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Film / Spellbound

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"The Fault... is Not in Our Stars,
But in Ourselves..."
William Shakespeare, quoted at the beginning of the movie

Spellbound is a 1945 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with a score composed by Miklos Rozsa. Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) is a psychoanalyst at a mental institution which is about to receive a new director, Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck). However, Dr. Peterson soon notices that there is something strange about Edwardes, and discovers that the new director is not what he claims to be.

The story was adapted from the novel The House of Dr. Edwards (1927), by Hilary Saint George Saunders. The movie is notable for its use of Freudian psychology and dream sequences designed by Salvador Dalí.

This is the film that inspired Jerry Goldsmith to become a film composer after he heard this score. Years later he became the student of Miklos Rozsa who wrote the score of this film.

The film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Single-Issue Psychology, dreams as coded messages, sudden onset amnesia. Yep, it counts.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Edwardes, after he regains some of his memories, believes that he is a murderer.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Murchison.
  • Clear Their Name: Dr. Peterson and Edwardes must attempt to prove that Edwardes is innocent of murder, even when he thinks he did it.
  • Creator Cameo: It's Hitchcock. Here he is seen exiting an elevator as Dr. Peterson waits in a hotel, hoping to see Dr. Edwardes leaving an elevator.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: The person who we are introduced to as Dr. Edwardes is actually John Ballantyne, who believed he was Edwardes after losing his memories, and we come to find out Edwardes has been murdered.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film is in black and white, but near the end, when the head of the mental hospital is identified as the killer, he turns the incriminating gun on himself and fires, the blast being a moment of bright red.
  • Does Not Like Men: Mary Carmichael (Rhonda Fleming), Dr. Peterson's first patient, admits this. She gets violent when a man touches her.
  • Dream Sequence: Designed by Salvador Dalí, no less.
  • Driving a Desk: Used during scenes of Dr. Peterson and Edwardes riding a train, and later, skiing.
  • Forced Perspective: Oversized props were used in the two POV shots (see below). The fake hand holding the gun in the second shot is very unconvincing.
  • Flashback Nightmare: The dream sequences in the movie are a mind-screwy, symbolic version of this.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: A unique example of a person knowingly placing themself in this position, and successfully talking their way out of it.
  • Hit Flash: Dr. Murchison's suicide is filmed from his point-of-view, the gun is pointed at the camera, and a bright red flash is seen in the otherwise black & white film. Some copies don't bother preserving this...
  • Inertial Impalement: Edwardes' psychological trauma is revealed to have been caused by a childhood accident: sliding down a wide bannister, he accidentally knocked his brother onto the spikes of a metal fence, impaling him.
  • Mind Screw: The dreams.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The snow falling on John Ballentine and Dr. Peterson during the skiing scene was actually cornflakes.
  • P.O.V. Cam:
    • A striking use of one when Peck is drinking a glass of milk, with the glass looking huge in the frame and the milk whiting out the view.
    • Another one at the climax, with a hand holding a gun pointed at Bergman.
  • Single-Issue Psychology: Averted to an extent, as Edwardes develops amnesia caused by witnessing a murder, coupled with his repressed guilt from a childhood accident in which his brother was killed.
  • Splash of Color: The movie is filmed in black and white except for a few frames at the end that are filmed in red when the villain commits suicide.
  • Theremin: The score was supposed to be the first one with the theremin, which producer David O. Selznick was really excited about. When he found out that composer Miklos Rozsa was also using the instrument in his score for The Lost Weekend, Selznick was furious. He knew that The Lost Weekend would be released before Spellbound (Weekend was released in November, Spellbound in December), thus spoiling Selznick's "first-score-with-theremin" thunder.
  • Trauma Button: Edwardes becomes uncomfortable every time he sees a pattern of wavy dark lines against a white background, because it reminds him of the event which caused his amnesia - he had witnessed a murder at a ski resort, the dark lines were ski tracks in the snow.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Edwardes develops amnesia after witnessing a murder, which he associates with the death of his brother when he was a child.
  • The Walls Have Eyes: One of the dreams features a wall covered in eyes.