Friday, September 7, 2012

The Portkey

Easy Virtue (1928) / Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock makes a big deal out of still-life objects in the opening courtroom sequence of Easy Virtue: each one of them is presented as a singular entity, a magic portal to a time gone by and in reverse, a time to come. As such, whenever the investigation features a mention of a particular event in the past, the audience inside the courtroom as well as the audience outside of the film must use an object to facilitate this time travel and allow the film to illustrate visually what is only being talked about in the courtroom. A particular decanter gets the most attention, with alcoholism and the resulting unrestrained brutishness being the big ideas of the film’s first portion: therefore, whenever the prosecutor inquires with the wife about the decanter, Hitchcock summons the whole diegesis of the courtroom and allows it to get suctioned into the decanter (held tightly in the hands of the prosecutor) the moment the film cuts to a close-up of it. When the camera tracks back out from the close-up, we are now into the past, into another diegesis – the decanter therefore becomes some sorta scene-sponge, where it inhales the whole of the courtroom into itself and then exhales it into some living room in the past. In films, the past often looms upon the present, but in this case, it is the present that forces itself onto the past, invading its sanctimony through a decanter-shaped opening.

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