North by Southwest
This book reveals a fatal error in the screenplay of the movie North by Northwest. The error destroys the story's credibility. But though this movie has been very popular for almost sixty years, the error apparently has never before been noted. This essay identifies the error and suggests a psychological reason why it is never caught. Please read the long summery before buying this book. More
Although no one seems to have ever noted it, there is a fatal logical error in the screenplay of the great Alfred Hitchcock movie, North by Northwest. Perhaps it hasn't been noticed because movie viewers always exercise what literary scholars call "suspended disbelief." It is usually apparent that the circumstances being depicted on the screen are not realistic to some degree, but we movie watchers automatically and unthinkingly overlook this. We couldn't enjoy any film if we didn't. However, the screenplay error in North by Northwest does not concern minor matters. Its story is not merely implausible compared to reality. It is absolutely impossible compared to itself. The title of the present little book, North by Southwest, is a play on the movie's title intending to suggest that just as it is an impossible direction, one can't go north and south at the same time, so too is the crucial event in this movie impossible.
The fact of this logical error is of no great significance. Everyone makes mistakes, even Einstein. Of course, as an event in film history, and because this movie is a classic, the error is worth noting. However, there is another even more compelling reason. Namely, this gross error apparently has never been noted despite North by Northwest having been around for more than half a century and having established itself as a truly great, genre creating film. Literally millions of us have carefully watched and thoroughly enjoyed it. Critics agree it is an icon, one of the best in the history of films. And what is particularly significant, its screenplay has won awards. For example, the Screenwriters Guild of America judged it 21st in their ranking of the 101 greatest screenplays. All of this despite this screenplay's story being logically impossible! Yet apparently this film's error has never been caught notwithstanding its being not the least bit subtle nor obscure. It is obvious, right before our eyes, yet we just don't see it. What a fascinating fact about and compelling demonstration of the limitations and inadequacies of normal human functioning!
The present book divulges the movie's logical flaw and hypothesizes a psychological reason why people miss, dismiss and discredit conspicuous evidence. It then suggests this normal psychological process as in part responsible for a contemporary problem of great importance which some people dismiss despite conspicuous evidence.
The price of this little book is deliberately set high in order to discourage causal readers. Unless you have a particular interest in film history and/or human behavior you should not read this since knowledge of the error might prevent you from ever again enjoying this superb movie.
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