The Man Who Knew Too Much: Melodic Call to Hostage Hope — Işık Barış Fidaner

Let’s recall four critical scenes in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956):

1) Stranger delivers message while being murdered in the market
2) Father calls son but unable to reach him in the church
3) Hitman unable to murder the prime minister in the concert
4) Mother calls son and manages to reach him in the embassy

In metaphor something is substituted for something else, whereas in metonymy something is combined with something. So these four scenes stage the following operations:

1) It stages an accurate metaphor operation
2) It stages a failed metonymy operation.
3) It stages a failed metaphor operation.
4) It stages an accurate metonymy operation.

As you can see:
— A metaphor operation is accurate in the market but it fails in the concert.
— A metonymy operation fails in the church but it’s accurate in the embassy.

Let’s interpret the operations by matching them to the relevant places:

1) Market is the place of exchange where substitutions must succeed: Price.
2) Church is the house of God where combinations must fail: Faith.
3) Concert is where multitudes dance and where substitutions must fail: Melody.
4) Embassy is the house of interlocutors where combinations must succeed: Message.

In addition, each scene bears witness to a secondary operation that bridges these notions:

1) Child taken hostage by the other couple as the price of the message in the market.
2) Priest gives message of faith in response to the implications of the woman’s leaving.
3) The gun that emerges among concert melodies misses its mark due to the woman’s scream.
4) The message that the melody delivers recovers from the price by help of the other woman’s faith.

Now let’s call the child hope and summarize the trajectory:

1) In the market, your exchange succeeds but your hope is taken hostage.
2) You have faith in God in response to the implications of your hope being taken hostage.
3) Every turmoil in the ocean of melodies makes you feel that your hope remains hostage.
4) You can reach your hostage hope by delivering melodies to the interlocutor.


Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


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