The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927)

Sunday, August 27, 2017 - 18:00 to 19:30
Cinematek (Plateau), Brussels


Elite: What do you think was your first good film?

Hitchcock: The Lodger. It was about Jack the Ripper. I was very pleased with the way I used shadows in the film. Too many directors overlight their sets. Shadows are equally important. I was taught at art school that only light and shadow exist and that lines were imaginary things. I, therefore, use shadows to show people pictures.

From R. Allen Reider’s ‘Interview: Alfred Hitchcock’


“‘It could be patched up,’ one of the executives said hopefully. ‘No,’ I said stubbornly. ‘There’s a lot of money tied up in this,’ another executive said. ‘No,’ I persisted. Then the big boss uttered the final doom: ‘It’s unshowable. We’ll shelve it.’ It was a kind of day of judgment. Alma and I stumbled out of the studio. We walked. And we prayed. For what? For another chance. This had been my first real chance at directing. Once a director in the movies, it’s impossible to go back to a lesser job, like title or set designing. I was like a new captain given his first ship and running it on the rocks. Finished. For months the film sat in a can on the studio’s library shelves. But one day one of the executives, the one who said there was an awful lot of money tied up in it, suggested that it be shown quietly to a few distributors, with the explanation -and apology- that the studio didn’t think much of it, just wanted expert reaction. The few distributors watched it, and that magic ingredient, unpredictability, began working. They liked it. The studio decided to release it. All the distributors wanted it. The Lodger became a great movie hit from the very start.”

From Alfred Hitchcock’s text ‘Would You Like to Know Your Future?’


“Hitchcock did not gradually ‘find himself,’ as did Jean Renoir, for instance. Rather, at the outset of his career, he announced his central concerns and declared a position—at once a philosophical one on the conditions of human existence and a critical one on the powers and limits of the medium and the art of film—to which he remained faithful for more than fifty‐five years. The Lodger is not an apprentice work but a thesis, definitively establishing Hitchcock’s identity as an artist. Thematically and stylistically, it is fully characteristic of his filmic writing. By ‘writing’ I mean not what we ordinarily think of as a script but a film’s construction as a succession of views, what is technically called its ‘continuity’ and in France its ‘découpage’. The writing of The Lodger in this sense is amazingly imaginative and complex. Every shot, every framing, reframing, and cut, is significant.”

From William Rothman’s book ‘Hitchcock - The Murderous Gaze’


Dorian Gray has two obvious links to what Hitchcock considered ‘the first true Hitchcock film’, The Lodger (1926). A brother’s vengeful pursuit into East London of the man responsible for his innocent sister’s death provides Wilde with his subplot involving the brother of Sibyl Vane. In turn, Dorian’s abandoning himself to vice and even murder in the novel’s second half recalls, first, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and, second, Robert Louis Stevenson’s own principal inspiration for his story, the recent Jack the Ripper murders in Whitechapel. The novel The Lodger finds similar inspiration. A key passage speculates how the serial killer known as The Avenger ‘comprises in his own person the peculiarities of Jekyll and Hyde’. In the film a remarkable flashback evidently based on this passage purports to clear the lodger (the gay Ivor Novello) of killing his virginal sister at her coming-out ball but actually shows that he was best situated to kill her. In other words, this likely ‘lying flashback’ precedes the one in Stage Fright by a quarter of a century. If it has gone relatively unnoticed, that’s because Hitchcock, instructed by his producers that Novello mustn’t be a murderer, obligingly added a giant ambiguity, or red herring, late in the film. And it seems that few audiences and critics could credit the 1920s Hitchcock with the aplomb, à la Wilde, to create a likeable if neurotic young man who is actually a mad killer! Distracted by a claim of the film’s police to have caught the real killerrather than an imitator, of which Jack the Ripper had severalthey have ended up dutifully assuming the lodger’s innocence.”

From Ken Mogg’s text ‘Alfred Hitchcock - Master of Paradox’


Listen to François Truffaut in conversation with Alfred Hitchcock about his early years and continue to the full interview in both audio and a transcribed version.


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