Lessons from Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man

It has been told to us since school days that the west is different from us. Surely, they are different from us if culture is taken as the parameter. In the way they are dressed, they talk, the way they are brought up. But to think and say that their culture behold no values, teachings, has lesser place for emotions and our culture is the only one which has its roots in them is totally wrong and unjust. This contemplation is nothing but a reflection of us being judgemental.

These so called culture protectors and fundamentalists in the country go on screaming about how west is a bad idea to be borrowed and how the families there which have no place for emotions split up and live separately and that the Indian culture is slowly getting ruined as it is copying the west. What we do is stress so much on the words ‘Split’ and ‘Separate’ that we miss out the reasons for their frequent uses whenever the society in west is discussed. The families in the west get split after a certain period of time but it never means that they lose emotions in the family. They are still there.

A father in the western countries loves his child with as much affection as a father does in India. We need to understand that we might be different from each other in terms of colour, culture, language but one common space that lies between us are the emotions.
Before watching Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Wrong Man’ – a story about a man sent to jail out of mistaken identity, I too had the same opinion about the west. That there is lesser value for emotions and that the father and son don’t like sharing one roof with each other.

Hitchcock’s ‘The Wrong Man’ is drastically different from his other works such as ‘Rear Window’ and ‘Psycho’. Everybody knows that he was the king of thrillers. In that perspective, ‘The Wrong Man’ was a very special and important film at that time. The reason is that it was a film which stressed more on the human values and the family values than anything else. It had a very simple, to some people – a boring ending or climax.

It is a story of a man played by Henry Fonda, born and brought up in New York City who played music with a band in a bar; lived a life in great debts yet never had regret with life. He loved his two children and his beautiful wife played by Vera Miles. He lived separately with his two sons and wife away from his parents yet never failed to make a visit to them every now and then.

I have heard people opining that in west, the divorce rates are on a higher side. Whom do we look up to before coming to such a conclusion? We look up to the Hollywood and their stars. Only because, Clooney is marrying for the third time and Tom Cruise had had just another divorce, it does not mean that things are same all over America. In the same way, the west saw us as the land of snakes. Remember that.

Let me take some scenes from ‘The Wrong Man’ itself to highlight my point. In ‘The Wrong Man’, when Vera Miles says to her husband that every now and then, there spring ups an emergency of money just because of me then her husband replies by saying that we need not worry about it. He hugs her and tells her that how much he loves her. And that how happy he is to have her. The scene is so simple yet so charming. For once, you would forget that it is a Hitchcock movie. There are great emotions jumping up and down in that particular scene.

Aren’t the things the same in our homes and lives? Don’t we love each other and stand with each other during financial and for that matter, any kind of trouble. Then how are they different from us in terms of values and emotions.
In other scene from the movie, the eldest of the Fonda’s son comes to his father when his father arrives from jail after getting bail and the father asks him, “Did mother tell you where I was last night?” The son replies, “No, she didn’t.” The father tells him the reality that how he was mistakenly sent to jail and that he has done no wrong. The son in order to make his father sure of his trust in him says, “I believe you, Dad! I know you have done no wrong.” And then hugs him saying, “You are the best daddy in the world.”

I learned two things from that scene. One, the mother did not tell her kids that where their father was the whole last night. Our mothers would have done the same. Two, that particular scene reflected the father-son bond in the west which is the same here too. It reflected how badly he needed his family in times of trouble and how amazing he loved them.

Cinema reflects the society we live in. ‘The Wrong Man’ reflected their society in those times (1953).  Times do change and so do the society still the emotions and values remain unchanged. It doesn’t matter how rapidly the society has changed and evolved and how quickly we are getting detached from each other, emotions never run out of place. Whether here or there, they were and are present.

‘The Wrong Man’ flopped at the box office. Perhaps people expected Hitchcock to always make thrillers and a story on human values was not very well accepted. But what the movie incites is that filmmakers were concerned for such subjects. The family values must be like that only fifty years back in America. Time never changes such values, it might well change cultures. People all over the world are same and that is what I learned from this movie.
One thing that nobody could snatch away from ‘The Wrong Man’ is its sensibilities and human touch which makes it a very simple, sober still beautiful cinema.

If there is time on hand, watch THE WRONG MAN. If not, make some time.

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About ishubhampandey

A sincere child of an insincere world.
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