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A compelling psychological drama
on 29 November 2002
This movie is a product of that golden age of incredible plots, talented actors, and visionary directing. A description of the plot may sound somewhat banal, and I doubt if the same movie could be made today and be taken seriously, but this classic is a masterful piece of cinema. When Dr. Edwards (Gregory Peck) arrives at Green Manors Mental Asylum to replace the head man, he quickly falls for the heretofore distant, hyperanalytical Dr. Constance Petersen (played by the incomparable Ingrid Bergman). Constance soon discovers that the man she is falling in love with is not Dr. Edwards at all but is instead an amnesiac who has taken the place of the real Dr. Edwards. Although the impostor is afraid he killed the real doctor, Constance is determined to help him regain his memory. The mystery of Dr. Edward's disappearance quickly leads to a police investigation, but Constance follows her "patient" to the city and eventually takes him to the home of her mentor, striving to prove that the man she loves is not a murderer. The ending, I must say, does not disappoint; it actually exceeded my own expectations.
Bergman is naturally wonderful in her role, and her accent adds a trace of mystery to an already suspenseful story. The portrayal of Dr. Murchison, the previous head of the asylum, is smooth, polished, and quite effective, and the actor portraying Constance's former mentor does a masterful job as a somewhat stereotypical pseudo-Freud blessed with a penchant for making remarks I found quite humorous. While Gregory Peck is also very good, he seems to go a little over the top at times when he is reacting to troubling stimuli. Hitchcock's direction is both innovative and masterful. There are several scenes involving unusual camera shots that add much to the atmosphere of mounting suspense, and a dream sequence supposedly designed by Salvador Dali is unique and oddly compelling.
Certainly, Freudian analysis was more in vogue when this movie was made in 1955 than it is now. It is Constance's belief that something from the impostor's childhood triggered his amnesia, and she seeks to help him by unlocking his buried memories. A crucial plot point centers around a surreal dream the impostor has and Constance's interpretation of its meaning. While some modern viewers may scoff at the notions espoused here, such feelings should take nothing away from the enjoyment of this classic, atmospheric, suspenseful drama.