Analysis of the Final Scenes of Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious
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 coffee, she becomes trapped due to the poison in her cup—and the poison in her sham of a marriage.. A repeated object not so noticeable is Mrs. Sebastian's needlework.
Mrs. Sebastian is constantly working on her needlepoint while Alicia is being poisoned. Hitchcock, in fact, goes out of his way to make sure that a shot of her `toiling at her work' is included several times. One cannot help but be reminded of Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities—with Madame Defarge knitting everyone's fate into her work. At the beginning of the film, Devlin hands
Alicia a handkerchief, and a scarf, which she keeps, but returns to him in this segment. These pieces of cloth throughout the film help tie Alicia to the