Wednesday, April 9, 2014
The Menace Beneath the Ordinary: Hitchcock's Saboteur (Part Three of Three)
The third method Saboteur employs to criticize fascism involves the dichotomization of characteristics of the democratic Allies and fascist members of the axis such as love and hate, good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust, and other conflicting concepts. When a butler escorts Kane upstairs into a room with Tobin in the Sutton mansion after failing to escape, Kane, with a defiant patriotic zeal, characterizes the fascist ideology as violent, deceptive, and destined to be defeated:
You certainly make it sound smooth and easy. Well, that's a trick. I know the results of that power you believe in. It killed my friend and is killing thousands like him. That's what you're aiming at, but it doesn't bother you - I can see that. Because you really hate all people… Love and hate. The world's choosing up sides. I know who I'm with. There are a lot of people on my side. Millions of us in every country. And we're not soft. We're plenty strong, and we'll fight standing up on our two feet and we'll win: remember that, Mr. Tobin. We'll win no matter what you guys do. We'll win if takes from now until the cows come home.
This type of polarizing rhetoric lends itself to the cause of rousing the American spirit by fitting the Axis powers within an idealized framework of “good” versus “evil,” which is historically one of the most effective ways to galvanize support for war. As Roeder describes, “this dichotomized way of seeing linked images Americans devised of the enemy with those they devised of themselves…if the enemy was treacherous, cowardly, and heartless, Americans were fair, courageous, and caring” (88). In addition, the circus freak scene guides the audience’s disdain toward fascism when the midget demands that they turn Kane over to the police while suggesting that a democracy would never condemn Kane to such a fate. Another instance of political imagery that ascribed to the dichotomized mode of sight involved the juxtaposition of the recurring motifs of fire and water throughout the film.The film links the Nazi saboteurs to fire right from the opening scene in which Fry burns down the munitions factory in California. Conversely, Kane’s successes often involve water, such as his escaping from police by leaping from the bridge into the water and his triggering of the fire sprinklers in the Sutton mansion to escape. Ultimately, this symbolic contrast of fire and water culminates inside the torch of Lady Liberty, which just so happens to be surrounded by water; thus, the “as Fry hides inside the statue, the symbolism is that spies hide under the cloak of liberty.”
The idea that everyone can do their part in the war effort, what Roeder refers to as a “cast of millions,” certainly appears in Saboteur. A clear political overtone of the film is that individuals can do their part in the war and guard against sabotage. At the end of Kane’s heroic journey, the audience leaves with “with the saboteur’s lunge to death, the hero’s (and thus America’s) grasp on liberty seems reaffirmed.” As Roeder describes, “the persistence of the happy ending in some of the bleakest Hollywood war stories demonstrated the strength of forces bending wartime imagery into polarized patterns.” Following this trend of polarization, Hitchcock pits an ordinary, patriotic American Barry Kane against the devious Nazi infiltrators Fry and Tobin to embody the larger struggle between democracy and fascism.
Taken as a whole, Saboteur captures the sentiment of wartime paranoia and the sociopolitical realities that accompanied America’s rise from beneath the shroud of neutrality and entry into the fray of World War II. Amidst lurching from wartime propaganda and moral allegory to contextualizing the evolving cultural realities of the era, the film succinctly summarizes the climate of the United States. The movie levels a tripartite assault on the spuriousness and power-mongering qualities of fascism by exalting democratic values and American ideals, transposing popular caricatures of loyal Americans and saboteurs, and positing all differences within a dichotomized framework. In this “parable of identity,” Hitchcock attempts to impel people out of complacency by embellishing the film with his own touches of patriotism and warning that anyone around them could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In some ways, the movie represents a fusion of his British patriotism with American culture (both political and social). The master, in typical fashion, reveals “the menace beneath the ordinary,” but along an American itinerary.
I am pursuing a JD at Harvard Law School, where I am a member of Harvard’s Journal on Legislation and Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law. Prior to attending law school, I graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College with High Honors in History. There, I competed on the Policy Debate team and was the Managing Editor of The Dartmouth Independent. Teaching, mentoring, and coaching have continued to be passions of mine after my time working as a high school debate coach. Throughout college until the present, I have worked with several college and professional school applicants to refine their applications and get into the top choice schools. My favorite part of the job is to watch students grow intellectually and personally throughout the process. I am proud to call many of my advisees lifelong friends. In my free time, I enjoy basketball, soccer, and fitness. My other passion is food, and if there is a Chipotle nearby, you’re likely to find me there at least twice a day. Fortunately, those two hobbies should balance each other out!