Analysis of Hitchcock’s ‘Saboteur’

Hitchcock’s thriller ‘Saboteur’ exemplifies the director’s drive for subverting his audience’s sympathies. There is a daringly clarified critique of systematic injustice in the form of a single misjudged civilian taking on a class of evil that operates somewhere between the powers of government and industry, far above the heads of common workers: the saboteurs, those who thrive on costly accidents, carefully planned to distract from the real internal mayhem that exists beyond the realm of national law. Of course, viewers know who did what and who is guilty. The thrill is in finding out how deep and wide the darkness of the villain’s lair extends. Who isn’t corrupt? Who doesn’t profit from the battery of civilian law? What viewers quickly recognize as the core is Hitchcock’s extreme exposure of corrupt forces in a somewhat patriotic drama. We root for the criminal, but in doing so we are naturally against all authorities, as none can be trusted: they are all unveiled as the real criminals in this film, which is, at the center, about identifying morality amidst chaos…or even about stripping codes of structure that we recognize as “right” in their power and judging them, for less than two hours (and in the context of a harrowing plot) by actions instead of words. Saboteur is fascinating for all that it represents about Western society and Democracy during the time it was made.

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