As a filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock is as famous for the public persona he developed as for the films he created. From the onset of his career, he seemed to authorize the public's perception of him and his oeuvre.1 Yet, the simplicity of the accepted view of him as a dryly witty imp fascinated by suspense and murder is directly challenged by the evidence on the screen.
During Francois Truffaut's interviews with him, Hitchcock states that the impetus behind the making of his feature film Marnie (which was made in 1964, only three years before Truffaut's book was published) was his fascination with
[t]he fetish idea. A man wants to go to bed with a thief because she is a thief, just like other men have a yen for a Chinese or a colored woman. Un- fortunately, this concept doesn't come across on the screen. ... [W]e'd have had to have Sean Connery catching the girl robbing the safe and show that he felt like jumping at her and raping her on the spot.2
Hitchcock further admits that Connery's character is doubly motivated: he is attracted to Marnie because of her vulnerability and at the same time the prospect of sex with a thief excites him.
In this conversation about the film Marnie,3 Hitchcock expresses much concern about the character of Mark (Connery). He concentrates on describing the problems with various methods of structuring the film around Mark's fetish:
In one of my early British pictures, Murder, I used the stream of consciousness technique. If I'd used that technique, we might have had Sean Connery saying to himself, "I hope she hurries up and does the robbery so that I can catch her at it and possess her!" In this way we would have had double suspense. We would still have played Marnie from Mark's point of view, and we'd have shown his satisfaction as he watches the girl in the act of stealing.4
Hitchcock clearly expresses dissatisfaction with the film as a whole, finds Connery's performance lacking, and even criticizes the secondary characters. Yet, the character who gives her name to the fiction, who is made the director's possession in the credits ("Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie"), is barely discussed. Hitchcock's concentration upon the male character and his "point of view" exemplifies a particular debate in film theory which was sparked (more than a decade after the film's release) by the publication of an article which partly relied upon Hitchcock's films for its basis.
Long considered the seminal thesis on gender difference in film, Laura Mulvey's essay, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,"5 uses psychoanalytic theory as a political weapon to demonstrate the way the unconscious patriarchal society has structured film form. In Mulvey's view, the method by which sexual difference is enunciated in the cinema is typified by the gender-specific roles males and females must assume. The male star is aggressive, has the power to control events, and is able to force the narrative forward. The female star is, contrarily, passive and objectified; she is the focus of the male's desire, the object of the masculine gaze.
These roles are irrevocably bound to the voyeuristic-scopophilic look that is associated with traditional filmic pleasure. Freud's conception is of the woman as threatening to the man because of his perception of her lacking a penis. The castration anxiety the man feels as a result of perceiving this lack may be relieved by complete disavowal, which is accomplished "... by the substitution of a fetish object [voyeurism] or turning the represented figure itself into a fetish so that it becomes reassuring rather than dangerous [fetishistic scopophilia] ....6
Mulvey discusses two filmmakers to illustrate her theories. Josef von Sternberg's films (especially those made with Marlene Dietrich) are illustrative of the woman's body being transformed into a fetishistic object. Dietrich is presented by Sternberg, as representative of the patriarchal industry, for the direct delectation of the (male) spectator; there is no mediation by the gaze of the male protagonist; rather, Dietrich is displayed "in direct erotic rapport with the spectator. The beauty of the woman as object and the screen space coalesce; she is no longer the bearer of guilt but a perfect product ... ."7
Hitchcock's films, in contrast, exhibit a more complicated example of the process. Whereas Sternberg's one-dimensional frames yield the definitive fetish, "Hitchcock goes into the investigative side of voyeurism."8 In the Hitchcock films Mulvey discusses (including Marnie), the male protagonists are viewed as representatives of the law and the patriarchal system, but these men are led by
... their erotic drives ... into compromised situations. The power to subject another person to the will sadistically or to the gaze voyeuristically is turned on to the woman as the object of both. Power is backed by a certainty of legal right and the established guilt of the woman (evoking castration, psychoanalytically speaking). ... Hitchcock's skillful use of identification processes and liberal use of subjective camera from the point of view of the male protagonist draw the spectators deeply into his position, making them share his uneasy gaze. The audience is absorbed into a voyeuristic situation within the screen scene and diegesis which parodies his own in the cinema.9
In other words, while Sternberg's visions are presented to the male spectator as direct erotic experiences, Hitchcock goes one step beyond this to involve the audience in the spectacle at a deeper level: because of Hitchcock's style, the viewer identifies with the predicament of the male protagonist as well as with his gaze.
Raymond Bellour's assessment of Marnie10 dovetails with Mulvey's but ventures beyond it. His analysis concerns the first forty-four shots of the film and examines them from the aspect of representing a woman's body which is possessed by the males in the film, by the males in the audience, and --- the significant difference --- by Hitchcock himself. Like Mulvey, Bellour believes the entire Hollywood structure is based on the male look with the woman the product of that gaze: the man is the looker; the woman is merely the empty vessel which receives the look and is thereby filled, transformed into a meaningful image of the man's desire. From this theoretical perspective, the male character becomes a surrogate for the male spectator.
But beyond the look of the male protagonist, before the look of the spectator, there is, first of all, the look of the camera: that cinematic apparatus which has become the repository of male fantasy. Historically, in realist narrative films, traces of this source of enunciation are suppressed. There is the feeling that the camera is no longer present, that the story is telling itself. Yet, the camera is not invisible and automatic: it is a male enunciator.
While Mulvey acknowledges the camera's role as male enunciator, Bellour moves beyond it to offer an interpretation that indicates an even deeper connection between the filmmaker and his camera. Hitchcock's cameo appearance in the film points the way: as Marnie walks along a hotel corridor into the depth of the screen, Hitchcock emerges from a doorway into the hall, looks first at Marnie, then turns to look directly at the camera. Bellour reads his actions as a break within the diegesis of the film. "By observing Marnie, object of desire, enigma ... , Hitchcock becomes a sort of double"11 of the male protagonists who have "created" Marnie in the earlier shots of the film. The camera, thus, becomes a relay between Hitchcock and the males in the diegesis. In turn, the males in the fiction not only stand in for the males in the audience, they also represent Hitchcock who is the original: "the first among all his doubles ... as pure image power --- the camera wish, of which the object-choice is here the woman."12 Moreover, by acknowledgement of the camera through direct address, he offers an admission of the complicity between himself and the spectator. By "inscribing himself in the chain of the look"13 Hitchcock, the man behind the camera, has hereby forged the link which connects the male spectators, the male protagonists who represent them, and the male director of the fiction who is the true enunciator of the narrative. The character of Marnie has been created by and belongs to them all.
The writings of Mulvey and Bellour have been extremely influential in structuring the direction of feminist film theory. These works (and others) have cited Hitchcock as a director exemplary of the Freudian/ Lacanian exegesis which has been applied to classical narrative cinema and which has been rudimentarily explicated in the preceding paragraphs. Yet, some subsequent investigators have found this approach to be an oversimplification of Hitchcock's agenda.
Tania Modleski, in her book The Women Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory,14 contends that Hitchcock's films "are always in danger of being subverted by females whose power is both fascinating and seemingly limitless."15 Modleski argues against Mulvey's contention that Hitchcock's female protagonists are merely the passive visual creations of male voyeurism. In particular, Modleski expresses incredulity that such a shrewd commentator as Mulvey is blind to the strength of female characters like Lisa Fremont in Rear Window. Rather than branding Hitchcock as either a misogynist or one who reveres women, Modleski comments on Hitchcock's "ambivalence about femininity" and views his work as demonstrating "that despite the often considerable violence with which women are treated ..., they remain resistant to patriarchal assimilation."16
Modleski, while obliged to her predecessors for their insights, clearly believes Hitchcock's films need to be reexamined from a broader base. The films are not
... exemplary of Hollywood cinema. Rather, if the films do indeed invoke typical patterns of male and female socialization, as Raymond Bellour has repeatedly argued, they do so only to reveal the difficulties inherent in these processes --- and to implicate the spectator in these difficulties as well.17
Certain that the lines between masculinity and femininity are not as strictly drawn as Mulvey and Bellour contend, Modleski examines seven of Hitchcock's films from a less rigid perspective. Her investigation unmasks characters and narrative situations which display ambivalence and androgyny. For example, she analyzes Rebecca as an example of a film which foregoes the "normal" male-driven narrative to concentrate on the difficulties of traversing the path of the female Oedipal trajectory. She also shows that visual impairment is not limited to the female characters in the films: when Scottie is searching for Madeleine in Vertigo, his vision is not to be trusted, and, Modleski argues, this places him in a feminine position within the narrative. Clearly, with the close, thoughtful analyses Modleski performs in her book, she has found room in the narratives for a woman's voice.
Hitchcock's films, thus, may be seen to produce a diversity of critical response. Some theoreticians (e.g., Mulvey, Bellour) view the films as products of the patriarchal establishment, reinforcing the status quo, encompassing women only as peripheral adjuncts to the men who drive the narrative. Hitchcock himself, speaking with Truffaut, offers reinforcement to this view. But when the films are considered from outside this perspective (e.g., Modleski), a different reading surfaces which authenticates the woman's position as a potent narrative element in a male-dominated universe. How is it possible for the same films to evoke such opposite reactions?
Hitchcock's style of filmmaking gains a great deal of its power from its ambiguity. While he is, perhaps, the most consciously manipulative director, Hitchcock also leaves room for the mental and emotional movement of the spectator in response to the film, knowing the more energy a viewer puts into the narrative, the more resonant the story will be for her or him. This philosophy is crystallized in Hitchcock's insistent valuation of suspense over surprise. While surprise has the momentary ability to shock, suspense entails the involvement of the spectator in a more active way. Having been placed in a position of knowing more than the character in the diegesis, the spectator becomes more anxious as the danger grows. In such a position, the spectator is torn: the longing to be in the character's narrative position is mediated and called into question by the proximity to danger and the spectator's knowledge of the threat. There are, indeed, many ways that Hitchcock's films actively engage the spectator by providing opportunities for intense involvement with the diegesis.
Firstly, the material which Hitchcock shapes is both personal and arbitrary. The intense subjectivity evidenced in the films is an indication that, whatever Hitchcock's agenda may appear to be to his critics, he has always evidenced a primary interest in establishing a personal connection with his audience: like D.W. Griffith, he wanted to make people see. His films are organized around voyeuristic situations and, as such, they position viewers to identify strongly with characters whose actions are driven by what they see. The viewer is repeatedly placed in a subjective position, with the camera frequently taking the point of view of a character in the diegesis so that the spectator "sees" through that character's eyes and "experiences" events from that character's perspective (as Mulvey asserts). Further, the processes at work here indicate a shifting subjectivity, in as much as identification does not remain fixed with any one character but may change in different situations for narrative or psychological purposes. This type of alternation within the filmic text does not confuse the spectator, rather it engages him or her and produces the active viewing subject.
Furthermore, there are intermittent fluctuations in attention which go beyond the level of the story. The viewer of a Hitchcock film is, at times, drawn from the narrative and made intensely aware of the director's presence. Viewing a Hitchcock film goes beyond narrative comprehension to a recognition (even an anticipation) of key directorial elements. Playing with his audience and with its generic expectations of the suspense film, Hitchcock tinges everything with meaning and diverts us in a kind of game that includes false leads, sympathetic villains, and black humor. The dichotomy that Hitchcock establishes between what the viewer knows and what the character knows provides a source of tension which keeps the viewer constantly alert and observant. His trademark cameos provide further on-screen evidence of the collusion between the director and his audience: Hitchcock eventually decided to situate his appearances early in the films because audiences were too busy looking for him and not paying enough attention to the story. (Even before Bellour's significant assessment of Hitchcock's cameo in Marnie, his appearances were rife with meaning to his fans.)
Hitchcock also uses less obvious narrational intrusions which comment on the action but which nevertheless call attention to his authorial persona. He flaunts his omniscience self-consciously, almost as though he is challenging how far established cinematic conventions can be stretched, how much the audience will tolerate beyond the accepted deviations. In his first sound film, Blackmail, Hitchcock has the word "knife" audibly enhanced in order to emphasize the heroine's guilty feelings. In Young and Innocent the camera tracks from a wide shot in a nightclub to a close up of the drummer's twitching eye (a vital clue). The giant gun in Spellbound which suffuses the black and white screen with red when discharged; the milk with the light in it (to emphasize the possibility of poison inside) that Cary Grant menacingly carries to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion; the ten-minute takes which comprise Rope; the shower scene in Psycho which utilizes seventy-eight camera setups in forty-five seconds of screen time and shockingly kills off the star of the movie less than half way through: these are a few examples of the cinematic audacity that still mesmerizes and challenges audiences.
On a diegetic level, the viewer of a Hitchcock film, then, experiences surprising plot twists and subjective shifts among characters. Extradiegetically layered over this is the authorial persona of Hitchcock which is both visible and invisible, conspiratorial and inscrutable. He invades the narrative, most obviously when he makes his cameo appearance, but also in a very real way by means of cinematic grandstanding. The viewer oscillates among different layers of narrative and extradiegetic meaning which are often ambiguously, but subjectively, presented. Because Hitchcock's films operate on so many levels, audiences are put in positions where they must (in order to enjoy the film) acknowledge and account for internal diegetic fluctuations, the presence of the author both within the story world and extradiegetically, the relationship of Hitchcock to his characters, and its own position relative to both the narrative and the director. The viewer, essentially, is privileged to and must juggle numerous points of view that interweave internal and external diegetic forces. That these diverse elements can be unified into a powerfully compelling viewing experience says much about the human compulsion toward narrative.
These same patterns are evident in Marnie: a potent story is overlaid with significant authorial touches. On the narrational level, the main character continually pulls the viewer in different directions. She suffers from a mysterious trauma which we want simultaneously to perpetuate and to help her overcome. The film is named for this female character and she is on screen more than any other persona in the narrative. Yet we have the assurance of Hitchcock that the film is really the story of a man who is obsessed with a thief. His statements dovetail with the opinions of those very influential theoreticians who view the film as conforming with established patriarchal norms. In direct contradiction to this, Modleski's work suggests Marnie may be far more expressive of the woman's position in the narrative than has been acknowledged.
On the enunciative level, Hitchcock announces his control of the medium and calls attention to his style: the extreme reliance on POV; the use of dramatic expressionist tactics to gain entry to the main character's psyche; the bravura editing in the segment of the fox hunt and Forio's death; the cameo appearance in which Hitchcock so pointedly breaks the sacrosanct rule of direct address and acknowledges the camera/viewer; the beauty and freedom of Marnie riding her horse offset by the claustrophobic phoniness of rear projection. The nature of Hitchcock's style leaves room for an equivocal response, repeatedly requiring the viewer to assess and navigate through different levels of narrative and enunciation. The fluctuations involve both honesty and deception on Hitchcock's part and compel an extremely close and personal reading of the textual material. This bifocal nature of the film at least in part explains the ambiguity of critical response to Marnie and makes it an ideal subject for examination.
Critically, the basis for the argument that Marnie is a male-dominated film centers on the issue of sight: Hitchcock looks at Marnie through the camera, Mark looks at Marnie, Marnie is "created" by the gazes of the men who surround her in the film as well as by the men who view her on the screen. Yet, the spectator also sees what Marnie sees and in such a way as to compel attention and a sense of shared emotions. Thus, the same duality found on other levels of the film also exists on the level of cinematic point of view (POV). POV is one aspect of focalization, which is basically "the perspective in terms of which the narrated situation and events are presented"18. The cinematic spectator continually moves through different levels of intimacy with the characters which reveal various aspects of narrative information. With the device of POV, the characters' sight provides information about the world of the story. Technically, POV is a form of internal focalization which operates at the surface level: we see what the character sees, but externally and physically, not including the character's thought processes. In the POV figure, the camera (almost) literally occupies the space of a character within the diegesis to show us what the character sees from his or her perspective. It is a particularly subjective use of the camera by which a director may establish identification and/or empathy with a character in the consciousness of the viewer. There are, of course, degrees of intensity of identification which are dependent upon narrative circumstance and psychological nuance.
Who, then, does the looking in Marnie? This paper will examine Hitchcock's use of internal focalization to present narrative information. Attention to his manipulation of POV will help to clarify issues of gender and enunciation within the film. How viable is the male POV? Which males do the looking and to what purpose? How important to the narrative is Marnie's POV, especially when balanced against the male POV? If Marnie is the subject of the male gaze, how can she also be the one who looks? What is the interrelationship of male and female POV? What does Marnie's POV mean as read within the context of a patriarchal society? Is there a dominant position with which the viewer makes contact, if so, which one? Where is Hitchcock's place in the film, and with how many voices does he speak? And, throughout the fluctuating points of view of the narrative, what is the position of the viewer?
While an examination of POV cannot, of course, provide literal answers to all these questions, it can point the way to the general attitude which the film adopts towards the politics of gender. It can help us to understand the reasons for the ambivalent position in which the character of Marnie is structurally placed: she both controls the gaze and is objectified by it. Since POV is in great measure responsible for presenting both the patriarchal viewpoint and the woman's POV in the film, examining it will help focus the tension between the two perspectives and their interdependence. After all, in the narrative Marnie is a powerful woman who manipulates the status quo to her own benefit. By stealing money from the men she works for and by refusing sex, she oversteps the bounds of her "place" and becomes independent, able to function and provide without subservience to anyone. Considering that Marnie is alive and well at the end of the film, this is hardly subject matter for a misogynic director. Looking through the eyes of such a character may be one of the most dangerous "games" that Hitchcock has ever played.