Alfred Hitchcock: Spinning Youthful Terrors into Cinematic Art

Young Hitchcock’s view, as it were, of a German Zeppelin dropping bombs over London, June, 1915.

“A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.”

That’s what Jorge Luis Borges (August 24, 1899–June 14, 1986) — born 11 days after Alfred Hitchcock — had to say about a creative person’s imperative to move close to their suffering and to tap it for its creative potential. In fact, I think that’s what’s meant by the moldy cliche of the tortured artist who must suffer for their art. The trouble with that trope is that it gets the order wrong: artists don’t suffer because they’re artists; rather, all people suffer, and some of them use that suffering to return a gift to the world that we call art.

So it went for young Alfie, as his friends and family often called him. In 1914, his world turned upside down. Germany had made its bid for world domination and all hell broke loose throughout Europe. By 1915, they were dropping bombs on London, first from Zeppelins, and then from airplanes. Because it was near the water, Hitchcock’s neighborhood in the Limehouse district was a prime target. Hitch was an eyewitness to this terror. Anyone would carry that trauma with them the rest of their life — and Hitch being an unusually sensitive and gifted young person, that was especially the case. In fact, it was from these experiences that he developed his theories of suspense.

To see exactly how he spun his youthful suffering into cinematic art, watch HitchGeek Academy: A Portrait of the Director as a Young Man, Part 2:

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The video you see here is just a sample of my Alfred Hitchcock Geek as a web series. Combining a lifetime of scholarship with film sequences, rare behind-the-scenes clips, interviews with Hitch himself and more, I’m doing my part to bring Hitchcock studies into the 21st century while building a community that thinks more expansively about film, art and maybe life itself. It’s a huge undertaking and I can’t do it alone. Check out some of the videos I’ve made so far. If you like what you see, I’d be honored to receive your help!

Originally published at www.alfredhitchcockgeek.com.

Writer, filmmaker and Alfred Hitchcock geek. https://www.patreon.com/AlfredHitchcockGeek

Writer, filmmaker and Alfred Hitchcock geek. https://www.patreon.com/AlfredHitchcockGeek