Monday, April 7, 2014

The Menace Beneath the Ordinary: Hitchcock's Saboteur (Part Two of Three)

Secondly, the film subtly inverts popular caricatures and stereotypes of loyal Americans and saboteurs, thus symbolizing the deceptive nature of fascism. There are two important components to fascism’s deceptiveness related to this film: the looming threat of subversion and the way in which fascist dictators mask their true intentions with populist rhetoric. Saboteur seizes the opportunity provided by the undercurrent of wartime paranoia; in doing so, the film demonstrates that there may be seditious citizens anywhere within American society and draws a broader metaphor to the illusory nature of the fascist promises. In the film, as opposed to saboteurs being depicted as disgruntled, marginalized members of society, Hitchcock portrays them as respectable aristocrats and socialites like Charles Tobin and Mrs. Sutton. On the other hand, the “normal Americans” who enthusiastically aid Kane along his journey are “idiosyncratic and largely peripheral members of society who either live in isolation, like Phillip Martin, or in rootless travel, like the truck driver who first picks Kane up, and the group of sideshow freaks who later hide him from the police.” Whereas Kane is concerned with justice and remains “youthful, passionate, and idealistic,” Tobin himself admits that he seeks “power…as much as [Kane] want[s] [his] job, or that girl” and is “willing to back his tastes with the necessary force.” Generally, the film exhibited that “fifth columnists can be outwardly clean and patriotic citizens, just like normal Americans.”
Moreover, Hitchcock contributes to his audience’s distrust of fascism by adroitly understating, humanizing, and highlighting the duplicity some of the saboteurs.  For example, the affable Mr. Freeman idly chatters with Kane about his son’s haircut and the man guarding Pat Martin in the American Newsreel Company office mutters, “I hope we can get rid of her soon…I promised to take my kid sister to the philharmonic.”

Yet, the most delicate expression of fascism’s spuriousness lies in the persistent imagery of abstract and specific visual patterns referring to the Statue of Liberty (Deutelbaum, 1984, p. 63). In the abstract sense, the shadows in several scenes “radiate outward in a sunburst effect” that closely mirrors the Statue’s diadem. As for concrete images resembling the statue, Tobin’s constant readjustment of his towel in the scene at his ranch is strikingly similar to the drapery of Lady Liberty’s gown. Likewise, the prominent banister in the Sutton mansion “echoes the curve and closely-spaced openings of the viewing ports inside the Statue’s diadem.” Additionally, the image of Fry’s outreached arm when dangling from the Statue significantly parallels Lady Liberty’s upraised arm. These visual manifestations of Statue’s components tend to appear in association with the saboteurs rather than the patriotic citizens, signifying that “these parts of a bogus Statue of Liberty are hidden among other images in much the same way that the film’s saboteurs – bogus Americans – are hidden among the Americans they superficially resemble.” By manipulating plot themes, character personalities, visual techniques, and dialogue, Hitchcock “casts a general aesthetic truth about the uncertainty of appearances into a utilitarian cautionary tale declaring the need for viewers to reconsider their presumptions about the loyalty of individual on the basis of their appearances” in order to combat the fascist threat.