All that, for what?
After a brief discussion with KRH about Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, and an essay I wrote about Rear Window, I think I figured out why I didn’t really love the film.
Here’s an excerpt from my essay (WARNING: highly unpopular opinion & SPOILERS ahead).
I did not, however, think it was one of Hitchcock’s best works. Although I really enjoy watching the films that he created to challenge himself (like this one), and I find it interesting to see how he handled the parameters he set forth, I didn’t think there was enough of a reward at the end. The suspense that he creates throughout the film seems to be for nothing. We were wondering, along with Jeff, if the man across the courtyard was a murderer for nearly the entire movie, and then he was. What’s the fun in that? Although it would be a completely different movie (boring) if Thorwald ended up being the innocent man in the equation, it would at least provide some sort of twist.
I realize that saying this mimics a lot of what I had to say about Suspicion’s ending (and how I didn’t mind that the husband didn’t end up being a killer), but at least my reasoning is consistent. The ending I thought was sufficient in Suspicion, many view as a rip-off, while the ending many enjoy for Rear Window, is one I’m rather unexcited about.
For me, Shadow of a Doubt is very similar to Rear Window in this aspect. Just like Suspicion, we are nervous about the intentions of a potentially murderous character. Of course each of these three films has a different purpose, but Suspicion is the only one that ends with an answer you weren’t thinking of. The other two films create a lot of build-up about something that ends up being true. It feels like something is missing, and like I was cheated out of a climax. So, although Suspicion’s ending is highly contested and not how the film was meant to end, I prefer it over Rear Window’s. My favorite Hitchcock films are ones that show me something I didn’t see coming. The whole point of suspense is to make me feel like I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I feel that knowing who the killer is for most of the movie is a strange strategy for the master of suspense. In the end, however, I cannot deny that Alfred Hitchcock is in many ways a master of his craft, and Rear Window is one of those masterpieces.
Like Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt has a lot of brilliant aspects to it that make it a well conceived film with much attention to detail and development. I still don’t think it’s his best work, though.