I’d like to have your definition of the difference between “suspense” and “surprise.”
There is a distinct difference between “suspense” and “surprise,” and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I’ll explain what I mean.
We are now having a little chat. Let us suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, “Boom!” There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware that the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions this same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on screen: “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There’s a bomb beneath you and it’s about to explode!”
In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.
“Some films are slices of life. Mine are slices of cake.” — Alfred Hitchcock
Sight & Sound Critics’ Poll 2012
- Vertigo (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
- Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles)
- Tokyo Story (dir. Yasujiro Ozu)
- The Rules of the Game (dir. Jean Renoir)
- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (dir. F.W. Murnau)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (dir. Stanley Kubrick)
- The Searchers (dir. John Ford)
- Man with a Movie Camera (dir. Dziga Vertov)
- The Passion of Joan of Arc (dir. Carl Th. Dreyer)
- 8½ (dir. Federico Fellini)
And the loser is – Citizen Kane. After 50 years at the top of the Sight & Sound poll, Orson Welles’s debut film has been convincingly ousted by Alfred Hitchcock’s 45th feature Vertigo – and by a whopping 34 votes, compared with the mere five that separated them a decade ago. So what does it mean? Given that Kane actually clocked over three times as many votes this year as it did last time, it hasn’t exactly been snubbed by the vastly larger number of voters taking part in this new poll, which has spread its net far wider than any of its six predecessors. [More…, x]
Steve McQueen visits Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho.
Alfred Hitchcock by Jack Mitchell. 1972.
On November 20th, 1972, George Cukor hosted a lunch in honor of Luis Buñuel. Attendees included Robert Mulligan, William Wyler, Robert Wise, Jean-Claude Carriere, Serge Silberman, Billy Wilder, George Stevens, Alfred Hitchcock, Rouben Mamoulian, John Ford, and Rafael Buñuel.