Rare footage of Alfred Hitchcock discussing his collaboration with Salvador Dali on ‘Spellbound’
Spellbound, the film noir psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1945, introduced the collaboration between the iconic filmmaker and surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
The film, which tells the story of a director arriving to work at a mental asylum when more secrets of his identity emerge, stars the likes of Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov and Leo G. Carroll.
Hitchcock took the bold decision to work with artist Dali who was brought in to design the trippy dream sequence. Dali, who introduced numerous different images which included things such as psychoanalytic symbols, a man with no face and a man falling off a building, made the sequence so incredibly long and complicated that producer David O. Selznick wasn’t able to successfully transmit it to film.
“But Dalí had some strange ideas; he wanted a statue to crack like a shell falling apart, with ants crawling all over it, and underneath, there would be Ingrid Bergman, covered by the ants! It just wasn’t possible,” Hitchcock said to François Truffaut in 1962. “My idea was to shoot the Dalí dream scenes in the open air so that the whole thing, photographed in real sunshine, would be terribly sharp. I was very keen on that idea, but the producers were concerned about the expense. So we shot the dream in the studios.”
He added: “He wanted a statue to crack like a shell falling apart, with ants crawling all over it. And underneath, there would be Ingrid Bergman, covered by ants! It just wasn’t possible.”
Hitchcock later said that “what I was after was the vividness of dreams. As you know, all Dalí’s work is very solid, very sharp, with very long perspectives, black shadows. This was again the avoidance of the cliché: all dreams in movies are blurred. It isn’t true—Dalí was the best man to do the dreams because that’s what dreams should be.”
The dream sequence ended up being cut down to just two minutes and, in the below clip, Hitchcock discusses the idea behind it.