North by Northwest Analysis
By Miguel Myers
North by Northwest is an American film made by the talented director Alfred Hitchcock, the cast featured Cary Grant as the main character Roger Thornhill, Eve Marie as Eve Kendall, James Mason as Philip Vandan, Jessica Landis as Clara Thornhill and many more talented actors and actresses. The film is hailed as a classic and boasts a rare 99% on rotten tomatoes. The film follows New York City marketing executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) being hunted by a dangerous spy Philip Vandamn (James Mason) because he is mistaken for government agent. Roger Thornhill takes a journey across the country trying to survive, while on the run he meets the beautiful Eve Kendall (Eve Marie) who helps hide him from the police but is actually working for Vandamn. As thornhill attempts to survive he is met with multiple challenges that he must face. North by Northwest shows a great use symbolism, metaphors and signs throughout the film, Hitchcock also acknowledges the culture and time period which it is set, and the film has strong plot structure, character motivations, and theme all of which are essential for creating a good story.
North by Northwest shows symbolism in many different ways. The film takes place in 1959 just two years after the sputnik crisis a key Cold War event. Between 1947-1991 there was tension and war between the United States and Russia, during the climatic scene in the third act the setting is Mount Rushmore the famous Mountain with four of the United States most famous and legendary presidents. Mt.Rushmore is a symbol in the film because the movie central action and conflict concerns the political tensions of the cold war and right under the mountain is the home of the enemy spies this is stating that the enemy is under our noses the entire time and in real life. A symbol in the film is the Asian statuette that Vandamm buys at the auction because it represents the villain in many ways. Vandamm pretends to be a sophisticated gentleman but in reality he’s a cunning villain, the statue appears to be a nice classy piece of art but inside its hiding a microfilm that can be used to destroy lives. Vandamm looks like a normal art dealer but he’s actually a villian, the statue looks like a normal piece of art but is actually protecting classified stole information both are putting on a fake image to everyone. These symbols and signs that the Hitchcock uses are subtle and hidden you might not pick up on them on your first viewing. Hitchcock accepts the time and place of which it exists in and uses it to make the film better and more realistic.
North by northwest takes place in America in 1959, like I stated in my last paragraph the film is taken place around a very tense beef between the United States and Russia. Also the first manmade object to reach the moon was the Soviet Union’s Luna 2 on September 13th 1959 making the U.S.A more hectic to actually land on the moon. With all that going on in the world the film still uses hidden meanings like the spies living under Mount rushmore. The main character travels from New York to Chicago then the Great plains to Mount rushmore all important places in the country. North by Northwest shows how things were in that time showing all the women in dresses, the popularity of cigarettes, the grand scale of New York City, the film is very cliche and does normal things that films used to do like the damsel in distress trope in the third act, the main character who has to overcome his own selfish ways to become the best version of themself and the villian who is a great opponent but is still very one sided and obvious. This is 1959 after all and the film accepts that. Even though it falls into some of the normal film tropes it still makes a compelling story and great characters.
The film has a well structured plot with interesting characters backing it up. The director always leaves us wondering what will happen next. Hitchcock makes us feel like we’re in the same situation as Roger by setting up a great character for us to follow. The main character Roger Thornhill is living a normal life at the beginning of the film, he works as a businessman in New York City and gets swept up in a world of spies and criminals as he is mistaken for a government agent known as George Kaplan. Thornhill is a resourceful,smart and suave man finding himself on the run trying to stay alive and evading the police,criminals and the government. Throughout the film his main goal is to prove that he isn’t George Kaplan and to return to his normal calm life. At the start of his journey Thornhill was focused on getting out of harm’s way but at the end he continues to endanger his own life to save the woman he loves Eve Kendall. As for Eve she starts out as a double agent working for Vandamn and plotting on Thornhill but by the end she proves that she actually cares for Thornhill, Eve changes throughout the film going from heartless to a genuine caring person. The characters help the plot and make for a compelling and interesting story.
North by Northwest is a iconic,classic, and great film because it shows symbolism,metaphors and signs by using Mount Rushmore and other objects to show hidden meanings throughout the film. Also Hitchcock acknowledges the culture and time period in which the film is set in and uses it to make the viewer feel as if their along for the ride and it helps us care for the characters. Throughout the film Hitchcock takes us across the country on a adventure and uses historical landmarks to advance the story, giving it a incredible epic scale. The characters grow as people from the start of their story to the end, creating a captivating , groundbreaking a story from beginning to end. The film still holds strong against time and places Hithcock in the topic of best filmmakers ever.