Directed by Sacha Gervasi (2012, United States)
There haven’t been many good movies about the creative process. Indeed, most of the better movies about artists in general are either heavily fictionalized (Shakespeare in Love (1998), Amadeus (1984)) or biopics focusing more on the artist’s life than the development of his or her work. Unusually, there have not been many films at all about noted filmmakers, and even fewer about their creative process. Considering these facts, “Hitchcock” (in quotes to differentiate from the man/character) is notable for its uniqueness as well as its execution.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) is responsible for developing many of the storytelling techniques that have found their way into modern cinema. His films are historically important and most were commercially successful (a noted exception is one of his greatest works, Vertigo (1958), which was a commercial failure). The film “Hitchcock” is not a retelling of the Master of Suspense’s career, but rather the story of the making of Psycho (1960), which I consider to be his masterpiece.
“Hitchcock” was of great interest to me as an amateur film historian and critic, as I found its unfurling of the process of filmmaking particularly fascinating. Anthony Hopkins does a fantastic job in the title role allowing the audience into Hitchcock’s mind while he was working with a particular difficult subject.
Psycho, after all, is based on a real serial killer. Much of the tension in the movie is derived from Hitchcock letting his subject get inside his head. The rest of the tension comes from the enormous pressure that Hitchcock was under while making Psycho and the strain it put on his personal relationships, especially his relationship with his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren).
Alma Reville (1899-1982) was Hitchcock’s wife and film editor, and as portrayed in the film, largely the source of his personal salvation. It is Alma who helps her husband navigate the treacherous waters of making a difficult film, and the great Helen Mirren does a fantastic job bringing this aspect of their relationship to life. They also made a phenomenal creative team, since it was often Reville’s technical gifts that allowed her husband to focus his vision into the masterpieces that we see today.
“Hitchcock” is by no means a perfect film, as the plot meanders a bit in the middle when the focus moves off of the production of Psycho. Still it is a well acted portrayal of the creation of a great work of art by two exceptionally skilled artists.
You might like “Hitchcock” if: You want to learn more about the filmmaking process and you long for a film that portrays that process in an entertaining way.
You might not like “Hitchcock” if: You don’t really care that much about the making of Psycho and you’d rather just watch Psycho.
(c) 2012 D.G. McCabe