SCREEN-L Archives

April 2001, Week 1


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 2 Apr 2001 10:25:19 +1000
text/plain (94 lines)
Arnt Maasų asked:

Can anyone come up with
typical or classical examples of the use of (extreme) close-up shots
of a preson screaming, and (extreme) long-shot shots of a person

I would be grateful for any suggestions, and also if you can remember
if the sound is 'loud' vs. 'soft', or with a 'close' or 'distant'
sound space (i.e., much vs. little reverb, 'full' and 'bass-rich'
voice vs. 'thin' voice).

Arnt, the films of Hitchcock may be of interest in this respect.

The classical instances in Hitchcock of screams in close-up are in
PSYCHO (1960) x3: viz, when Marion (Janet Leigh) screams in extreme
close-up when knifed in the shower; when Arbogast (Martin Balsam)
'screams' (silently, in shock) in ordinary close-up when knifed on the
stairs; and when Lila (Vera Miles) screams in medium close-up when she
sees 'Mother' in the cellar.  However, all three instances are stylised,
sound-wise.  For instance, Marion's scream merges with the sound of
screeching violins, and Arbogast's 'scream' is (as noted) a silent one
but is overlaid with the screeching violins (as I recall).  As for
Lila's scream, this is protracted and becomes combined with screeching
violins AND the shreik of the mad (and bewigged) Norman as he arrives on
cue, brandishing his knife.  (His shreik in turn becomes the EXTREMELY
stylised cry of 'I am Norma Bates'.)

Earlier instances of close-up screams in Hitchcock include the landlady
in THE 39 STEPS (1935) who screams on discovering a body in Hannay's
flat - again stylised, because the scream instantly becomes the shreik
of a train whistle on the train carrying Hannay north - and the scream
of Jo McKenna (Doris Day) in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956 version)
when she realises that a man is about to be assassinated during a
concert in the Albert Hall (here, if I remember correctly, there's a
flurry of shots as the music being performed in the hall climaxes with a

As for whispers in extreme long-shot, that is more difficult.  The
whisper in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (again 1956) when the mortally
stabbed Louis Bernard passes on cryptic instructions to Ben Mckenna
(James Stewart) in a crowded market-place in Marrakesh is shot not in
extreme long-shot but in extreme close-up (whispering lips and listening
ear), commensurate with the vital significance of the message in the
film's story.

On the other hand, Hitchcock does show intimate encounters in extreme
long-shot: a couple of instances are the hillock scenes in SUSPICION
(1941) and TORN CURTAIN (1966).

At other times, an encounter seen first in extreme long-shot suddenly
becomes a close-shot.  In TORN CURTAIN, when Armstrong (Paul Newman)
approaches the farmer on his tractor in an East German field, the shot
is an extreme long-shot until the moment when Armstrong arrives at the
tractor and the farmer speaks ('Howdy, Professor.  How does it feel to
play the part of a dirty defector?').  Something similar occurs in the
prairie crossroads scene in NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) when Thornhill
(Cary Grant) and a local farmer eye each other from across the road
until Thornhill crosses over and begins a (laconic) conversation.  But
this isn't what you asked for, Arnt, because there's no whispering
during the long-shot part of these scenes.

But that raises the question: why on earth WOULD a filmmaker shoot a
whisper in extreme long-shot?  Unless, that is, it was from the point of
view of someone across the way who, for some reason, couldn't move
closer to catch what was being said.  I think that there's an instance
of that - sort of - at the start of Coppola's THE CONVERSATION (1974),
when a colleague of the 'bugger' (Gene Hackman) monitors what a
microphone is picking up in the San Francisco square below.  Similar use
of point of view of a distant observer is found in Hitchcock's REAR
WINDOW (1954) and Antonioni's BLOW-UP (1967).

I offer the above for what it's worth, Arnt.

- Ken Mogg (author of the uncut UK edition of 'The Alfred Hitchcock
Story' - I disown the cut and 'simplified' US version).

P.S. Someone the other day asked me for instances of Hitchcock's use of
sound, suitable for playing on radio.  I cited some particular scenes,
then added:

And then there are ... screams.  These represent the 'punctuation'
(and/or puncturing) of [what Siegfried Kracauer referred to as 'the flow
of life'].  I f you had the time and/or
inclination, you could play in succession the delicious screams from
such films as SABOTEUR, REAR WINDOW,
VERTIGO, NxNW, PSYCHO, etc.  Each is different from the others, each is
'right' for its particular context.

To sign off Screen-L, e-mail [log in to unmask] and put SIGNOFF Screen-L
in the message.  Problems?  Contact [log in to unmask]