Arlecchino Cinema > 11:00


Alfred Hitchcock
Introduced by

John Bailey (President of Academy Film Archive)


Monday 24/06/2019


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Under Capricorn is the last chapter (after Spellbound and Notorious) of the ‘trilogy’ that Hitchcock built around Ingrid Bergman, or, as Rohmer-Chabrol put it, around her face, which the camera “searches, explores, sometimes carves, sometimes softens”. All around this fabulous face, so they say, it was hell. As in Rope, in Under Capricorn Hitchcock experiments with the long take (here, six to eight minutes) without any cuts. The props and costumes made it an enervating enterprise; the set was a maze of tracks, with walls, tables and canapés moving on wheels and electricians wandering around with lights attached to their foreheads. Actually, even in its most intense moments, Michael Wilding always has the air of someone who has just seen something vaguely funny off-camera.
It is a film of romantic inspiration, a woman’s sin, a man’s sacrifice, guilt, confession, catharsis, the moral law that holds all of us by its fist and guides this Wuthering Heights of the antipodes towards its unlikely and somewhat bitter happy ending. It is a film of classic Hitchcockian figures, a wicked housekeeper as in Rebecca and a poisoned heroine as in Notorious (“those elements would have remained in the picture anyway if I’d had a good professional, like Ben Hecht, writing the script for me”, Hitchcock told Truffaut). It is certainly a film about Bergman’s face, whose malleability and radiance Hitchcock knew how to enhance like no one else (including the man she was falling in love with just in those days at that time): the most beautiful scene is the one in which an amorous hand lays a dark jacket behind a glass so that she can see her own golden reflection, not corrupted by unhappiness. Hitchcock considered this film his worst catastrophe, an error of arrogance that cost loads of money which were lost forever. It is an extraordinary colour film, in its accurate 19th century pictorial tone, “one of the most beautiful Technicolor movies of film history” (Lourcelles): a lucent yet slightly livid glaze tinges everything, because this is a story of worn-out or ill-fated passions, that only memory or feverish soliloquy can try (and fail) to revive. There is a lot of sky in the first and last sequences, a sky of a wonderful cerulean hue over the bay of the small city of Sydney in 1831. Hitchcock pauses to contemplate it, maybe already wondering what can be done with so much sky, such as piercing it with the red span of the Golden Gate Bridge or the black wings of a bird.

Paola Cristalli

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1937) di Helen Simpson. Scen.: James Bridie, Hume Cronyn. F.: Jack Cardiff. M.: A.S. Bates. Scgf.: Thomas Monahan. Mus.: Richard Addinsell. Int.: Ingrid Bergman (Lady Henrietta ‘Hattie’ Flusky), Joseph Cotten (Sam Flusky), Michael Wilding (Charles Adare), Margaret Leighton (Milly), Cecil Parker (Sir Richard, il governatore), Denis O’Dea (signor Corrigan), Jack Watling (Winter), John Ruddock (Cedric Potter), Bill Shine (signor Banks), Victor Lucas (reverendo Smiley). Prod.: Alfred Hitchcock per Transatlantic Pictures Corp.. 35mm. D.: 117’. Technicolor.