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Suspense vs Surprise (Alfred Hitchcock)

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Hitchcock: "Life is a big mystery, isn't it? It always has been..." "I think people are intrigued by mystery." Narrator: If you want to learn about suspense, who better to ask than the master himself? Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock uses a famous example to explain the difference between surprise and suspense. We see an otherwise ordinary card game, when suddenly, a bomb explodes. That's surprise. However, if we know the bomb is in the room already, it changes our perception of the scene. We now watch the people playing cards much more carefully, hoping they will discover the bomb in time, which keeps us in, well, suspense. And, of course, with over 60 films to his name, Hitchcock did more than lay out hypothetical examples. Take the scene in "Psycho" when Arbogast goes up to the house to interview Norman's mother. By this point in the film, the audience knows there's a killer in the Bates motel. Hitchcock uses a combination of deliberate camera movements, cutaways, and a shot of a slowly opening door, to heighten the suspense in the scene. Yet, being the master, Hitchcock still manages to shock the audience when Arbogast is slashed in the face. If you watch almost any of his films, which you should, you'll see some variation on his idea of suspense. Still wanna know more? Hitchcock has influenced pretty much everyone, so we don't have to look too hard. Brody: I can go slow ahead, c'mon down and chum some of this shit. Narrator: Think about "Jaws" for example. In the first scene, a girl gets attacked out of nowhere while swimming after a late-night beach party. Pretty shocking. After that, the appearance of a shark's fin in the water creates suspense every time we see it. No fin? No suspense. David Fincher, another contemporary follower of Hitchcock, actually shows us how to turn this idea of suspense around a bit. In the climactic scene of "Seven," the audience, along with Mills, doesn't know what's in the box. However, we can tell from Somerset's reaction and John Doe's all-around twisted evil that it's pretty awful. Mills: What's in the fucking box? Narrator: This knowledge sets up our suspense, but then the reveal still shocks almost anyone who's seen the film. Somerset: David-- Mills: No! No! Narrator: In making your own story, think about what the audience knows, but the characters don't, to create suspense. A killer in the house, a fin on the water, something terrible that's in the box. If you wanna surprise the audience, think about what they and the characters don't see coming. A knife to the face, an unseen shark, a spoiler alert where we'd reveal what's in the box. Does suspense or surprise work better for your narrative? Or, is there a way to use one to lead to the other? And if you're stuck, you can always ask, "What would Hitchcock do"? Hitchcock: I think he should understand the psychology of audiences. He should also know that audiences love to enjoy the very thing that they have built in and that's fear that all started when the mother said, "Boo!"

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Duration: 3 minutes and 12 seconds
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Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
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Views: 76
Posted by: timbumatay on Jun 20, 2016

Suspense vs Surprise (Alfred Hitchcock)

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