Sunday, March 02, 2014

Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 film, Spellbound a witty psychoanalytic, murder thriller

It is the details that keep the audience spellbound in any Alfred Hitchcock film, and it is the details that make his 1945 film, Spellbound, starring Ingrid Bergman -- yes she was given top billing -- and Gregory Peck. Bergman was 30 and Peck 29 when they appeared in this film. The story is improbable. Bergman plays an in-house lone female psychoanalyst at an institute which deals with mentally ill people, and which was dominated by men,something that was not common then or now. We also get to see a proper surgery with the psychoanalysts in the operation theatre. But Hitchcock is telling a different story, the romance between the characters played by Bergman (Constance) and Peck (Anthony Edwardes/John Brown. Constance falls for Edwardes the moment he enters the room, and Hitchcock focuses on her face to show her enchantment. Edawardes takes her off on a walk in the hills for the afternoon. Then in the night, feeling restless she gets out of the room, Constance sees the light in Edwardes' room and her heart misses a beat. How do you know? Hitchcock again shows the face of Bergman and the explicit emotion in her eyes. She picks up a book of his, titled The Labyrinth of Guilt Complex, and when she comes out of the library she sees the light in Edwardes'room and goes in. She says that she came to discuss the book, and then she says she does not want to discuss the book. He says that she is beautiful, and she says please do not talk that way because it would seem that I came into the room just to hear that!
There are also some witty dialogues, which may not be palatable to the politically correct fundamentalists. One of the fellow doctors wooing Constance/Bergman tells her in response to her query whether he was making love to her, that embracing her seems to be embracing a textbook! Later, one of the senior doctor/analyst/friend of Constance tells Constance/Bergman and Peck/Edwardes that women are the best psychoanalysts before marriage and the best patients after.
When Constance/Bergman-Peck/Edwardes kiss each other at the station before boarding the train, the gateman watches them with bemusement that one of them is travelling and the other is bidding good-bye, and when they both enter the train, he asks whether both of them were travelling!
Hitchcock plays on the idea of guilt fantasy where two patients, including the Peck/Edwardes character believe that they have killed their father, giving a mocking touch to the silly and famous Oedipus complex! The psychoanalytical angle and the murder angle are there just to keep the story moving.
Ingrid Bergman is enchanting where she does not hide her emotions and coquetry, all done in such a disarming manner which one expects from Indian women and not from Europeans and Americans. Perhaps, Ingrid Bergman had an Indian soul!!

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