Part of the reasons for this success is the chemistry between the two leads, Ingrid Bergman as Alicia Huberman and Cary Grant as Devlin. Bergman and Grant's characters have an interesting and realistic relationship. They genuinely love each other and they're not afraid to embrace this. And when it comes down to the suspenseful climax where Alicia is at her weakest, Grant portrays Devlin with a nervous look in his eye that flickers all over the room and his creased forehead beautifully reflects Devlin's concern. During this scene Bergman is a sad sight to see, after being put through very disparate times by her country, and her bosses. She looks as though she's about to faint, staring nervously towards the exit and crumpled in Grant's arm. But great acting isn't limited to this scene of course. Grant gives a superb performance as Devlin throughout the film, analysing every situation intensely, but the greatest performance is definitely Bergman's. You can't help but feel bad for her character-she just met the man of her dreams, when suddenly his bosses force her into a dangerous marriage to the antagonist of the piece (more on that later). Not only is there complex characterisation to be achieved already but at the start of the picture she has to play someone who's insanely drunk, without touching a drop herself. She nailed it. She had a lazy eye and her words were completely disoriented. The phrases were timed in a very peculiar method that works only through precise timing. She doesn't stumble and spit her words out as a lesser actress might, opting instead to walk with a mild limp and a terrifying, and somewhat attractive glint in her eye. A superb performance.
In every great film-noir you'll have a great villain. Usually someone quite menacing to watch, however in this film they have Alexander Sebastian, one of the great movie villains of the 1940s. And he's not great due to any real menace. He's great because he's a real person. He's on the wrong side. He's a controlling and manipulative husband. He has flaws. Everyone does. He's also madly in love with Alicia. He's only controlling of Alicia because he's jealous of her obvious attraction to Devlin. Everything he does to harm anyone he does out of fear. He's a very sympathetic antagonist, and not least because of Claude Rains' pitch perfect performance. When he sees Alicia and Devlin engaged in a passionate kiss across the room he feels self-pity, as reflected by a very crestfallen look from Rains. You feel bad for him because whilst he's on what may be regarded as the wrong side, it's because he genuinely believes in it. He's a tragic figure, but it's very good that his fate is left ambiguous. We don't know what happened to him and we have to decide for ourselves whether we think he escaped, got killed, pardoned, arrested-there's no way to find out for sure.
When it comes to sublime direction there's no one who is more notorious for consistent achievement than the great Alfred Hitchcock. Over 50 years after his last great film he is a household name. And in this film he earns his reputation. Every shot in the film comes from thought and gives the audience results. From his disorienting twisting of the camera during Bergman's first hangover to the blurred imagery when Bergman's character is at her weakest towards the end, every shot reveals something about the characters and how they're feeling, and the creative angles and camera movements come courtesy of cinematographer Ted Tetzlaff. Also, the way he creates suspense deserves special mention. Where most directors will create tension through clear threat of violence, Hitchcock opts to make mundane things like a wine bottle falling off a shelf or being carried across a room the most terrifying and gripping events that could ever happen. This film really shows his creativity, and his knack for giving viewers something extremely unexpected and through this creates genuine tension.
Ben Hecht's screenplay for this film deserves mention. Every one of the aforementioned moments of suspense came from his script. (Although it is true that Hitchcock was a screenplay contributor) Every line is there for a reason, sometimes for comments on alcoholism in our lives (mainly through Bergman's character), sometimes hints at what future plot or character developments are ahead, and sometimes it contributes to the love triangle between Alicia, Devlin and Alexander. Hecht's plot twist are unpredictable and every one of his characters is multi-faceted and layered like an onion.
In conclusion, Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious is a great film-noir, with brilliant character based drama, wonderful suspense and pitch perfect romance. Highly recommended that anyone wasting their time with this review goes and watches this masterpiece.