Week Five: Auteurism

Auteur theory is an idea that doesn’t have a certain definition. In Andrew Sarris’ “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962,” he proposes that auteur theory is made up of three ideas or three concentric circles as he puts it. The first, or outer circle, is made up of the director’s technical competence. Therefore, if films by a director are considered poor from a technical aspect, then this prevents the director from being considered an auteur. The second, or middle circle, is made up of the director’s personality and how the film unfolds. In other words, over a group of films, a director must exhibit certain recurring characteristics of style, which serve as his “signature.” The third, or inner circle, focuses on interior meaning. This conception of interior meaning he states comes close to definition of mise-en-scène.

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the first names that comes to mind when talking about auteur theory. Some of his most famous films include Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds and Rear Window. Hitchcock’s story telling techniques were renowned for their intelligent plots, witty dialogue, and bits of mystery and murder. He has also been attributed with revolutionizing the thriller genre. However, the reason for his success was not because of this, but rather the skill which he exhibited in the filmmaking. For example, his treatment of the subject in terms of the shots he uses and how he specifically combines them. One of Hitchcock’s best known scenes is the terrifying shower scene in Psycho. This shot features 70 distinct shots in less than 1 minute. They are edited together in such a way, that even though the knife blade never even makes contact with the female lead, the murder is still totally believable.

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