Monday, July 9, 2012

Gambling on Trust in To Catch a Thief

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianity
by Ben Howard

The movie To Catch A Thief is centered around the idea of identity and trust.  The main character, John Robie, is suspected of numerous thefts based entirely on a life of crime that occurred more than a decade in the past.  In the intervening years, Mr. Robie has fought for the French underground movement during World War II and was granted parole for his crimes.  He has established himself as an upstanding citizen, but as soon as the high end thefts begin he is the number one subject.  He is distrusted by his former colleagues, he is distrusted by the authorities, and ultimately he is distrusted by Frances, someone he has never even met. 

The movie asks a very serious question.  How do you prove innocence when your past brings with it the suspicions of guilt?  Robie only finds a path to proving his innocence when those around him begin to trust him, even though they have no reason to believe his protestations of innocence.  The trust of Mr. Hughson, Frances’ mother Jessie, and ultimately Frances herself allow Mr. Robie to capture the actual burglar and clear his name.  This carries over to our life as well.  We often try and protect ourselves by only trusting those who have not disappointed us, but we must afford trust even to those we find suspicious, otherwise we are condemning them on nothing more than reputation.  This is difficult and does not come naturally to us, but overcoming our suspicions and prejudices is essential to the redemption of others.

-Gambling, insurance, and chance are central motifs to the first half of the movie.  This really brings out the trust aspect of the film by making it clear that trust is a risk.

-At first, Frances finds the idea of a jewel thief enticing.  When she experiences the theft herself she feels violated and the romance of this forbidden endeavor is stripped away.  I think this shows us that though many things seem alluring, it is only our romanticized view that makes them look that way.  In reality, they are cruel and they lead to a lot of pain for those involved.

-I’m not sure that this is intentional, but there does seem to be an element of class warfare in this movie.  The rich lifestyle of the Riviera is contrasted with the poverty of the waiters and other members of Robie’s past.  Hitchcock seems to portray the waiters as more authentic, even though they are involved in the thefts.


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