109 : The Lodger, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1927)
British Film Auteur Alfred Hitchcock is most notably recognized for his immense diversity of scenarios, however is unmistakable mark can always found within everything he has ever touched. The early silent features of Alfred Hitchcock have been something that I have yet to acknowledge, aside from the brilliant, half-credit talkie Blackmail!, two years The Lodger's senior.
This 1927 depiction of a Jack-the-Ripper esque murderer running amuck in London makes for an archetypical, ”who-dun-it?” that appears to be as plain as day, but in pure Hitchcockian tradition, the mysterious reveal is quite a satisfying conclusion. Although this film is, as with most other silent films, slightly inhibited by its reliance on the large theatrical room setting, many of Hitchcock’s shot are deliberately modern and exciting as anything to observe.
The version I just finished, a free copy available on Youtube, featured a bizarre score that included two songs of contemporary, new age rhythm and blues. Alternative scores/narration can be hit or miss, unlike William Burroughs retelling of Haxan : Witchcraft Through the Ages or French electronic duo Air’s incredible addition to a previously lack-luster A Trip To The Moon soundtrack. Not sure the reasoning behind the seemingly random tonality changes in the score for The Lodger, but this is a small criticism for a largely enjoyable experience.
The art department ha a field day with shadows wrapping figures in dizzying, geometrical cocoons. This calls upon the great masters of silent horror, F W Murnau and Robert Wiene. The German Expressionists of the late 1910’s and 1920’s really made it a point to draw influence from harsh, jagged lines and the exaggerated corridors of the tormented mind. This influence comes out in Hitchcock’s careful lens, as well as an apparent interest in Soviet Montage. This is certainly true when our quiet and meek Lodger scans his new room for the very first time. the audience acknowledges the tenant’s head movement as he scans the walls, then, as if we are transported into the mind of the traveler, the camera faces a wall adorned with paintings, scanning from right to left. We trust the camera to tell us this is the very thing that our lead is viewing as well.
The players involved were above average, exhibiting laughable melodrama only sparingly as to preserve the cold tone of a town frozen with fear and draped in thick fog. The Lodger is not as overtly horrifying as many other noteworthy silent horror epics, but this story pertains to themes of the dangers of jealously, rage and mob mentality, thus favoring the horrors of the human mind instead of the supernatural