By Vincent Abbatecola
At one point in the new biopic, “Hitchcock,” the prolific director played by Anthony Hopkins states, “All of us harbor dark recesses of violence and horror. I’m just a man hiding in the corner with a camera, watching.”
This quote sums up what many of the director’s films never failed to capture; not just the unknown violence that people can hold, but also a self-reflexive view for the audience’s desire to look. Hitchcock could be considered a pioneer in voyeuristic cinema, especially with his films “Psycho” and “Rear Window.”
In Sacha Gervasi’s biographical drama, the story details the arduous work that went into the production of Hitchcock’s famous film, “Psycho.” While it’s an interesting look into the making of one of the most iconic films in the horror genre, it does spend quite a bit of time dealing with Hitchcock’s personal life, which is almost the film’s undoing.
The setting for the film has Alfred Hitchcock fresh off the success of “North by Northwest.” But, he now needs some inspiration for his next project. He begins to read Robert Bloch’s latest novel, “Psycho.” After doing so, he is dead-set on making it into a film. While facing some difficulties in production, Hitchcock also comes across some problems in his marriage to Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), who is feeling as if she’s being pushed off to the sidelines because of her husband’s fame.
Anthony Hopkins brings to realization one of the most famous men who sat behind the camera. Just as the great Hitchcock would address the audience in the trailers to his films, Hopkins addresses the audience in the beginning and the end of the film, carrying an air of mystery and menace in his personality, an air that also permeates Hitchcock’s films.
He carries the attitude of a voyeur, similar to that of Norman Bates, especially in one scene where he looks through the blinds of his Paramount Studios office and watches a woman as she walks past his window at a distance. He holds a blank expression on his face, making it look like he’s not feeling anything, but the viewer knows he is. We see his stark determination as a director when he doesn’t get what he wants as he films the famous shower scene.
He unleashes a bit of fury as he brandishes the knife and encourages his leading lady to give him the blood-curdling screams he wants. Hopkins brings some unsettling and darkly funny quirks to the Hitchcock character, such as surprising people with his presence when they don’t notice him at first. We can’t be sure if the real Hitchcock was like that, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he was.
The screenplay by John J. McLaughlin, based on Stephen Rebello’s book, “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” goes between Hitchcock’s work on the set of the film and his troubles at home. While it is important to see the influences that his personal life had on the making of “Psycho,” it sometimes takes away from the intrigue of the movie-making aspect; the film particularly tends to drag in the scenes involving the interactions between Alma and her friend, Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). If the movie was a half hour longer, the story might have been able to devote as much time to the actual production of “Psycho” as it did with Hitchcock and Alma’s personal lives.
Although “Hitchcock” isn’t quite the exciting and informative biopic that one would hope that deals with one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time making his masterfully suspenseful film, the performances pick up the slack where the narrative lags. It doesn’t provide as much insight into the making of “Psycho” as it should, but the production scenes it does have will satisfy any film buff. “Hitchcock” pulls back the shower curtain on a bit of film history.
Final grade: B