Alfred Hitchcock’s 7-minute masterclass on film editing
Alfred Hitchcock, a director widely regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, has always been willing to discuss his approach to the art.
Having directed over 50 feature films, Hitchcock managed to coin the nickname ‘the Master of Suspense’ in a career that spanned six decades and resulted in a total of 46 Oscar nominations and six wins.
His work with iconic films such as Rear Window, Vertigo and Psycho to name just a select number of his extensive filmography have been debated, analysed and celebrated for decades. So much so, the cinematic term ‘Hitchcockian’ was coined to describe filmmakers who have followed Hitchcock’s cinematic approach.
Back in 1964, Hitchcock sat down with Fletcher Markle immediately after the filming of his latest film Marnie had been completed. The interview, which was wide-ranging, also included contributions from the likes of Norman Lloyd, Joan Harrison and Bernard Herrmann as the conversation provided an eye-opening insight into the mind of Hitchcock’s creative drive.
At one point, when Fletcher raises the topic of editing, Hitchcock defines his style into what he describes as the ‘three types of montage’ and puts importance on ‘Impressionistic Montage’, ‘Orchestration’ and ‘Pure cinematics’.
To make his approach clearer, Hitchcock then breaks down the structure of Psycho‘s famous shower scene, explaining: “Now, as you know, you could not take the camera and just show a nude woman being stabbed to death. It had to be done impressionistically.
“It was done with little pieces of the film: the head, the hand, parts of the torso, a shadow on the curtain, the shower itself. In that scene, there were 78 pieces of film in about 45 seconds.”