Foreign Correspondent – Alfred Hitchcock
In viewing the film as fundamentally a spy melodrama which places more emphasis on the pacing of the action than on where the action takes us, there are still awkward aspects. The meeting of the peace society contains prom¬inently overdone elements; the crucial secret is, for the most part, meaningless, and the speeches are sometimes heavy-handed, particularly toward the end. Otherwise, the film moves swiftly, and although the plot is bare enough, Hitchcock, in the manner of a painter, loves details and loads his set with them without weighing down his action. He makes a character out of every extra; he likes to have a bland face or a sweet old lady personify evil, while the sinister fellow turns out to be the good guy all along. He sprinkles his scenes with people and mechanical devices which are not direct accessories to the plot so that the film conveys the realities of life, with dogs and casual passersby who are real and have nothing to do with any plot.
Above all, the film exemplifies Hitchcock’s ability to use people, sound, and objects for the sole purpose of suspense. The use of objects, for example, is seen in Foreign Correspondent in the reversing windmill, the assassin’s camera and the disappearing cat Hitchcock knows where to set the microphone and camera to catch the effect he has planned, and with all of the devices of this complex art completely at his fingertips, his characters never enter a deserted building or a dark alley without the viewer wondering if they will ever come out alive.
In short, Foreign Correspondent provides an example of all the techniques that make a film move in the lightest and fastest manner possible, utilizing all of the qualities that are available through a large budget and the art of Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, Hitchcock’s only oversight in making Foreign Correspondent was in forgetting his invariable signature of personally appearing in the film. Fortunately, with a generous Hollywood budget, he had the means to reshoot a scene in a railway station in order to get himself into the picture.
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