is often cited as the most representative film of the director's distinct style. I've watched the film twice in the past few days, and I've been seeking out and reading whatever I can. Here are 2 Criterion essays on the film:http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/145http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/911
Those Criterion essays do an excellent job of explaining exactly what is so impressive about this film. Hitchcock's talents are on full display. The film is shot with an artistry that is almost unmatched in today's films. There are at least 2 signature scenes/shots in the film - the ending Odessa Steps homage and the crane shot at the beginning of the party that ends with a close up on the key. When speaking about individual Hitchcock scenes, these are both frequently mentioned as among his best. I'll add to those the final shot of the film, where Claude Rains has to walk back into his own home, doomed to his fate. The symmetry of the shot, and the way he gets smaller as he walks farther away and into the house/prison has lingered in my brain since I first saw it.
The film is very much concerned with keeping up appearances. The characters in the film are all pretending to be something they aren't in order to get what they want. The plot is perfect for Hitchcock's style because it allows for ample amount of suspense. The difference here, as the essays point out, is an undercurrent story that explores human relationships. The reason the film can resonate is because it has a human element absent from many of Hitchcock's greatest films (the happy ending may have something to do with this as well). Symbolism is present throughout the film, as there are distinct alcohol and key motifs used to relay how emotionally fragile many of the films characters are (especially Bergman).
Aside from the happy ending, I agree that this film is an excellent representation of Hitchcock's overall style. The film is stylish, while still maintaining its substance. And of course, there's a MacGuffin. I wouldn't call this my favorite Hitchcock film (I'd actually put it 5th or 6th), but it's a true classic and a great starting place for anyone just getting in to the director.
After reading over this post I realize its a bit rambling and disjointed. Oh well.