"Strangers on a Train" 1951 Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” is a film noir psychological thriller where the two main characters met on a train and on wanted to devise a plan to commit murders. Those two characters, Bruno and Guy, were experiencing toxic personal issues and Bruno came up with the idea to kill Guy’s wife for him and that Guy would kill Bruno’s dad for him since neither of them would be suspected as the killer. As the stage was set, viewers were able to realize that this film is a two-hour ride to find out what happens throughout the story. During the interaction, Hitchcock inserted hints that Bruno is gay, which was shown when he meets the other guy on the train by sitting very closely to him and passing comments about Guy’s private life. It appears Hitchcock has obsession with being wrongly accused which may date back to a traumatic experience he had where his father arranged to have him be locked up until further notice to teach him a lesson. Hitchcock may have never gotten over that and expresses his anger in his films.
Thinking back to Bruno’s behavior towards Guy, it makes sense that this could be due to an infatuation with Guy. Bruno would not give up on following through with killing Guy’s wife, almost as if he wanted it done so they could be together. The more Guy refused him, the angrier Bruno seemed to get, and at the end when Guy attempts to kill Bruno he seems so hurt. When watching this it was not clear that Bruno’s intentions could be driven from an intimate interest, he just seemed mentally ill. But this puts things under a different lens to think about. During this time in 1951, homosexuality was not publicized, so Hitchcock made it a point to cut down the intensity of Bruno’s productiveness in the American version of this film.
Throughout the film, Hitchcock used his traditional techniques with starting off the film with showing feet inside of a train station instead of faces to give the viewers an opportunity to imagine who the two characters would be and what their purpose is. From that scene, the remainder of the film utilized a circular structure by showing the train and carnival scenes repeated themselves by having the film start off with these scenes and ending with them as well. Before those scenes repeated, the remainder of the structure was linear and straightforward until the end.
The tone for this film was matched up successfully with the cinematography and music. The music allowed viewers to know when something bad is about to happen. For instance, when a murder or a crash was about to happen, the music started off low then progressively gets louder as the scene got more intense, where the theater room can shake, rumble, or keep viewers in suspense wondering what is going to happen. The cinematography was successful because the way the scenes were organized matched up the tone of what’s going on. For instance, when there was a fight or a killing, there were close ups and when the wife was killed, the camera only showed the killer, but the viewers were able to hear the gunshots and then show the person lying dead. An interesting fact is that Hitchcock did not like how the film ended, but Warner Bros. insisted the ending include more of a resolution to the plot.