Analysis of Hitchcocks North by Northwest





Analysis of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest

Known for famous classics such as Psycho and The birds, Alfred Hitchcock has revolutionized the dynamics of film and theater. The creation of North by Northwest joined the list of Hitchcock’s masterpiece films earning the movie the title as his last critically acclaimed film. Filmed in 1959, North by Northwest portrays the use of cinematography, mines-en scene and editing. These techniques were not as profound as compared to the films in present day. This puts the movie and Hitchcock’s directing skills ahead of his time. The movie thus set the pace for the creation of high quality productions in the film industry.

The purpose of this paper is to analyze Hitchcock’s movie North by Northwest. This will be done by providing the plot and summary of the movie. The paper will later look into the use of cinematography, mines-en -scene and editing to bring out the thoughts and fillings of the main character Thornhill. The paper later provides a concluding paragraph on the contents of the paper in relation to the theses.

Plot summary

The movie begins when the wrong man is mistakenly kidnapped by two gangsters. This is a result of Thornhill being in the wrong place at the right time. The man kidnapped is an advertising agent who is new to this world. He is wrongfully accused of being an American spy responsible for the death of a Russian secret service agent. Based on the time when the cold war had taken centre stage, the movie addresses the activities that occur between the two sides of the war. Thornhill is thus forced to defend himself by proving his real identity. For him to achieve this, he is forced to change his identity so as to protect himself. The movie is defined by the use of adventure, comedy and most of all suspense. Aided by his accomplice Eve Kendall, they set to find out the identity of the actual spy so that they can go back to their normal lives. In their quest to do so, they are met with many challenges making them take refuge in different locations of the country.

Use of cinematography

Cinematography makes up for most of the features of an entire movie. It comprises of the use of the camera, photography, shooting and picture making. The camera is one of the most essential devices in the making of a film. It is used to emphasize the angles that the director views as the most critical parts of the film. The movie generally does not portray a lot of the use of the camera. One of the pivotal scenes where the camera is used is during the end of the film where Roger Thornhill and Eve Kendall’s lives are in danger. The director shows Thornhill look for a way out by first glancing to the left, right and then back to the left as Eve Kendall is clutching on to him for dear life. This brings out his desperation in that he has few options to choose from. All he can picture is his whole life flash before him. The use of shadows across the faces of Mount Rushmore brings out the intensity of the scene. They are miraculously saved by the sniper who shoots their attacker. The camera is pointed towards the attacker who is situated on the floor and, later tilted towards the direction of the sniper. This scene also displays the use of twists to maximize on the suspense of the movie.

Mines-en -scene

Mines-en-scene is the display of the view, picture and the location of a movie in general. The movie utilizes this factor significantly in that it is set in different parts of the country. Thornhill is thus forced to run for his life and take refuge in several parts of the country. Hitchcock achieved this by shooting scenes in pivotal places such as Mount Rushmore that is known for the presidential faces during the end of the movie. This is where he redeems himself by becoming a hero in a turn of events. Another area where the director displays mines-en-scene is in the United Nations building located in New York. The use of a hidden camera was enabled so as to view the entrance of Thornhill as he climbs the stairs. What sets this movie apart from the rest of Hitchcock’s thrillers is the use of the sunlight during the chase. Most of the films are short in dark places to add suspense to the movie. This was however not required in that the use of the wide terrain was the preferred choice. One of the scenes where this factor is brought out is the chase of Thornhill in the cornfield. This is contrary to the use of dark corners, which keeps the viewer out of the loop. The use of light was thus essential in that all the scenes were seen with ease making the movie easy to follow while maintaining its suspense.

Use of editing

Like cinematography and mines-en-scene, editing is pivotal for the success of the performance of the film. The movie was shot for a period of 51 days led by chief editor Ben Herrmann. Some of the aspects that are the focus of the area are the use of music, time, light, and adding or removal of scenes. Editing is essential so that the final cut is achieved. One of the scenes that were edited was the scene at Mount Rushmore. Most of the music used in this scene was reduced to fit the time intended. Another part to note was the conflict between the studio and Hitchcock due to the time the whole film was expected to last. Hitchcock used his authority as director with the final cut to include major parts in the movie whose absence would have led to a different reception of the movie.


Film making is one of Americas recognized exports. The country has produced a number of considerable movies over the years due to the growth and development of the art. This would not have been possible without the likes of Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock has played a significant role in the creation of the country’s most talked about and duplicated masterpieces. North by Northwest was one of his last movies. Its success marked the exit of Hitchcock from the industry. One of the reasons for the film’s success was the use of cinematography, mines-en scene and editing to portray the characters. The analysis of the movie is thus essential in that it provides an understanding of these factors and their significance of film and visual arts.

Works cited

Duncan, Paul. Alfred Hitchcock: Architect of Anxiety 1899-1980 ; [the Complete Films]. Köln [u.a.: Taschen, 2003. Print.