Film and Suspense
About the Book
An important fact about films & stage plays is that the creation, & the creators, of the most successful of them are shrouded in mystery. This is true especially about Shakespeare, Hitchcock & other top filmmakers of Hollywood in general. This book unveils the secret of the success of the masters of drama, as summarized below.
A “good film” is the one that gives to the spectator the impression of witnessing real events. Certain story events provide real pleasure to the spectator independently from the activities of the story characters & make him/her wish those events to be real. This process of wishing & enjoying the result & wishing it to be real, is the most solid basis of the illusion of reality but cannot satisfy all of his/her needs. It is relatively easy to please the spectator but difficult to make him experience fear. Story telling consists of pleasing & scaring the audience. The spectator can be rewarded by showing him/her what he/she likes to see & wishes to be real & therefore sees as real. But how he/she can be punished/made to fear real punishment? The answer is to induce free-floating anxiety in his/her mind. This response is a consequence of the spectator’s repressed guilt caused by the morally unacceptable but unavoidable side consequences of his/her acceptable wishes. In this book, the generation of free-floating anxiety is explained in detail, & it is shown that Shakespeare knew about this phenomenon in some form and made it the basis of his dramatic technique. Hitchcock learned its theory from Freud & its use in drama from Shakespeare. Hitchcock’s Psycho and The Birds are analyzed in full, partially shot by shot, & Shakespeare’s Hamlet, King Lear, and Othello are analyzed also in full, partially line by line. The nature of suspense & how it is generated are explained & its relation to conflict, guilt, free-floating anxiety, hopes & fears, action, & the illusion of reality are clarified & exemplified.
About the Author
I am holding two masters degrees in electrical engineering and physics. I learned automatic controls from electrical engineering, and the method of theory construction from physics. I have read psychology and philosophy books beginning at age 15 and also observed the behaviors of many mental patients at a very large mental hospital where my uncle worked as a psychiatrist. I later found time to study films and have co-written and co-produced a full length feature film in addition to producing 8 mm and 16 mm amateur films, because I considered the cinema a psychology laboratory where the most expensive and varied experiments of certain types could be performed.
My first success in psychology has been the explanation of the automatic audience responses to films, such as the illusion of reality, fear, suspense, surprise, laughter, tears, and so forth, and the methods used by the masters of the cinema to induce them, including the Freudian free-floating anxiety. An abstract of my first book Film and Suspense appeared in the February 1957 issue of Psychological Abstracts published by the American Psychological Association. Hitchcock wrote to me about this book, “I… find it extremely clever in the analyses of the filmmaker and the audience.” I later found out that Hitchcock had learned from Shakespeare the use of the phenomenon called free-floating anxiety by Freud, although he had learned its theory from Freud, and that Freud never understood that Shakespeare knew about this phenomenon and used it consciously to control audience reaction.
After I retired from engineering in 1980, I busied myself full time with psychology and developed a theory covering all major automatic responses such as the symptoms of non-organic mental disorders, dreams, hypnosis, repression, cerebral lateralization as structural response, and so forth. I practiced voluntary psychotherapy intermittently and cured in very short times more that 120 patients suffering from migraine and tension headaches and facial neuralgia and other neurotic symptoms. My books that followed Film and Suspense (1976) are Dreams and Psychosynthesis (1987), Cognitive-Behavioral Cybernetics of Symptoms, Dreams, Lateralization: Theory, Interpretation, Therapy (1999, 2001, 2004), and Migraines and Dreams (2003).