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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.  

 

Hitchcock uses the method of sound design by letting the viewer and the character of Alice to be mindful of the other female's voice in the store. Along with the bell of the door opening and closing to signify that a customer has entered which interrupts Alice's concentration.

 


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 scene the viewer can hear the other female character constantly repeat the word knife at first at a low tone and then all of a sudden the word is screamed. Furthermore, when the father of Alice ask her to slice the bread. When the word is screamed that is when the knife flies out of Alice's hand.

 

 

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

 

If the question is referring to modern day cinema I would say because of the technological advances and the various special effects.


 

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Watching (and listening to) this sequence, I'm struck by how easily it could veer off into low comedy in the hands of a lesser director. Hitchcock's touch is light enough that the scene remains suspenseful without becoming ridiculous.

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The repetitiveness of the woman saying "knife" while Alice is looking and later handling a knife is one way that we see subjectively what is going on in her mind. The woman's voice seems to drown out and only the word "knife" can be heard. This emphasis shows that this is the forefront of Alice's thoughts.

I think this sound technique is not often used because it would be not only distracting to audiences, but very cheesy. It wouldn't deliver the intended effect if not done properly. 

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

The gossipy woman - the tone of her voice leads to the hallucinogenic quality of the word "knife" eventually being the only thing that Alice hears.  It is like entering a state of shock.  Alice is dealing with having murdered someone in self-defense and the only thing that people are talking about is the murder.  I was drawn into her world visually and then it was kicked into high gear by the 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. 

Alice looks so shocked and I was focusing on that and then the repetition of the word "Knife."  The time was compressed until the knife goes flying and it woke me up out of the shock that I was feeling.  

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

​I don't know.  It is an intense experience and I have noticed in other movies that it can be corny.  Not in this movie.  There are two movies with Joan Crawford that uses this and it just doesn't work.  One is Possessed (right before she has a breakdown) and the other was Daisy Kenyon (when she is driving the car and crashes)

The Movie -  A Letter to Three Wives  (1949) also uses this technique ( on the boat) and it was not as effective as Hitchcock made it.  In the other movies it seemed distracting.  

So I think the use of this needs to be done very carefully or it can take away.  I felt that Hitchcock used it effectively!

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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.  

 

Muted sound at the beginning of the sequence till Alice opens door to enter the room drew me into the room from her perspective. At the end of the sequence with the bell ringing elongated, Alice looks about as if to see whether she is the only one hearing 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. 

 

Blah, blah, blah, blah…

Knife, knife, knife… 

Blah, blah, blah, blah…

Knife, knife, knife, knife, knife…

Blah…

KNIFE!!

 

For the majority of the sequence, maybe 90%, Hitchcock presents Alice’s face reacting to the conversations around her in silence. What dialog there is happens from others. Somewhere, maybe in one of the lecture videos, Hitchcock stated he wanted expressions on the face of the actor to be the opposite of the emotions he wanted expressed. Paraphrasing him, if a character is happy and they look happy, well that’s nice and quickly forgettable. But if they’re “happy” and their expression shows the opposite that will stick in the audiences mind subconsciously leaving a more lasting impression. It seems that H is doing that with the sound design in much of this sequence. By making the spoken dialog so ordinarily boring and off screen while showing how Alice’s reactions are intensely affecting her, the audience’s attention to her emotional state is heightened. Hope that makes sense.

 

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

 

Three things come to mind:

 

A: story telling of Hitchcock’s caliber is rare to come by in contemporary cinema. Most viewers have been raised on a diet of television production which rarely allows more than a superficial exploration of what a character is experiencing, if there is any character development at all. In television comedy, laugh tracks are manipulated to indicate how the audience should react to a situation.

B: modern taste in cinema/movies have evolved to being more visually oriented. Typically, investment is made in “tentpole” special effects movies that have being geared for a younger demographic; explosions and/or immediate special effects that require little thought on the part of the audience are the norm.

 

C: technology in the way sound is presented diminishes it’s importance, both in theater and at home; although in opposite forms. Viewed in a theater with at a minimum stereo or 5 maybe 7 channel surround sound presents sound as effect even when it’s spoken. The majority of homes view movies with only the speakers provided in the television. Sound produced from thin flat panel tv’s is generally of such poor quality leaving only volume to create sound design. Even when the home has “media” amplified speakers.

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I am struck by the use of contrasts in this film. White dress in the apartment, black dress home, gray outfit after the murder. The other scene that I am struck by is the marquee with "New Comedy" and walking across the grain.

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1) & 2)  The way Hitchcock set up this scene, it is difficult not to be in Alice's mind.  We hear the relentless drone of the lady in the store discussing the murder yet when Alice steps inside the phone booth, the silence seems to calm her and give her the opportunity to think about calling the police.  When she leaves the phone booth the fast paced drone returns and seems even louder adding tension to the scene.  The drone is somewhat hypnotic and Alice seems overwhelmed by the continuing conversation and almost seems to tune out the conversation with the exception of the word "knife."  Each time it is said, there is a tiny yet visible facial twitch and each time it is said, it gets a bit louder until the final word which startles Alice out of her fog causing her to literally lose her grip on the knife.  

 

3)  I think cinema tends to lean towards the visual rather than sound so we just don't see this often.  

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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 steps into the telephone booth, all other sounds go away, so we are hearing the silence (and the privacy) inside the box, just as she is.  Then, when Alice is sitting at the table with her parents, we are placed in her mind subjectively as she fixates on the word "knife."  The cut from a medium shot to a close up on Alice's face helps us to understand that we are now with Alice mentally and that the word "knife" is the only thing on her mind (and in her ears.)

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 in the phone booth section, the sound of the room goes away completely.  Alice is seeking solitude and safety in the phone booth, a place where the world is quiet; however, the reality of the situation is that the other young lady in the room hasn't stopped talking about the sensational murder for a second.  Even though Alice has shut the door and sought the privacy of the phone booth, we can still see the young lady in the background talking constantly. 

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

 ---This use of subjective sound does remind us that we're watching a movie.  I don't think it takes us out of the story at all, but it does give us a nudge that what we're seeing (and hearing) are all an illusion.   

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

 

As we follow Alice around the store we are seeing/feeling her emotions.  The constant drone of the woman in the store and the reaction to those sounds impacts Alice's emotions, as see on her face, as well as the other sounds of the shoppers.

 

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 ups and downs of the sound, the drowning out of the drone and hearing only the word knife, knife, knife until it's all you hear, loudly causing Alice and the audience to jump.

 

 

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

Unfortunately I think nowadays especially it's too subtle.  However, I have seen this used in other films, still causing the audience to jump or react to the sudden sound.

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

-The use of the quiet of the phone booth shows us her focus and her need to quiet out her thoughts. Her concentration is broken while in the booth and the sound( droning of the gossip's voice) again overtakes her as she deals with her emotions.

-The continued muted sound with the emphasis on the word " knife" showcases her inability to hear anything at word, leading her to startle and throw the knife when the outside noises ( bell, customers, and loudness of the word "knife") cause her to lose control and follow her emotions.

2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track.

- Alice enters the phone booth and finds quietness, while the obvious noise continues in the background.

-Alice loses focus at the sight of the word POLICE and returns to the room. The silence she sought is broken and she is again inundated with talk of murder. Her face shows her emotional change from distraught to motivated to startled to distraught again.

- Alice goes into breakfast and cannot escape the sound of the gossip remarking that she could not eat. She is asked to cut the bread as the gossip states that knives are no proper way to kill. Alice's face and body language reflects her inward focus and her edging towards falling apart.

-The word "knife" is heard over all of the other sounds. The visual effect on Alice is seen in her face as it becomes more distressed. The louder and more harsh the word becomes, the more agitated Alice looks. When the word screeches, she throws the knife in response.

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

-I would gather that this use of sound came out of use as sound evolved in cinema. As the use of soundtracks and even as less plot oriented films became the norm, there was less use of the visual and sound working together in a way that this was done earlier. While many films use music to further and deepen the plot movement of a film, many of the more modern films seems to be written to showcase the music ( popular tunes or the artist) rather than the other way around. Both have their place, but they are different for the viewer.

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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, by using the phone booth, Alice is able to quiet the outside noise, which allows her to think more clearly and focus on her task at hand. Then, the annoying customer/woman repeatedly emphasizes the word "knife," so that it is the most obvious word and hardest to forget. Because Alice is disturbed by the murder, the audience cannot tell if the woman really is enunciating the word or whether it is Alice's mind that keeps being drawn to it. Slowly, all the words except "knife" are drained out.


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. 


There were a few things that stood out to me. First, whenever the customer/woman says the word "knife," Alice's eyebrows jump a little. Subtly, the audience becomes attuned to the little movements associated with the word. The word "knife" slowly gets louder and louder, and then just as Alice is about to cut the bread (use the knife), it comes out as a screech, so that the combination of the screech causes a similar shock to the audience as what causes Alice to throw the knife.


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


I feel like this use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema because it can be so hard to pull off. It requires a certain storyline and certain directorial style to make sense.


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1.  Putting you in the subjective 'mind of Alice.'

     As soon as Alice enters the room, she's hearing about 'the murder.'  It's on her mind as she enters the phone booth to look up a number and all she can focus on is the phone number of the police.  She exits the phone booth only to hear the incessant chatter from the nosy customer about the murder.  As the family tries to have breakfast, the nosy customer continues to talk nonstop about the murder and the use of a 'knife.'  Alice becomes more and more agitated hearing the word 'knife' as told by her facial expressions and then focuses only on that one word that in her mind becomes loud and incessant and she ends up throwing the knife.

 

2.  The different ways the sound design of the scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track.

The sound lessens at first in the scene - the words of the nosy customer become quieter then the word 'knife' becomes the only word (in Alice's mind) that is heard over and over.  The only thing that you see is Alice's face and her eyes darting back and forth and she slowly reaches for the knife and when the word 'knife' is repeated again - loudly this time and the knife is thrown across the room, it naturally shocks the audience.

 

3.  Why is the use of subjective sound not used as frequently in cinema?

It seems that most films now seem to use big sound - big images to get a point across - subtly oftentimes gets lost in big productions and even smaller ones.

 

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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.

 

Most of the sound in the scene is fairly realistic, with an exception when the other woman talks about knives and the word “knife” is heard repeatedly and becomes the only word that registers with Alice.  Prior to this, the woman was talking but could no longer be heard when Alice entered the phone booth:  this reflects how Alice would have heard things.  Clearly the killing is very much on Alice’s mind, and what the other woman is saying upsets her further.  Hitchcock’s sound design distorts and muffles the speech, which helps the viewer to understand that Alice is not really listening to what other woman is saying.  The word “knife” comes through repeatedly and increasingly more loudly, however, and is a trigger of sorts for Alice:  when it is heard mostly loudly, Alice is startled and inadvertently throws the knife.  The word is said in a way that can be interpreted as accusatory, and it is unclear whether this is how the woman is actually speaking or whether it is simply how Alice, in an agitated state and feeling guilty, hears 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.

 

Prior to the portion of the scene with the knife, both the sound and cinematography were fairly normal.  There was nothing remarkable about the sound, and visually there were more long and medium shots.  As the scene progresses, however, the cinematography does change and eventually becomes a pair of close-ups:  first on Alice’s face, and then on her hand holding the knife to cut the bread.  This corresponds to the way that the sound changes and becomes less general:  the viewer, although able to hear the woman’s voice, does not see any of the other characters and so attention remains on Alice.  In a sense, what Hitchcock does with the sound design provides what one might call an “aural close-up” (as distinguished from a visual close-up).  Characters other than Alice are excluded, and in counterpoint the sound excludes everything that is being said except the one important word that resonates with Alice.

 

It might be instructive to share what Hitchcock said about this scene during the Truffaut interview:

 

post-74120-0-68350900-1499324630_thumb.jpg

 

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

 

There are several possible reasons why this might be the case:

 

a.  The technique is markedly artificial and not realistic, and calls attention to itself.  Since the majority of films (probably) strive for realism, it would not be appropriate in most films.

 

b.  Cinema is essentially a visual art, and even now visual special effects receive more attention and publicity than do audio effects.  Consider all of the innovations in visual design throughout the history of film:  color, green screen and blue screen, widescreen, 3-D, Steadicam, CGI, high definition etc.  Aside from traditional “sound effects,” the main innovation in sound that comes to mind is stereophonic sound.  Not only are visual effects generally more impressive to the audience, but filmmakers have many more tools at their disposal to create visual effects as opposed to sound effects.

 

c.  It is a fairly primitive technique, suitable for the early days of sound in film and thus experimental.  In contemporary cinema, however, the director and sound designer have access to more options due to the technological advances that have been made since 1929, so this would seem heavy-handed now.  On this point, Hitchcock was very limited:  Anny Ondra, who played “Alice,” was Czech (not English) and had a strong Czech accent so her voice had to be substituted.  Even simple dubbing was not available yet, so Hitchcock had to use a different (English) actress who spoke Alice’s lines off-camera:

 

post-74120-0-44444800-1499324660_thumb.jpg

post-74120-0-68350900-1499324630_thumb.jpg

post-74120-0-44444800-1499324660_thumb.jpg

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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 Hitchcock uses both, sound and silence, to show a dissociative disorder in Alice. When she's alone (before stepping in the shop or when she's in the phone booth) and there is silence, Alice seems to be able to detach herself from reality (she is somewhat calm) but as soon as she's surrounded by people, the “sound” coming from other character's voices make her come back to reality, as they are talking about the murder.

- Wording in the dialogue has been carefully picked to remind Alice about the murder ("cut us a bit of bread", “stick a knife”, etc.) and sometimes even describe Alice body language/feelings (e.g. in my opinion, the sentence “gives me the shivers” resonates with Alice's almost constant shaking throughout the scene). Finally, the repetition of certain terms (e.g. knife, murder) leads the viewer into Alice's mind / obsessive thinking.

- I feel the female customer might have also been cast for her voice, which in my opinion sounds loud, unpleasant, and sharp... as a knife (even when she says "Brrrrreakfast".

- Of course, Hitchcock's toning down of all the female customer's speech except for the word knife, shows how much Alice is lost in her own world, even when surrounded by people.

 

2. How sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track.

I think it does especially in the way Alice's facial expression changes when she hears certain words. E.g.:

  • Acknowledgment of the word knife for the first time after being seated at breakfast table (as Alice looks to her right – the place where the sound comes from).

  • How Alice raises her eyebrows every time she hears “knife” but her eyes get lost throughout the whole conversation (shows that she's lost in her own thoughts).

  • How Alice nervously moves her hands / fingers when the female customer starts talking about the murder at the door, while they are starting to have breakfast (shows uneasiness).

  • Ding-sound announcing a new customer brings Alice's memory back to the night of the events.

 

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

I'm not quite sure, but it might be because it looks (sound) a bit artificial and might take the viewer out of the story (reminds the viewer that's they're watching a movie, not a real life) and maybe disengage the audience.

 

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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.  Alice is bombarded by everyone that comes into the shop discussing the murder, in particular, a woman with a very grating voice. When Alice goes into the telephone box it's quiet while she wonders about calling the police but when she emerges into society, the stress begins again.

 

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? All Alice is registering is mainly the trigger word of knife. All other words become meaningless. As she is holding the knife in her hand, the word knife is loudly said and startles her into throwing it across the room.

 

3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? Because CGI is king. To keep today's audience involved you have to go big and subjective sound is rarely used. Young Frankenstein's Igor shouting "Bluker" is one that I can recall.

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First, this is not murder but as with many of Hitchcock's victims, the trouble comes with the cover up. Alice thinks no one will believe her because she went upstairs with a man who said he wanted to do a painting of her and she undresses voluntarily.  The thinking of the day would have been she should have known and is asking for it.  She should have gone immediately to her boyfriend, Frank, at Scottland Yard and told him the truth.  But then, where would be the suspense, tension, and blackmail?

 

Now, onto the topic at hand: Hitchcock uses sound to convey Alice's uneasiness and fear. The first thing she hears when her mom comes into wake her, "have you heard about the murder."  Birds chirping in the background as she takes off her "soiled" clothes from the night before.  The sounds mock her.   She comes downstairs and again the first thing she hears is, "have you heard about the murder?"

 

I have heard others mention how there is no sound in the phone both when she wants to call Frank.  I agree with what most have said, but I think the silence leaves Alice with her own thoughts and as soon as sees his name under the Police heading, she panics and doesn't make the call.

 

 We have the stereotypical gossip, who thinks she knows everything and even why committing murder with a "KNIFE" is just wrong, unseemly and even un-British.  She drones on and on about the knife and the murder, like a record player stuck in a repeating groove.  

 

This reminds me of the banter between Joseph and Herbie from Shadow of a Doubt on how to commit the perfect murder.

 

 At first, when Alice is called into breakfast, she is in her own world of fear as "knife" is repeated over and over again until she finally hears it shouted by the gossip as her father tells her to cut a piece of bread.  The knife flies out of Alice's hand and her father warns her to be careful she might have hurt someone.  

 

Finally, we hear a loud bell which shocks her back into reality but strikes fear as well because she doesn't know, nor do we, who is at the shop door; will it be a friend or a foe?

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1 Hitchcock uses the repetitive use of talk of the murder from the moment Alice comes in as well as the repeating of the word knife. And she if of course forced to us a large knife to cut the bread when they sit down to eat breakfast. Along with spoken jibberish, the word knife is spoken clearly over, over, and over again until with the knife in Alice's hand it is too much for her and she hears the word cream in her head she drops the knife in her hand.

2 The sound design operates in counterpoint to the visual track as Hitchcock liked to do. He liked the face not to convey the emotion is was really saying or doing and this is true as Alice looks calm yet we know she is about to jump out of her skin with the fear over the murder talk and repeated use of the word knife. And the use of the jibberish, words you cannot understand counterpoints the clear hearing of the word knife, as well as the loud use of the word knife that we know, was not reality but in Alice's head.

3 This particular use of subjective sound with the POV sound shot of amplifying the word knife was experimented by Hitchcock is his earliest movie here. This type of sound shot shocked the audience and Hitchcock might not have wanted the audience to see it over and over as the shock value might fade and instead he went on to stretch the boundaries of sound with further experimentation.   

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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.

Alice is likely in shock in this sequence. The constant chatter from the female customer seems to mimic the anxiety she's probably feeling but can't express yet.

 

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 word knife repeatedly stabs in to Alice's conscious thought even as she tries to block out the rest of the chatter.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Unknown.

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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.  Alice walks around in the scene in what seems like a daze.  You can tell that she is preoccupied with the reported murder and it is the only subject talked about which seems to have a further effect on 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. Hitchcock sets the shot focusing on Alice, still visibly preoccupied with the murder and aurally focused on cues from the conversation, specifically the word "knife".  The repetition of the word works to a crescendo which causes the knife to fly out of Alice's hand.


3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? It's possible that there were very few directors that had the ability to combine the effects the way Hitchcock could.  As film methods grew and changed, directors opted to focus on a more objective method.


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This scene reminds me in some ways of the dinner scene in Hitch's 1943 film, "Shadow of a Doubt." Young Charlie is overwhelmed by doubts about her Uncle Charlie's possibly criminal doings, and during dinner, the next door neighbor (a young Hume Cronyn) and Charlie's father engage in macabre badinage about the best way to murder someone. Charlie finally get very upset and yells at them both....

 

Not that Hitchcock thought all audience members were dogs (or cattle!), but the audio trick with "(blah blah blah) knife, (mumble mumble mumble) KNIFE!"  reminds me of a cartoon about the way dogs hear their master's voice:  "(blah blah blah) Fido, (mumble, mumble, mumble) food, (blah blah blah) WALK!"

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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.  

Only being able to distinguish the word knife was brilliant. Every time she heard the word her facial expression changed. This showed us the extreme dread Alice was feeling.

 

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. 

Hitch sets up the scene putting another knife in Alice's hand. With the word knife getting louder in Alice's head the shrill voice of he lady speaking makes her jump and fling the knife.

 

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

Todays cinema is more visceral than cerebral. It is made strictly to entertain without much thought.

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DAILY DOSE #5 (BLACKMAIL):

 

STAGED KNIFE

1.We've entered Alice's POV or Point-Of-Audio when the movie goes silent as she shuts the phone booth door.

2.The gossips use of KNIFE, cuts like a KNIFE until you can cut the tension with a KNIFE. As Alice reaches for the KNIFE, the gossips words get more muffled and were drawn into Amy's thoughts until we hear: "KNIIIIIIFE!!!" as she throws the KNIFE.

3.I don't see why this device isn't still used except if I were seeing this with my mom, she'd keep asking what the gossip was mumbling until that last "KNIFE" when our sodas and nachos would be thrown across the theater.

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From just watching the scene, you can tell that Alice is the main character, as the camera follows her in the shop. She is obviously in some sort of turmoil. When the lady customer continues talking of the murder, then you actually see how Alice is affected. As Alice sits at the table, the woman's conversation drowns out and all she able to hear is the word "knife," showing how Alice has become able to think of nothing other than the knife.


The visual and audio tracks during the scene at the table are setup to compliment one another. Alice is, for a time, the only character that we see though we hear only the word "knife" audibly and then the rest of the woman's conversation muffled. As Alice moves to cut the bread, the word "knife" is intensified so that it almost a shout in Alice's mind and the knife flies out of her hand. It is both a visual climax - the knife flying - and an aural one, with the word being said so forcefully.


I suspect that this technique is not used more in cinema because film directors may see the visual image as their most powerful medium. While films today are completely aided by sound, directors may still see that as a secondary device and the images, the set design and the expression on the screen as the more powerful of the two. 

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Hitchcock’s use of sound design was apparent when the woman at the counter kept talking about the murder being done with a knife as the camera focused on Alice’s fearful and anxious expressive face showing us that Alice could only hear and focus on the woman’s use of the word knife. Hitch lowered the sound of the woman’s words until she said the word knife; then Hitch increased the volume.  This helped us understand what Alice was focusing on too; the knife.

 

As the woman’s voice is in a low mumbling volume Hitch is filming the woman’s hand on the knife. We no longer see Alice’s face but her nervous hand as she moves her fingers around the knife handle. When the volume of the woman increases, we hear her shriek out the word knife; jolting Alice to release the knife in a desperate panic as we hear it hit the floor.

I think the use of subjective sound is a challenging task and filmmakers these days do not see it as a necessary part of the story. Actors are allowed to use whatever language they can to express what they are feeling. Alice was limited in using language because it appears that most of her close up scenes, including that of her searching through the phone book, were already filmed in the silent screen version so adding words for her would have been far more difficult. 

 

 

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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 end of the clip, the bell that signals a customer appears to strike an internal chord in the mind of Alice. At that same time she is asked by the gentlemen if she has had a recent fall-out with her man, the bell rings and she appears to be woken from a dream.

During the early parts of the clip, Alice is in her own mind, reflective, while the chatterbox lady fills the air with “noise”. The “noise” is apparent to the viewer, but Alice maintains, through facial and body language, without any requirement to speak, that she is deep in thought about what she has witnessed.

 

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. 

Visually, there is a sense of anticipation as she attempts to create a routine, peacefully executed slice of bread as per the gentlemen’s request. Aurally, the rising and irritating echo of the woman who is repeating the word “knife” records a “Shout” that hits a nerve and send the knife into the air.

 

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

It may be understood as being too contrived or overly demonstrative.

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