Alfred Hitchcock practically wrote the book on moviemaking. But that was then, this is now. In an era of virtual reality, do his ideas still apply? Actually, yes. In fact, Hitchcock’s cinema aspired to virtual reality. So if you want your 360 VR videos to go beyond jump scares and roller coaster rides, take a few tips from the Master. Try these.
Hitchcock’s closest brush with actual VR
Throughout his career Hitch sought ways to overcome the artificiality of film to invoke a sense of realism and intimacy between the audience and his characters. For instance, regarding the famous love scene in Notorious(1948), he said, “I felt that the public, represented by the camera, was the third party to this embrace. The public was being given the great privilege of embracing Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman together it was a kind of temporary ménage à trois.”
That was the insight he carried with him when he dabbled in the 3-D fad. Though I think he was secretly enthusiastic to try out the technology, he claims that Warner Bros. pressured him to jump on the fad’s bandwagon. Stipulating that his film would contain “no spears or chairs to throw at the audience” he grokked the format’s potential to create intimacy. Fittingly, he adapted a stage play about a marriage gone bad, set in a one-bedroom London flat: Dial M for Murder (1954). The resulting experience plays like VR (minus the 360 view, of course).
Out of respect for its origins as a stage play, Hitch’s intention was to “emphasize the theatrical aspects,” and treat movie-going audiences to the uncanny sensation of ascending the stage to move among the actors. The result is that one feels very present — at times like a voyeur or an unwanted party-crasher or, during its most violent scene, an impotent witness to a crime. In addition, his camera placement charges the spaces between actors and objects with a sort of dynamism—the elusive presence that VR creators seek. Given Hitch’s thoughtful approach to 3-D, I’m sure that he would have also been all over VR like a black English-tailored suit.
Dial M is a master class for anyone who wants to make VR movies. Get the 3-D Blu-Ray here or crack open a beer and check out my lengthy article on the movie.