Strangers on a Train

Released in 1951, Strangers on a Train deals with the repercussions from the chance encounter between two men, Guy and Bruno. During the scene where Bruno strangles Miriam to death, Hitchcock deliberately cuts to a shot of her demise reflected through the lens of her glasses. This reflects the motif presented in the film, as highlighted by Laura Mulvey in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, that women who wear glasses, symbolizing their desire to see, as characterized by their defiance of their role in patriarchal society as objects to bee seen by males. In Strangers on a Train, Miriam is characterized as manipulative, cold, unappealing and undesirable, precisely due to her desire to see. Hence her thick, stocky glasses block her would be beautiful face, reflecting the man’s gaze back onto himself. Since, according to Mulvey, this is not allowed, Miriam must be punished.

In the scene leading up to her murder, Miriam is stalked by Bruno through the carnival. While she sees Bruno following her, the two men she is with fail to see, implying Miriam’s ability to see, an unallowable act. When Bruno strangles her, her glasses fall off her face and Hitchcock cuts to the reflection of her death in the glasses. What is being communicated here connects the motive for murder with her glasses, more specifically it was through her act to looking and seeing Bruno that sealed her fate. Miriam is punished through her death. Another layer connotation of the shot it that, since Miriam’s glasses fall off, her face no longer inhibited by them, she reverts back to being a spectacle for the audience’s visual pleasure, thus, assuming the role of a conventional, rule-following woman for a few seconds before her death. As Miriam becomes an object for visual pleasure, the audience sees Miriam as a “turn on”, eroticizing her murder.

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