Alfred Hitchcock on the Essential Difference Between Mystery & Suspense

“In many films there is a great confusion – especially in my particular genre of work – there’s a great confusion between the words ‘mystery’ and ‘suspense’. And the two things are absolutely miles apart. Mystery is an intellectual process, like in a whodunit. But suspense is essentially an emotional process. Therefore, you can only get the suspense element going by giving the audience information. I daresay you have many a film that have mysterious goings-on. You don’t know what’s going on … why the man’s doing this or why that. And you’re about a third of the way through the film before you realize what it’s all about. And to me that’s completely wasted footage because there’s no emotion to it. It’s like a whodunit. And I’ve only made one whodunit, many many years ago. Because in the course of it, before you arrive at that five-second revelation, there’s no emotion for an audience. If you’re reading a book [like that], you’re terribly tempted to turn to the last page all the time. But that’s merely an emotion of curiosity. So mystery has no particular appeal to me, merely because it is a fact of mystifying the audience.”

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