In April 1962 François Truffaut wrote a letter to Alfred Hitchcock:
“Dear Mr. Hitchcock,
In the course of my discussions with foreign journalists, I have come to realize that people’s conception of your work is often very superficial. Moreover, the kind of propaganda we were responsible for in ‘Cahiers du Cinéma’ (Notebooks on Cinema) was excellent as far as France was concerned, but inappropriate for America because it was too intellectual. Since I have become a director myself, my admiration for you has in no way diminished; on the contrary, it has grown stronger and changed. I have watched all your films five or six times, increasingly from the standpoint of the production process. There are many directors with a love for the cinema, but what you possess is a love of celluloid itself and it is that which I would like to talk to you about. I would like you to grant me a tape-recorded interview which would take about eight days to conduct and would add up to about thirty hours of recordings. The point of this would be to distil not a series of articles but an entire book, which would be published simultaneously in New York and Paris, then, probably later, more or less everywhere in the world.
In Los Angeles Alfred Hitchcock was directing his 48th film, ‘The Birds’. He wired Truffaut to say that the interview could go ahead, beginning on August 13th 1962, his birthday.
Hitchcock agreed to spend a week during the final edit of The Birds answering 500 questions spanning his entire career. Truffaut quizzed Hitchcock film by film, in much the same way as Oedipus consulted the Oracle of Delphi.
Four years later, around the end of 1966, the book LE CINEMA SELON ALFRED HITCHCOCK/CINEMA ACCORDING TO HITCHCOCK was finally ready. Truffaut had occasionally interviewed Hitchcock during those four years to ensure that his book would be up to date.
Partly as a result of the book, in 1968 American film critics began looking at Hitchcock’s work differently and taking it more seriously.
In 1983, a year before his death, Truffaut introduced the final corrections and the definitive version appeared.
Around the year 2000, for the first time the Belgian film director Guido Henderickx (Moeder, waarom leven wij?, Verbrande brug, Proefkonijnen, Koning van de wereld) told his friend, actor Damiaan De Schrijver, why he and many other film enthusiasts all over the world regarded the book as his film bible. The seed was sown.
In the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut which appeared in 2015, film directors underline the importance of the book and of Hitchcock’s work.
In 2019 De Koning, De Schrijver and Haelvoet set about turning this iconic reference work into a stage play.
It all began with the broken ice. Truffaud was still a film critic when in the winter of 1955 Hitchcock granted him his first interview for ‘Cahiers du Cinema’. Just before that, Truffaut, nervous about meeting his idol, fell through the ice on a frozen pond. An unruffled Hitchcock suggested that they postpone the interview. Years later Hitchcock had this to say about it: “Every time I drink a whisky on the rocks, I think of you.”
by Bert Haelvoet, Damiaan De Schrijver and Matthias de Koning
with Bert Haelvoet and Damiaan De Schrijver
text after François Truffaut’s ’Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock’