Alfred Hitchcock, one of the most prominent directors and writers in film, had a very unique style and method of creating films. His methods became popular enough to be deemed “Hitchcockian,” and he was known as the master of suspense, having created over fifty different films and numerous television shows.
In the spring 2021 semester, Associate Professor of Communication Rick Wolff will teach a class on Hitchcock’s films. Wolff started teaching this class in 1999, the year that was the centennial celebration of Hitchcock's birth.
Wolff has spent a significant amount of time studying his work.
“I went all out with studying him though. I went to all kinds of exhibitions of his work and retrospectives and museum exhibits about him that year in New York City where I was living at the time,” Wolff said. “So I availed myself into all of them and just kind of fully immersed myself into Alfred Hitchcock.”
The course is an upper level communication class (490/590) only offered in the spring semester to both undergraduate and graduate students. It is a three and half hour class that meets once a week in the evening. The class primarily focuses on watching all of Hitchcock's greatest movies throughout the semester, such as “Psycho,” “The Birds,” and “Vertigo.”
Students watch these films and then discuss the filmmaking style and camera work Hitchcock exhibits in his movies.
Later in the semester, students also watch some television episodes that Hitchcock directed and compare and contrast them to his films. They look at how he utilizes the same techniques and also what he does differently transitioning from films to tv.
The class also spends time studying Hitchcock’s biography.
“Hitchcock is also an interesting guy to study himself. Not just his films, but he was intelligent, he was quirky, he definitely had some issues especially with some of his leading women and that's one of the things we get into too in the class,” Wolff said.
While they immerse themselves into the world that is Hitchcock, students might also learn to enjoy his work. It is especially beneficial to the students who are studying the arts, as they can see the meaning that goes into his films, as well as teach them to build suspense the same way he did. It is also useful for those who want to pursue a career in the entertainment industry because they know how to apply his style to their work.
“I should say that it's one class that, when I post about it online, students I’ve had always say how much they remember that one and how much it paid off,” Wolff said.