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Bergman as the "notorious" Alicia Huberman, "not a lady.",
This review is from: Notorious [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Filmed in 1946, this was a truly sensational film upon its release, its a dramatic impact far stronger than what we experience now. Newspapers were publicizing the fact that major Nazi leaders had escaped to Brazil and other South American countries, and America's use of the atomic bomb in Japan had made every American aware of the importance of uranium, also a plot element here. The work of spies was respected and considered crucial for America's safety.
In this Hitchcock-directed film, Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, daughter of a Nazi spy convicted of treason. A young woman who has always played fast and loose, she is nevertheless recruited to go to Brazil to infiltrate her father's Nazi network there, with Devlin (Cary Grant) as her agency contact. They fall in love as they await orders in Rio, but the stiff and formal Grant cannot bring himself to tell this "notorious" woman ("not a lady") that he loves her. When she realizes that she will get much better information if she marries Nazi Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), Grant allows her to do this, meeting her periodically for agonizing updates. As Alicia uncovers increasingly important information related to the Nazi search for uranium, her own life is threatened.
Hitchcock's camera work is extraordinary, with high-contrast scenes achieving maximum dramatic impact in black and white. He often places objects and people in the extreme foreground with the camera focused on the background, and he uses changes of lighting to emphasize changing moods or realizations by characters. The suspense builds to a crescendo, and when Grant and Bergman manage to get inside a locked wine cellar while Rains is approaching, the tension nears the breaking point.
Part of the suspense is psychological. Alicia's life is nightmarish, as she shares a bedroom with someone she both fears and detests, while she herself is feared and detested by her husband's manipulative mother (Leopoldine Konstantin), who calmly sits and embroiders throughout much of the film. Playing a fey, flighty, and "fallen" woman, Bergman is spontaneous, vibrantly alive, and expressive of every emotion, a marked contrast to the staid Grant, who plays the elegant and formal role for which he is justifiably famous. Rains, playing a Nazi, manages to evoke a certain sympathy because he is so vulnerable to Bergman and so dependent on his mother. One of Hitchcock's best films, this study of a "notorious" woman belongs to Bergman, who dominates the film and brings it to life. Mary Whipple