Sat | Sep 23, 2017

'The Manxman' Hitchcock's love triangle

Published:Sunday | March 6, 2016 | 3:00 AMKeisha Hill
Alfred Hitchcock
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Alfred Hitchcock's film The Manxman tells the story of two close childhood friends, a handsome but poor fisherman, Pete Quilliam (Carl Brisson), and a well-educated middle-class lawyer, Philip Christian (Malcolm Keen).

Both young men are smitten with the beautiful and lively Kate (Anny Ondra), the pub owner's daughter. In Pete's case, Kate is also interested in him, or at least she enjoys having him as a suitor.

Alfred Hitchcock directed 10 silent films. One of them, his second feature The Mountain Eagle (1926), remains lost. But the remaining nine have been gloriously restored. These films have travelled around the world over the last few years and, in each country, local musicians have provided original scores to accompany them.

The Manxman remains one of the few Hitchcock films to take place entirely outside a city environment. A love triangle, it is set in a fishing village on the Isle of Man, an island off the British coast.

Despite their differing backgrounds, fishermen Pete and lawyer Philip have been lifelong friends on the Isle of Man. Pete wants to marry Kate, the landlord's daughter at the local inn, however, Kate's father doesn't think he is good enough. Pete leaves the island to seek his fortune abroad and entrusts Kate to Philip, but they start to be attracted to each other.

Pete asks his friend Philip to take care of Kate, but the young man is in love with her too. Then comes the tragic news that Pete's ship is wrecked and Philip and Kate no longer have to hide that they plan to marry. However, Pete is not dead.

It turns out that Pete is still alive, and had been successful in Africa. He lets Philip know via telegram that he is returning. Pete arrives and is extremely happy to be back to his village and to see his old sweetheart.

The Manxman might not be a thriller, but there is certainly a lot of suspense in what happens, but its uniqueness in terms of storyline offers musicians the opportunity to offer something different or new, to accompany the action.

Hitchcock's career began in London, where he made 23 features in the UK before leaving for Hollywood in 1939 to direct Rebecca (1940). His British films are a mix of different styles, from comedy to drama. They also saw his emergence as one of the greatest directors of suspense.

Among these early films are the masterpieces The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926), Blackmail (1929), The 39-Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938). All thrillers, they revealed a director hugely influenced by a variety of film styles - from classical Hollywood and German Expressionism to the radical Soviet filmmakers of the 1920s. These films also cemented his position as a creative force who pushed cinematic invention to new heights.

Today, there are so many elements of film that have been accepted as part of the cinematic language that were invented, developed, or perfected by Hitchcock. Not just in terms of a visual language either, although he was the director who said "show, don't tell" and emphasised the importance of conveying plot, character, and mood visually, rather than burdening an audience with unnecessary exposition.

The musicality of Hitchcock's style is present in so much of his work, so it's not surprising that many of his most memorable and acclaimed films featured his collaboration with Bernard Hermann. He composed the scores for nine of Hitchcock's films, including Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963).

The film is being premiered in Jamaica under the patronage of the British Council  Jamaica.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com