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The Silent Scream  
- Alfred Hitchcock's Sound Track   

by Elisabeth Weis   (1982)


The Silent Scream is the book for everyone who is interested in learning more about Hitchcock's films or about the ways in which sound track subtly manipulates the movie audience.  

Contents:  (links to chapters)


When moviegoers refer to Alfred Hitchcock's style, they are usually thinking of his virtuoso camera work and editing. Yet this seminal book, the first on a director's aural style, reveals that Hitchcock's use of sound - language, sound effects, and music - is just as essential, distinctive, and masterly.  

Hitchcock was an important pioneer of sound techniques: he experimented with expressionistic sound in Blackmail, with the interior monologue in Murder, with subliminal sound in The Secret Agent, and with computer-generated effects in The Birds.  

Even more interesting are the unobtrusive uses of sound that characterize Hitchcock's aural style but that usually go unnoticed. The premise of The Silent Scream is that Hitchcock's aural style is inseparably linked with his visual and thematic interests. Technical achievements are treated here not as isolated bravura effects but as components of a film's overall meaning. Hence, much of this book is about aural motifs in the work of a director who could find something healthy in a scream and something sinister in laughter or children's song.  

One central motif is silence, which confers moral values on a character associated with it. A character's avoidance of speech may be a symptom of ruthless efficiency, emotional immaturity, or moral paralysis. Thus, villains  who  murder noiselessly, heroes afraid to express their love, and heroines who conceal evidence of crime are all related in the Hitchcockian scheme.  

In some other examples of Hitchcock's use of sound for characterization, eavesdroppers are used as the aural and moral equivalents of voyeurs in many films, a murder's acts are counterpointed by his association with innocent tunes (Stranger on a Train, Shadow of Doubt), and a heroine's metaphysical disturbance of a peaceful hamlet if foreshadowed by noiseless of the car she is driving (The Birds).  

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