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Driving Under the Influence

Franchesco Casadidio

In North by Northwest, the scene in which Mr. Thornhill is driving under the influence, the film makes the argument that driving in that state will produce one of three results; possibility of killing oneself, possibility of hurting someone, or getting caught by the authorities. It is interesting to note that even though Mr. Thornhill had been forced to consume a large quantity of alcohol he was able to regain consciousness to help advance the plot and build the argument that driving in such state will only lead to a negative outcome. In this long take, the audience is able to appreciate the three things that will occur if one chooses to drive under the influence of alcohol.

The first result that can come from driving under the influence is the possibility of killing oneself. Through the narrative of the film the audience gets the idea that Mr. Thornhill was put into this situation so that he would run the car down the cliff which would make it seem as an accidental death. It is important to note that the director decides to make this the first consequence because whosoever decides to drink and drive is putting their life in danger.

The second result that comes from driving under the influence is putting the lives of others in danger. Even though Mr. Thornhill did not have someone as a passenger there is a part in the scene in which he almost hits someone riding a bicycle. This shot creates the argument that after putting one’s life in danger the person under the influence is risking the lives of other people. There is the possibility in which one can take the life of another person or severely hurt someone else by making the decision of driving under the influence.

The third result of driving under the influence that the film makes is getting caught by the authorities. After escaping the possibility of driving off the cliff and almost hitting someone riding a bicycle, Mr. Thornhill is left with no other option but to get caught by the authorities. He crashes into a car and is taken into custody by the policeman that was chasing him. The film makes the argument that even if one does not kill himself or hurt someone else in the process of driving under the influence, the person that decides to drive in such a state will ultimately be caught by the police.

The way in which the scene of Mr. Thornhill driving under the influence unfolds makes a strong argument that driving in that state is a bad decision because one of three results will occur; possibility of killing oneself, possibility of hurting someone, or getting caught by the authorities. The manner in which this scene unfolds is interesting because it leaves no room for anything good to happen from driving under the influence. It is important to take note of the different consequences because the film is implicitly educating its audience that one should not drive under the influence because nothing good will come from it.

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4 responses to “Driving Under the Influence

  1. tnp773

    Interesting topic. I like that you saw the beginning sequence of the film as sort of a teaching point. Do you think that the fact Thornhill escapes in the end with no punishment and gets rewarded throughout the narrative takes away from your thesis?
    Regardless, thanks for that insight.

  2. I never thought of this, however I feel that the audience was supposed to feel fear more from the fact that Thornhill had no way of proving that he was the victim in this situation. When he returned to the scene of the crime with the police officers, all evidence of the previous night had been completely erased from the room and the people there he interacted with. I felt this was far more terrifying and chilling than Thornhill’s experience behind the wheel.

  3. kperetz ⋅

    I agree that there is not a possibility of a positive outcome, and I never really thought of the scene from this angle. I now see how this can be seen as an educational move.

  4. bjones109

    Although I agree with the point you raise, i believe that in this particular case, Thornhill didn’t have much of a choice. Driving under the influence of any drug is never a good idea, Thornhill had to make a decision to not take control of the car and face imminent death, or take control of the car and face possible death. I believe the point you are raising is a very good one, however i don’t believe this sequence provides the best example.

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