Lisa and “Lisa”

The new Legacy DVD edition of RW includes an interesting new documentary, The Sound of Hitchcock, in which sound designers and critics comment on AH’s use of music and audio in his films (the ones released on DVD by Universal, anyway). Several soundtracks are analyzed, but I found Gary Rydstrom‘s comments on RW particularly revealing. After some preliminary thoughts on the evolution of the song “Lisa” within the film, Rydstrom gets to the really choice bit:

So now we come to the end of the movie, and visually, this is a scene about Grace Kelly. Jimmy Stewart has wondered, you know, “Is she the girl for me? She’s a Park Avenue girl. Is she tough enough for me?” She breaks into Raymond Burr’s apartment, you know, the bad guy’s apartment when he’s not there, to get a clue.

From here on it’s just that song, which is called “Lisa.” This is the fullest expression of the song we’ve heard in the movie so far, the most complete version of the song that represents their love story. But what’s happening is that Hitchcock is showing us the part of the movie that’s a murder mystery. This is really suspenseful and painful to watch. The soundtrack is climaxing the love story, cause the song is telling us that Jimmy Stewart is now finally in love with Grace Kelly. But the disconnect is rich. If you have the soundtrack telling you one part of the story, and the visuals telling you another, there’s this richness that comes out of it, as well as a tension because the mood of the music is not the mood of what we’re seeing.

Perhaps even more to the point, we’re seeing the two threads of the plot finally meshing. The song ends as the police arrive and Lisa passes out of danger. Now all that remains is for Lisa to reveal the wedding ring—and by doing so, expose Jeff, for the first time, to Thorwald’s baleful gaze.


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