Notorious (1946): Gaze, POV, Love, Villain


The intricate exchange of gazes between the three characters, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains, during the reception party is masterful, demonstrating Hitchcock’s skills of cutting that is directly associated with the development of narrative and characterization.

POV Shots: Favoring the Woman

Hitchcock favors the woman, Alicia, who torn between two men, by according her more POV shots than those given to the two men, Devlin and Sebastian.  This is especially notable during the party scene.

According to Robin Wood, the number of shots from Alicia’s POV more than doubles the total of those shots accorded to Devlin or Sebastian.

Villain and Hero

The villain in Notorious, Alexander Sebastian, is one of the most sympathetically tragic villains in Hitchcock’s cinema.

Significantly, his character is more developed and nuanced–we learn more about him–than that of the hero Devlin (Cary Grant) or heroine (Ingrid Bergman.

Last Shot: The Villain and Happy Ending?

The film’s last shot is not about the reunion (and kiss) of Devlin and Alicia, but of Sebastien  slowly mounting the stairs outside his home toward his demise, an inevitable doom.  This image sheds a darker cloud  over the “happy ending,” emphasizing, once more the prevailing irony and ambiguity that define the entire film.

Theme: Love Story or Sexual/Emotional Exploitation

On the surface, Notorious is a troubled love story, full of obstacles. But in actuality, it’s a probe into sexual, emotional and political exploitation and manipulation, thus thematically fitting into many film noirs of the late 1940s.