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Movie Review: Spellbound

Updated on March 6, 2013

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The movie “Spellbound” relies greatly on the use of relationships, chiaroscuro, dissolve, point-of-view camera work, and music.The movie begins with a light-filled scene with the psychiatrist Dr. Peterson in her office, before Dr. Edwards is even introduced.This display gives the viewer an idea that everything is currently okay.The relationship is foreshadowed between Dr. Edwards and Dr. Peterson when they first make eye contact at dinner.They were very attracted to each other from the start and I noticed that the lighting was a bit darker.Looking on it in retrospect, this may have been a subtle way of the director, Albert Hitchcock, letting the viewer know that things weren’t going to stay optimistic, even though on the surface it appeared so.Sure enough, as they eat their dinner Dr. Edwards is shown looking at a napkin with lines on it and seems visibly upset.

Also, a few scenes later, Dr. Peterson is shown in a dark room a few scenes later appearing stressed out about her feelings towards Dr. Edwards.Dramatic love music is playing in the background and Dr. Peterson goes upstairs to find Dr. Edwards in the room.After conversing for a bit about his books, they have another eye connection and they passionately kiss.However, the passion doesn’t last for long when he looks at the robe she is wearing and sees similar lines to those on the napkin at dinner.The instrumental music becomes substantially louder and he becomes frantic yet again.Then, as he is trying to perform surgery on a man in a dark operating room, Dr. Edwards has a sudden outburst once more.It seemed like every time he saw the lines, he fainted/collapsed which was somewhat annoying.

It was after that instance that it was obvious that something was not right with this man.After brief investigation, Dr. Peterson notices that this man’s signature does not match that of the real Dr. Edwards.The first thing that came to my mind was that he was a murderer.However, the use of the “MacGuffin” by Hitchcock creates two stories.One of the stories matter and the other is used as a “smoke screen”.The viewer believes that the important mystery is who the man actually is and why he murdered the real Dr. Edwards, but in reality he was not the man that killed Dr. Edwards.It was a fellow doctor of Dr. Edwards, which Dr. Peterson discovered at the end of the movie.Nonetheless, the movie gives hints such as the “J.B.” initials on the man’s cigarette case to sway the viewer away from the significant story.Before he is caught as a phony, he hides out. He writes a note to Dr. Peterson telling her where he went off to and slipped it under her door.In the morning she sees it and goes to pick it up, but the door is unexpectedly opened by the other doctors looking for him.They unknowingly kick the note around on the ground as they question her.The look on her face seems anxious and they finally leave.However, one of the men notices the note on the ground.He briefly looks at it and suspense is surely present.

Fortunately, he just hands the note to Dr. Peterson with a smile and walks away.That was a nice use of irony by Hitchcock. Dr. Peterson remains infatuated with this man and who he is due to her analytical personality being a psychiatrist.She comes to the conclusion that he must have a guilt complex and they try to backtrack in order to give him flashbacks so he can remember his past.

Another use of deception by Hitchcock is displayed when Dr. Peterson and the man go to Dr. Brulov’s house.They spend the night, but the man wakes up in the middle of the night and goes into the bathroom where his is angered by lines again.He takes a knife downstairs, which is shown through his point-of-view.He sees Dr. Brulov and Brulov gets him a glass of milk in the light-filled kitchen in the corner of the screen; the rest of the screen is dark so you can see a close-up of his hand and the shadow of the knife.Dr. Brulov gives him milk and he drinks it as the whole screen goes white then dissolves into the next morning.Dr.Peterson wakes up and goes downstairs to see Dr. Brulov slouched over in the chair appearing to be dead.However, when she goes over to nudge him he wakes up.

They then try to analyze the man’s dream sequence which seemed random and irrelevant but was actually a painting created by Salvadore Dali.The camera went into his face and faded into the dream. It consisted of curtains with eyes in a gambling room and he was running away from a pair of wings.They don’t seem to get much information out of this, but when it starts snowing outside of the train the tracks seem to trigger a memory.Dr. Peterson convinces the man to go skiing (unrealistic rear-screen projection is used) and as they do, the camera cuts to him as a boy in the winter, sliding down the icy wide-railing and knocking his brother off into a steel picketed fence.The brother died and that’s where his guilt complex was.It all came back to him and his name was revealed as John Balantine.

He did not kill Dr. Edwards after all.He recalled seeing another man kill him though.That man was Dr. Murchison, the fellow doctor of Dr. Peterson.When she does confront him he takes out a gun (from the point-of- view of Murchison) and she convinces him that if she does shoot him he will get caught.The barrel of the gun is suddenly turned towards the camera and a flash of red is shown, which was probably good graphics during this time because it was a black and white movie.The movie ends with Dr. Murchison killing himself.


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