Kubrick & Hitchcock: A Semiotic Puzzle

A Quote From The Shining
A Quote From The Shining

The reading for this week states that The Shining is "a semiotic puzzle." So too is Hitchcock's film Psycho. First of all what does the term "semiotic puzzle" mean? Second, how does Hitchcock use this idea? Hint: the reading from last week mentions his ability to give "attribution of symbolic power to inanimate objects."

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Comments: 20
  • #1

    Nadim Alayaseh (Thursday, 24 April 2014 09:01)

    Semiotic puzzle means a cipher or a hidden code that can be solved in many ways because its different dimensions. When the director of the movie uses symbols and scenes that can be understood by its concept and not by its view. A person should look deep inside to understand the meanings of it. Both readings lead to an important point regarding to "semiotic puzzle" that can be explained using the words "Why" and "How". Both authors of the two reading shows in a way how hard is to understand the meanings and the symbols that appear in the two movies. The movies are fulfilled with secrets and puzzles and can be understood in different ways. The two movies are coming from written stories that are transformed into horror movies. Jonathan Crow writes in his article about the shining, " the film’s reputation has grown, and now it’s considered a horror masterpiece." Moreover, the comments shows that the notes on the book are used in the movie. But each person sees it in a different way which lead us to one point which is the successful of the director in making the audience lost in the big horror sea.

  • #2

    Dina Khaled (Saturday, 26 April 2014 18:48)

    ''Semiotic Puzzle'' this concept goes under these two terms; ''code,signs'' these two terms presents the hidden personality and engage us to the meaning that the auteur is meant to transmit it to the audience, and so the auteur theory is exactly goes under the concept of the ''Semiotic Puzzle'' which is one of the forms that the auteur is presenting and transmitting his ''thematic or stylistic consistencies, personal aesthetic vision, recurring themes, established technique, a defined view of the world and a significant degree of control over production'' (from the reading) to the audience as well. so the concept ''Semiotic'' is like a the work under the thoughts and visions of the auteur that goes in a form of a puzzle, which no one can easily set or do a puzzle, the audience needs to understand the film and so understand the auteur theory.
    Hitchcock use this idea by his specific special Semiotic technique which is like a puzzle with it's mystery. However, most of the auteurs don't use the inanimate objects as a power symbolic, but Hitchcock did this, as in the reading it mentioned that he uses his mystery by''his use of camera viewpoints, elaborate editing and soundtrack to build suspense'' this can go under the concept of ''Semiotic Puzzle'' in how the codes and the signs are full of mystery meaning and that's what the movie ''Psycho'' by Hitchcock was about (presenting the mystery "attribution of symbolic power to inanimate objects").

  • #3

    Motaz Alshaer (Sunday, 27 April 2014 16:48)

    Semiotic puzzle is a thoery or a work in which the director uses an object in a scene so the audience think more and deep to get the idea . This term relates to complex meaning that is not easy for the audience to understand so it becomes like a puzzle to get it because it focuses on deep meaning of symbols for that object.

    Hitchcock his unique technique in films like using shots that contains several meaning make the audience hard to understand this idea."Hitchcock uses a complex pattern of sound and dialogue". He wants to get audience attention in each scene by using special sound effects or extraordinary camera angels.

  • #4

    Asma' (Monday, 28 April 2014 12:46)

    Semiotic Puzzle : is the study of signs and symbols and how they are used with their function. In order to know what the meaning of these signs and symbols is like a puzzle game designed to test ingenuity and knowledge. Simply, to know the meaning of some signs and symbols and identify their meaning (Hidden\ Subtext) meaning. There are inanimate objects that have meaning.
    In the reading "packed the movie with so many odd signs" that what Hitchcock uses in his movie; he uses semiotic puzzle in a very obvious way. He uses some signs and images and objects that have meaning and a role in the movie especially in attracting the audience. In Psycho there are some objects that sign for something such as the Sculptures birds in Norman's office in his motel. The knife and the flowers are other signs that showed in the movie.

  • #5

    Tala Zeitawi (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 09:13)

    Semiotic puzzle means using a symbolic object to spread a certain message to he audience. An object which lets the audience connect it deeply to the sory of the movie. It widdens the thinking and imagination of the audience, which makes one surprised at times how much of his/her imagination and knowledge has got wider. Hitchcock has used many symbolic means throughout his films. Usually, they zoom in on the symbols with a unique camera angel to make it a bit obvious to the audience that this symbolism has a huge part in the movie. Hitchcock is known for his "symbolic powers" as it says in the article he uses a" breadnknife as (Blackmail), a key (Nortorious)". The way he thinks and sees the world around him is reflected in themes in his movies.

  • #6

    Raya Hallaq (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 09:27)

    semiotic puzzle's meaning is when a director uses signs or symbols to make the audience look deeper in the movie to understand the meaning of it, like a puzzle which is putting all of the pieces ( hidden signs) together in order to get the whole image.
    Hitchcock used this in his movie " psycho" by showing the audience some sings that hides the personality of a person, and the only way to understand what he means is by figuring out the mystery of these signs ( connecting them together like a puzzle to see the whole image).

  • #7

    Saja Surkhi (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 10:26)

    I think semiotic puzzle means that the director aims to make the subtext of the film a little hard to understand and we as viewers we should dig and watch more and more to the “unhidden messages” as was described in the article, also it could be in the style, and the director work to make the work much more difficult to understand and has message that people wouldn’t understand very easily. In Hitchcocks style we can see this meaning of semiotic puzzle in many scales, one is his style of addressing themes and issues that the society usually didn’t get in such as what was mentioned in the article that talked about him : “his films play with the audience's nerves, sexually or tabooed areas assume central or implicit places in his work” . another use of the meaning semiotic puzzle is his way of directing his films he has his own version in his films. The most important aspect in Hictchcock style and it’s his semiotic puzzle , which is the Suspense, he’s the “the master of suspense” which means that he has always let the audience waiting to know what will happen, and most of the times they won’t expect what’s happening, I think suspense in Hictchcock style could be considered as the “unhidden messages” that are in Kubrick’s “The Shining”.

  • #8

    Shazza Zeitawi (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 10:27)

    The meaning of a "semiotic puzzle" is where the directer uses signs and symbols in his movies and how they're used in different scenes. Signs and symbols are used in order to make the audience think further and more deeply into the movie by connecting the unclear signs and symbols together like a puzzle in order to get the movie as a whole.

    Hitckcock used his unique way of signs and symbols in his "psycho" movie by letting the audience be lost and not really understand what's going on, but after watching the whole movie, one can look back and replay the movie in his head in order to connect the signs and symbols together like a puzzle. Therefore, by doing so, one can know and understand the movie as a whole and see Hitchcock's unique way of thinking by connecting things together.

  • #9

    Yara Masri (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 11:16)

    Semiotic puzzle is the usage of significant and mysterious symbols in a movie, where the director allows the audiences' imagination to grow wider while watching the movie. Those symbols and elements are just like a puzzle game, at some point in a movie your brain will put all those insignificant symbols of a movie together in which the story of the movie will suddenly be more understandable and clear.
    Albert Hitchcock used the semiotic puzzle method in all his movies. Hitchcock used the knife, the key, flowers, and the mummified birds that seemed vague at the beginning and ended up as the most important bases of the story of each movie.

  • #10

    Tamam Musleh (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 13:13)

    A Semiotic puzzle is putting the incomplete prices together to create the main image or images, just as a puzzle itself. But in movies these puzzle pieces are the signs/symbols and elements of the film.
    Hitchcock uses these semiotic puzzle pieces in his film by the horrific music in the backgrounds of his famous film phsyco. Another one of these symbolic elements in the camera, how he shoots the film by zooming in and zooming out at the right moments to give the audience the 'horrific factor'.

  • #11

    lama.sl (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 14:01)

    The term “Semiotic puzzle” in movies stands for Symbol and sign that are being used to make the audience get lost while trying to get what is going on behind the scene and what do they need to understand from the scene that has objects in front of them. It is the use of signs like words, symbols, objects, sounds, that makes the audience think for the ideas and the figures of semiotics behind the scene that is played in front of them.
    Hitchcock film uses and apply the “semiotic puzzle” by making the audience confused and lost during the process of revealing what is going on in the scene, and what does this symbol mean, and why does they here this kind of music. Hitchcock film puzzled the audience by showing all the confusing double meaning signs until at end everything gets revealed and shown after the audience connects all the signs and events together.

  • #12

    Mae Shuaib (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 14:16)

    Tool for story telling: A semiotic puzzle is a visionary tool used in cinema and images to attract the audience to solve the puzzle through the given or hidden subtext and pieces of the puzzle to figure out the means of the certain signs and symbols put in front of the characters and audience. The director creates hidden stories, scenes for the audience and actors to come across in order to solve every aspect of the mystery and piece of the puzzle. One must think into means of what’s going on and what’s in front of them in order to solve the case. Like any puzzle one must put the pieces together to figure out the story/plot and answer to what is going on or has happened. In the end the puzzle is solved.
    Through the inanimate objects not just from the characters one could predict or foreshadow what will happen next. For example in the film Psycho, the shower scene: the man dressed in a robe and wig could have just walked in and strangled her but using a knife is more violent and reveals more of the character. A facial expression puts one in shock. In means of solving a puzzle or semiotic puzzle, an example could be a key to the lock but in this sense it is our eyes to the images and characters.
    Attribution of symbolic power to inanimate objects in Psycho are a knife, key, dead animals and etc. Hitchcock as an auteur is known for his great cinematic techniques: camera movements, images, shots, viewpoints and usage of music. Also he is known as master of suspense. The music is a technique in auteurism being used for suspense playing with the audience nerves of making them predict the known or unknown.
    In Psycho we can sense suspense through music, scenes,close up, zoom in and playing with camera angles to make us aware and focus on the shot more than the surrounding. Images are used as hints. For example, the dead animals in Norman’s lobby and he calls it a hobby.
    “Hitchcock’s camera strategies express ways of thinking about his characters and showing them in difficult, often threating situations” (85) Split personalities and identity is another tool to build suspense.

  • #13

    Eliaa (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 15:21)

    A Semiotic puzzle- is a puzzle that combines and puts the symbol and sign together. In PSYCHO Hitchcock completes the scenes with music and close ups and the image itself. In PSYCHO, doesn't complete that puzzle till the end of the movie. which means that through that puzzle there is a mystery and horror, and we as audience feel that signs and symbols in the film, and they become clear in the end of the film.

  • #14

    Hayat Hamdan (Tuesday, 29 April 2014 15:27)

    Semiotic puzzle: is hidden meaning, in movies it’s that scenes which symbolize something in its hidden concept. The audience see scene as moving image but director purpose is to make us think of hidden meaning.

    Usually the semiotic used in deliver message in indirect way, in order to make audience think and be part of the movie by their interaction with it. I think The use of semiotic puzzle in movies is to keep the audience watching the movie until the end, and if they miss some scenes they can’t understand this puzzle.

    For Hitchcocks he used semiotic puzzle in his movies as for the Psycho through showing small part of reality or hint to the next scene. For the scene example when the sister went to the room hotel were the women killed, the sister find this small piece of paper in the bathroom and from their she knew that her sister was there. Also the use of knife and blood , and the birds is kind of semiotic puzzle. Not only the scene itself which symbolize hidden meaning also Histchcock used camera technique to complete this puzzle. “Hitchcock's films are marked by his mastery of cinematic technique which is exemplified in his use of camera viewpoints, elaborate editing and soundtrack to build suspense.

  • #15

    Philip Hopper (Sunday, 04 May 2014 15:54)

    Okay, some of you have some pretty good ideas here. Stand by for an e-mail that will describe what we will do in these last two weeks of this semester.

  • #16

    Omar (Tuesday, 13 May 2014 20:45)

    Semiotic puzzle means to stand for Symbol to hide some meanings behind that symbol or signs as elements of the film or part from the scenes of the film. This is main technique in film industry that director have to do "to show the main ideas by using indirect way not to tell these ideas directly".
    For Hitchcock films we can show the using of the "semiotic puzzle" using many factors such as special kind of music and background music also by playing with the camera angle and the zooming of the shoots to make the audience confuse and lost within the details of the scene, then the symbols of hidden meaning appear to the audience.

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