Spellbound

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Salvador Dali is one of my favorite artists. Although I am very aware that he tried at every turn of his career to grease the wheels of celebrity, he still managed to produce some really innovative and abstract paintings and art pieces. He only ever dabbled in filmmaking, but every time he did the product was trippy and unique. In Spellbound, he designed the dream sequence that Gregory Peck has in the middle of the film. Dozens of eyes, a piano suspended over a marble statue of Ingrid Bergman, a man running down a steep ledge with an exaggerated shadow are all present in this sequence. If you have studied his body of work like I have, you will notice these are the same images that appear time and again in his paintings. But it is remarkable to see them come to life. This sequence is only a couple of minutes sandwiched in a mainstream Hitchcock thriller, but it easily stands out as the best part of the film. I just wish the rest of the film held up under scrutiny like this sequence does.

The main plot of the film involves a woman psychoanalyst at a mental institution. One of her superiors is forced into retirement and in his place comes a young and dashing psychiatrist famous for his work on guilt. She instantly falls in love with this man. However he is not what he claims. A study in psychoanalysis and the intrigue generated by this science, the film falls flat in a couple of key places. The reliance on fundamental aspects of this genre of psychology to solve a simple murder plot is stretched until it is seen through. The revelations they find in the young dashing psychiatrist’s dreams, recollections and unconscious memories would never be reproduced in real life. For instance the dream sequence that Dali designs wouldn’t have ever produced the findings that are deigned from the examination. My usual problem with Hitchcock finds it way into this film. He makes his world so believable but then puts in these twists and turns into the plot that would never ever happen in the world he creates. Most of the time it is negligible and easily forgiven, but this time it really takes you out of the film.

My problems with the plot aside, I actually really liked being around Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. They seemed at home in their characters and at home with each other. Gregory Peck was just starting out when he acted in this film, but he has the self-assurance that would make his film career fruitful. Ingrid Bergman is never bad in anything. She is easily one of my favorite actresses and I would watch her in anything. In this film she is very believable as a book smart psychoanalyst who closes herself off of emotional involvement for the sake of her career. However Hitchcock usually didn’t think that his women characters should be completely self-reliant. Therefore her character falls for such a troubled man without any question. It kind of annoys me when he does that. He crafts such interesting female characters and then makes them fall in love with such losers.

This isn’t my favorite Hitchcock film, but it also wasn’t terrible. It kept entertained for most of the plot but upon close examination every plot point sort of falls apart. I think this film deems a re watch in order to see if I can find an appreciation for anything outside of the performances and the dream sequence.

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