Posted by Valentina Valentini on November 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm
Hitchcock is a quirky meditation on madness and the genius that often can spring forth from it. The dark sides of Hitch (as he was called by his confidantes) only bordered on the line between frightening and kitsch, presumably to not take the viewer too far in either direction. This I thought was a safe, yet still intriguing way of keeping us at bay – I was never sure whether to fully invest myself in ‘The Hitch’ (portrayed expertly by Anthony Hopkins) or to shrug him off as a kooky old bat who ate too much fois grois and fantasized about pretty young blondes.
Alma (played by the distinguished Helen Mirren) on the other hand is quite the heroine in this mini biopic. You love Hitch’s wife and collaborator from the start – steadfast, pragmatic, intelligent, and forever beside her man – in sickness and in darkness. Not even when she dabbles at the idea of having an affair do we feel anything but vicarious exaltedness for her.
It is the relationship of the two that the movie focuses most closely on. And, for the uneducated viewer (at least when it comes to knowing Alfred Hitchcock’s history), it is precisely this relationship that made Hitch the man we all know him to be. He started working for Alma when they first met – she his boss – and then all of his films were OK’d by her, revised by her, and when it came time for Psycho, re-cut by her. If it weren’t for Alma, there’d be no Hitchcock. Or at least that’s what this film wants you to think. (In Hitchcock’s Wikipedia page, she’s barely mentioned…just that she wanted to stay out of the public eye.)
“I always felt the core of Hitchcock had to be the love story between Alfred and Alma,” director Sacha Gervasi comments. “They had this dynamic, complex, contradictory, beautiful, painful relationship that was not just a marriage but a real creative collaboration. I was really interested in how these two very strong-minded people lived with each other and created together and that brought a whole new perspective to the story of how Psycho was made.”
The other focal theme of the film was independent filmmaking (which is why I can write about it in this column). Did you know that Psycho was financed by the Hitchcocks themselves? I didn’t. Paramount wanted nothing to do with the script, but Hitch just knew he had to make it. He mortgaged his house and shot Psycho for $800,000 in black and white in 30 days.
When Paramount, Hitchcock’s home studio, refused to support the shocking script, Hitchcock’s agent, Lew Wasserman structured a savvy distribution deal with Paramount, which meant Hitchcock owned 60 percent of the movie. It ended up making two-and-a-half times more at the box office than Hitchcock’s previous hit, North by Northwest and he and Alma became millionaires because of it.
At first Alma was very wary of risking giving up everything the couple had, including her beloved pool in the back of their Bel Air estate. But after asking Hitch once and for all, “Why this one?” he put her mind at ease with a monologue that defines the very core of why independent filmmakers get into this business:
“Remember the fun we had when we started out and there was so little money and time? We took risks.
We experimented. We invented new ways of making pictures because we had to…I want to feel that
kind of freedom again.”