They say that eyes are the windows to the soul. And in Alfred Hitchcock’s case, his characters were some very demented and perverse souls.
Take a look in Eyes of Hitchcock, by Vimeo’s kogonada. It’s a supercut of eyes filmed by the infamous director. As any Hitchcock fan can predict, it celebrates a montage of eyes that aren’t just intense; they radiate inner turmoil.
On a more technical note, it’s clear from this clip that Hitchcock liked his actors to square their face off with the lens to really fill the frame with a head-on view. But then, he’d have them look over the camera man’s left shoulder, just past the lens rather than directly into it. This created the intimate discomfort that a character was peering into the camera, but in reality, to have an actor look directly into the lens would allow them to lock eyes with the audience and break the fourth wall–the inherent disconnect between the audience’s world and the story’s world.
In many of these cases, it appears Hitchcock actually had his actors look straight, or nearly straight, into a light source. (You can spot the lights in the reflections of their eyes.) No doubt, the resulting glow and glare adds to the demented electricity of these portraits. But what’s remarkable to me is that these actors could keep their eyes so wide open with a bright studio light firing straight at them.
Then again, Hitchcock wasn’t exactly known for his empathy toward actors.