then check it out!  So good!

 

5) On the Waterfront.  SPOILER:  the sound design at the moment that Terry tells Edie about Joey’s death is really incredible.  It too distorts sound – the ship noises drown out everything that Terry is saying.  In some way this is very real.  All that noise would, very realistically, drown him out.  But it also doubles as a way to get into Edie’s head and how she’s so upset that she really can’t even hear or take in what Terry is saying.  The distortion and mutedness of his voice is as much in her head as in the real world of the waterfront.

 

6) Finally, a very recent film, Carol.  The soundtrack there seems to have a moment of subjective sound.  (SPOILER) Carol and Therese are in the car together for the first time.  We hear the car radio playing music (diegetic), but then a wash of other sound overtakes that as if the two women no longer hear the radio but are caught up in their moment.  It really does feel like we are in their shared head space.

 

Well, those are some examples.  I hope these make sense in the context of subjective sound.  Thanks for the chance to think about this topic more. :) 

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In the beginning of the scene, when Alice first comes in and goes into the phone booth to look at the directory I found it interesting that the sound was completely cut off. To me, that was the first indication of Alice being completely in her own mind. As far as I knew, especially at that time sound would still be noticeable even if it was just a dull murmur of voices in the background. 

 

As the woman in the shop talks on about the crime, I noticed that her voice not only rose but changed in tone showing her disgust and distaste of the whole situation. Alice trembled at each new inflection of the word knife and the echo of the word alone showed that it was all inside her own head. She continued to stay in that own world inside her head when the bell rang over the shop indicating a new customer. 

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1.  I think Hitchcock uses sound design in to put the audience into the subjective mind of Alice by the chitter chatter of the woman, her stressing "knife", as all other sound fades away and the word "knife" is all Alice begins to hear in her head.  Then, the bell!

2.  I think the sound sets up the shot to shock the audience by the registration and drumroll of the woman's 'knife' chatter, the focus on the knife sitting there, and Alice's face, getting hotter and hotter seeing her blood pressure rising through her eyes to the point where she reaches for that knife knife knife and at her breaking point it flies out of her hand causing everyone to scream in shock and fear -- that she 'could kill someone'.

3.  I think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema probably because of the fast pace of cinema today, not using sound so much to tell the story (as it appears Hitchcock did) as it is to move the story, accompany it, or heighten the story, or relate to the background of the story. I think because perhaps dialogue and action replaces the "Hitchcockian" subjective sound design.

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Sound is used to as a dolly Pov shot. You hear background sound (woman talking) that is drowned, u hear repetitive sound that is distinct, loud sound of knife, a musical note of a dong, all from her head not yours. Powerfully, planting the seeds that she did the killing.

 

The audience doesn't expect the loudness of the word knife, as it was repetitive before, just as she doesn't expect her hand to throw knife. Hitch said give them all the facts, that's suspenseful.

 

Dubbing in sound is very easy today compared to yesterday's but we are all selfie facial ly driven today. The visuals are everything, along with plot.

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