After viewing Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious for the first time, the
film did not strike me as particularly complex. Nothing specific about the
film lodged itself in my brain screaming for an answer--or, at least, an
attempted answer. Yet, upon subsequent viewings, subtle things became
more noticeable. (Perhaps Hitchcock's subtlety is what makes him so
enormously popular!) Hitchcock uses motifs and objects, shot styles and
shifting points of view, and light and dark to help explain the relationships
between Alicia, Devlin, Sebastian and Mrs. Sebastian, and an overall
theme of being trapped. An analysis of the film from the first poisoning
scene to the final scene in the film shows how the above tools lead to a
better understanding of the character's motivations.
The most obvious recurring object in the final scenes is the
poisoned coffee cup. In the first scene of the portion being analyzed,
Sebastian suggests to Alicia that she drink her coffee, and Hitchcock
zooms onto the object as she slowly takes a sip.
In a later scene, Mrs.
Sebastian pours the coffee into the cup for Alicia, and sets it on a small
table in front of her. Here, Hitchcock not only zooms in on the small
teacup, but heightens the sound it makes connecting to the table, includes
it in every shot possible, and shows us not only the full coffee cup, but the
empty cup as well after Alicia has drank it. Again, the cup is zoomed in
on after Alicia realizes she's being poisoned. Because the coffee is
poisoned, the coffee itself becomes a metaphor for life and death,
supported by the fact that the poisoner herself ours it, and the shots of the
full and empty teacup. In this way, it also suggests Alicia's inability to
escape her situation--whenever she drinks the...