As Hitchcock told François Truffaut, Notorious involves “the old conflict between love and duty.” Cary Grant is in love with Ingrid Bergman, but his job as an intelligence agent demands that he let her marry another man. Bergman, who undertakes the expiation of her guilt for her Nazi father's treason, suffers a similar conflict. Only by marrying her enemy can she accomplish her political task. Even Claude Rains, the Nazi villain, is caught between love and duty when, on the orders of his mother, he must poison the wife he loves. In this film Hitchcock hit his stride, using camera movements and editing to direct not his actors but his audience, and tapping into cinema's full expressiveness. Yet for all its aesthetic mastery and grace of execution, Notorious is Hitchcock's strangely disconcerting meditation on the sadomasochistic undercurrents that lurk beneath the surface of what we call romantic love.

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