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Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock – influences

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Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock are two directors who have been influenced by their time. Hitchcock was influenced from early 19th century. Spielberg was influenced from the middle of 19th century. Spielberg has been influenced by technology and historical events. Hitchcock has mainly been influenced by current events and art movements. Different influences revolutionize and create change in the directors’ films.

Hitchcock was a member of the London Film Society which showed French, German and Soviet art films, as well as early and new American films. This provided a unique opportunity where Hitchcock could observe and gain different ideas and techniques. The London Film Society influenced Hitchcock and many other aspiring British filmmakers. (Spoto, 1983) Another early influence was German director F.W. Murnau. Murnau was a strong influence for Hitchcock. While filming the film, “Der Letze Mann” Hitchcock visited the set and observed Murnau at work. The unchained camera and his pursuit of telling the story in visual terms alone were Murnau’s main points of interest. This had become a lifelong interest for Hitchcock.(Haeffner, 2005)Two predominant influences of Hitchcock were German Expressionistic style and American films. During the silent period of film making Hitchcock was working in a German studio. When he first began making films, he saw a collection of Fritz Lang’s silent films.

During World War 1 the German film industry found it difficult to create films that could match Hollywoods. German Expressionist created their own style which included the use of symbolism and mise en scene that created more depth and meaning. Hitchcock’s first thriller, “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog” was Hitchcock’s first film to use elements of Expressionist. (Spoto, 1983)Another influence in Hitchcock’s career was Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. During Hitchcock’s career Freud was informing the world of his scientific discoveries for human behaviour. Psychoanalysis is a therapeutic method and a theory on how the mind interacts with behaviour. Psychoanalysis was part of the American Popular Culture during the 1920s. Hitchcock used these notions in many movies.

Psycho is a notable film which has a long psychiatrist’s speech at the end. Also Spellbound is a film which has the main characters as psychoanalysts.(Spoto, 1983)Later on Hitchcock gained a negative view of most people and the rising evil in the world. He would symbolise this by placing endangered characters in setting which symbolise order. For example settings like citadels of civilization, the Statue of Liberty, United Nations headquarters, Mount Rushmore and Britain’s Parliament. (Spoto, 1983) Hitchcock’ film, “Blackmail” was the first film to start using famous landmarks as a backdrop for suspense sequences. (McGilligan, 2003)World War 2 altered Hitchcock’s aims and purposes, allowing his films to include different themes. During World War 2 Hitchcock created several films which openly dealt with the theme of war e.g. Lifeboat, Foreign Correspondent and Saboteur. Also in 1944 Hitchcock made two short propaganda movies in French for the British Ministry of Information, Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache.

It was Spielberg’s movie “Jaws” that marked the beginning of the Hollywood blockbuster movie genre. The movie Jaws was made in 1975. Given that the movie was based around an underwater shark, technically creating jaws was difficult. Shooting at the ocean led to many delays and expenses. Unwanted sailboats drifted into frame, cameras were ruined by seawater. Also the mechanical sharks had not been tested in water, and when placed in the ocean the full model sank to the ocean floor. The sharks worked on a shallow sandy bottom but would regularly malfunction after corroding from seawater.

Spielberg worked around this problem, using suspense in an Alfred Hitchcock manner. Technology influenced his way of creating the film. (Blake, 1975)Creating science fiction films in the 1980’s was a popular selection. (McBride, 2001)Spielberg has always had a fascination with space and extra terrestrial life. He’s interests came from him always feeling like an alien as a child and his father, a science fiction fan. His father’s view, that aliens would not travel light years for invasion, but instead come here to share knowledge. With Spielberg interest in space, his fathers view and the 1980’s popular culture of science fiction, Spielberg created the film E.T. (Fredman, Notbohm, 2000)

During 1993 advances in technology had influenced Spielberg in creating a movie Jurassic Park. Technology was used create living dinosaurs on the screen. Spielberg understood that it was now possible to create a film that wasn’t extremely expensive as in the past that can use computer generated imagery (CGI). Jurassic Park inspired a string of movies that used CGI. With huge success Spielberg went onto create more films that used CGI, he also inspired other directors the technology. (McBride, 2001)As Spielberg matured he felt he had a lot of responsibility as a film maker. He started making films that were darker. The Schindler’s was made for the survivors of the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust there have been other attempts of genocides. Spielberg was upset about what was happening in Bosnia and the attempted genocide of the whole Kurdish population, he felt he needed to inform people of this problem.

Although it would have been easier on his schedule to create the film a year later, Spielberg felt that the current situations needed to be addressed that year. (Fredman, Notbohm, 2000)Another film which he created after feeling the responsibility is was Saving Private Ryan. (Fredman, Notbohm, 2000) The film was made for the survivors of the war. Spielberg discovered from war veterans and historians that previous World War II movies never captured the horrifying nature of warfare. Spielberg’s choice to retell a World War II story in a gruesome manner was a product of Vietnam War. Spielberg was studying at university at the time of Vietnam War.

He showed antipathy towards Americans who believed that Vietnam was the most painful war, because they saw it in colour on their television. Also he wanted to capture and honour the veterans who fought in the Normandy invasion. As a child he would often hear stories from his fathers’ involvement in the World War II. These matters had a huge influence on him. (McBride, 2001)Both artists have been heavily influenced by their time. The works of these artists differ because these artists were influenced by different events. The ideas, aims and purpose of their films have changed and developed. Spielberg continues his work and continues to change with different movements and events. If Hitchcock were alive today he would change too.


Blake, Edith. Making of the Movie Jaws. New York:Ballantine Books, 1975.

Fredman, Lester, ed and Notbohm, Brent, ed. Steven Spielberg: Interviews.

University Press of Mississippi, 2000.

Haeffner, Nicholas. Alfred Hitchcock. London:Longman, 2005.

McBride, Joseph. Steven Spielberg: A Biography. New York:Da Capo, 2001.

McGilligan, Patrick. Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. Manhattan:Regan Books, 2003.

Spoto, Donald. The Dark Side of Genius.

Ballantine books, 1983.

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