[Movie] POV and Narration in North by Northwest
North by Northwest is one of the greatest movie of all time. The director, Alfred Hitchcock achieved this by creating a movie from a point of view of a ordinary advertising man. In terms of characters — from Roger Thornhill’s Point of View, he manipulated and switched from restricted to unrestricted narrative; in terms of ideology or worldview, he demonstrated his discontent with the authorities.
The range and the depth of the narrative of North By Northwest is extremely intriguing. From restricted to unrestricted then back to restricted narration, Alfred Hitchcock not only creates numerous senses of suspense and surprises, as the depth of the narrative fluctuates as the plot develops, we sees the world from different perspective on contrast.
The range of the narration is the relationship of knowledge between the viewer and the character. By combining the restricted and unrestricted narration, Hitchcock has created a rather complex plot with a simple story. What audience could experience, is the story from multiple perspectives from different time.
The beginning 40 minutes of the film, the audience sees only from the perspective of Roger Thornhill, the protagonist who knows nothing about the what is going on and what the antagonist, Vandamm wants. This is combined with numerous cinematic techniques to achieve more dramatic effects. For instance, in the car scene where Roger is drunk-driving, Afled placed the camera just in front of the character and cut in between the reaction to the character and the road situation he faces. Through the withhold of knowledge and the change perspective, Alfred anticipates the audience in to the film with the protagonist.
The puzzlement resolves when the narration shifts from restricted to unrestricted as CIA is revealed. However, still, merely knowing Kaplan does not exist is not enough. There are sill numerous pieces of information missing. More layers of suspense is covering the true story with Eva’s appearance and the unusual relationship she has with Vandamm. Audience becomes more worried about the situation Thornhill is in. We know the greyhound trip would not end well whereas Thornhill does not. In this case, By knowing more than Thornhill, the audience’s degree of tension and suspense increases.
Finally, just as the protagonist lost all of his interest, the professor reveals the crucial information to Thornhill as well as the audience that in fact, Eva is a undercover agent of the CIA. However, even to this last stage, the narration is still partially restricted because sometimes we know less than the characters (as Eva shooting Roger in the restaurant), giving us a big surprise.
Thus, by constantly changing the range and depth of the narrative, Alfred twists and turns focalisation in various ways to better construct the characters and makes the viewing experience more enjoyable.
Moreover, through the point of view demonstrated in North by Northwest, Alfred brings skepticism towards the government and other political institutions in the meantime.
On one hand, following the protagonist Roger, the narration reveals that the middle-class character is constantly in the middle of arrest, threats, punishment and escape in different degrees. The order established in the opening sequences is broken shortly as Roger is surrounded by unknown people passively. The sense of disempowerment is present throughout the film. Being constantly restricted, Roger’s only choice is to break rules every time to save himself.
On the other hand, the entire film is based on a non-exist man the CIA created in order to hunt down Vandamm. In the period of time where national and international conspiracy is flying around, it is obvious that Hitchcock attempted to makes these accusations towards the officials. And he succeed in doing this. CIA in North by Northwest appears not only irresponsible but also deceive through the narration of the film. At the first scene of the appearance of CIA, the officials decided to do nothing about the innocent civilian who is being drawn into the mass. In the end, the professor deliberately trick Roger in helping them by not revealing that they have decided Eva is going to following Vandamm, continue putting her in extreme danger while her cover nearly gets exposed.
Furthermore, the subjective narration also creates Roger as a means of collateral damage in the entire conspiracy. Compare with our central character Roger, who cares about Eva, the professor, as a representative of the CIA, is cold and callous. Thus, the tension between individual and entirely is clear throughout the film.
Hence, controlling how much, when and what the audience knows, the movie creates both suspense and surprises in relation to the characters in the film. And by focusing on Roger Thornhill, the ordinary man with no influence on major issues, Alfred suggested that the relationship between s single human being and the powerful supremacy become more intense.