Monday, August 13, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock, The Trouble With Harry, and the Myth of the Honest Villager: A Short Essay by Payman Akhlaghi (2012)

A Poster for
The Trouble With Harry
the 1955 Film by
Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock, The Trouble With Harry & the Myth of the Honest Villager
A Short Essay by Payman Akhlaghi (2012) [Draft 1]


The Trouble With Harry (1955, 99 mins, English)
Dircted by Alfred Hitchcock
Music by Bernard Herrmann (*)

The dead body of an out-of-towner named Harry is found nearby a small rural settlement. Before it's become clear that Harry had died of natural causes, several characters have assumed their own guilt in his death, and they have tried to cover up their perceived crime. The film is a dark satire that sheds light on the hypocrisy of a small community by examining the cruel cynicism underlying a facade of congeniality, which in fact they share, if less conspicuously, with all other societies, large or small.

Harry is a significant work on the basis of its cinematic, dramatic, and musical merits. The film is further remarkable in that it criticizes uncompromisingly what we may refer to as "the myth of the honest villager", a fallacious assumption which has lingered far too long across epochs and societies. The myth basically implies that unlike city-dwellers, small-towners and villages are categorically more pure, honest, naive and gullible, caring, family-oriented, moral, natural, no-non-sense, real, straight-talkers, closer to their instincts, with convictions to be respected, if not downright adopted. The myth might appear innocently in the works of such poets as the Persian Sohrab Sepehri, or more consequentially in large scale populist propaganda commonly observed in politics of demagoguery. Over the ages, this myth has dragged many progressive movements astray, at times into regression, by unfairly forcing outdated provincial values upon the more dynamic urban cultures. Examples come to mind, from the Spartan-Athenian conflicts of the ancient Greeks, to the domineering air of the early Soviet Union, to the mind-boggling turn of events in 1979 Iran, not to mention the damaging influence of provincial inertia in today's Afghanistan. But the myth might as easily plague modern Western societies, as it may be evident in the anachronistic debate surrounding "The Evolution Theory vs. Creationism", or rather the larger political discourse of the past two decades in the States.