Friday, March 7, 2014

The Hitchcock Love Story

Constance Peterson is torn between love and duty in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound

A popular theme in Alfred Hitchcock love stories is the idea of love and duty as opposing opposites, or rather love is often tested by the appearance of a problem that places the lead character in a position where she or he must choose between love and duty.

 In the film that is the namesake of my novel Spellbound, Dr Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) is the psychoanalyst working at Green Manors mental hospital. She is admired by the all male staff for her beauty, but considered to be cold because of the way she focuses on her work and doesn't allow for the frivolity of love. However, when Dr. Anthony Edwards Gregory Peck) turns up as the new head of Green Manors, the institution where the couple work, everything changes for her, and Constance finds she is falling in love with the kind, gentle and enigmatic Dr. Edwards.

But this is when Hitchcock likes to make things difficult. Early into the story, in fact at the same time as she is falling in love, Dr. Edwards exhibits strange behaviors at work, which most of the staff dismiss, but set Constance’s worry switch into overdrive. Is she doubting him because she is falling in love with him? When she gets a chance to compare his handwriting with the real Doctor Anthony Edwards, it’s too late for Constance. She has fallen in love, almost against her better judgement, and now has to involve her feelings in the confirmation that the man in front of her is a liar and an impostor.

Hitchcock does this in other works as well, like Notorious, Vertigo, North by Northwest and of course, Rebecca (which is actually Daphne Du Maurier’s story, but suits Hitchcock to a tee). He likes lovers to be challenged in their love by an influence outside of the relationship, or something inside the relationship larger than the love.

I love this idea that love is something we have to stand up for. That, while of course love is strong, it is also fragile against our own prejudices, barriers and interpretations of daily occurrences. Love struggles for existence along side us, and when we fall in love, what keeps it strong as opposed to weak in the face of these obstacles, is our firm commitment to it. Even when we free fall, we have to choose to fight a battle within yourself, for the love we are building with a treasured other.

This is something I wanted to replicate for my book Spellbound. In thinking long and hard about the way Hitchcock approaches love, I wanted to show Connie (see what I did there?) struggling with the beauty of it, struggling with the early stages of light BDSM, struggling with her internal conflicts around the vulnerability of falling in love.

Then, like Hitchcock, just when Connie finds her inner strength, something outside her relationship with Jack causes her to doubt him, and all the fears rise up again. Those fears are maddening aren't they? They seem so rational against the utopia that love presents.

My Connie and Alfred’s Constance have to peacefully follow their heart. We know how this will turn out for Alfred’s Doctor Constance Peterson.

But we don’t yet know how this will pan out for my Connie Berringer.

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