Monday, January 22, 2007

North by Northwest

My 15 year old son and I watched the classic Hitchcock film North by Northwest this weekend. We had seen the first few minutes of it on public television a few weeks back and wanted to finish it, so we checked it out of the library.

What I noticed was how amoral and immoral the whole thing was. I could not sympathize with any of the characters. Roger Thornhill was a selfish misogynist throughout, except when he defended Eve against he FBI's immoral use of her. Yet he himself used her for his own pleasure on the train. Maybe one is to see in the fact that they got married in the end as a nod to the idea that in the end they had risen above simple self interest to genuine interest in the other. But the fact that Thornhill had been divorced twice before belies that for me. I really like my movies to have genuine heroes who, though flawed like all human beings, display genuine virtue. Not everyone lives or chooses to live in such a morally ambiguous world. I can't admire Thornhill. Or the professor. Or Eve.

My son said, "Dad, it was a spy movie. Everything is supposed to be ambiguous." Is immorality justified in order to fight the cold war?

If anyone has a different take, please share it in the comments. I went away from it feeling like I needed a bath.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good question. I think North by Northwest is more like an intriguing puzzle than a simple story. I'm not sure if a true hero could have gotten mixed up in such a mess - but life is puzzling in this sort of way sometimes.

I also don't think we could have enjoyed this story as much if we liked Roger Thornhill more. You get the sense that his arrogance and selfishness brought him into all the zany situations and it wasn't simply a matter of life treating him unfairly.

I think that's supposed to be part of the story though - forcing this self-centered individual out of his comfort zone and certainly quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor at his expense. Kind of a Don Quixote turned upside-down.

I wouldn't like all my movies to be like this one, but I do really like North by Northwest (I admit to being a fan of Hitchcock in general).