Notorious

Notorious Summary and Analysis of Part 3: A Marriage

Summary

We see Alicia’s car pulling up to a large waterfront mansion, and the chauffeur lets her out. She walks up to the grand front entrance and waits to be admitted. A butler opens the door and Alicia tells him to let Sebastian know that she has arrived. She looks around the ornate room, before the butler lets her into a sitting area. When she looks to the staircase, she sees an older woman descending, which appears to make Alicia nervous. The woman apologizes for keeping Alicia waiting, introduces herself as Alexander’s mother, and notes Alicia’s resemblance to her father. “You did not testify at your father’s trial, we thought that unusual,” Madame Sebastian says, and Alicia lies that her father did not want her to testify. “I wonder why,” Madame Sebastian says, as Sebastian enters the room. Sebastian’s mother suggests they should join their guests in the other room, and the three of them go, with Sebastian removing Alicia’s shawl on the way.

In the party room, Alicia is introduced to a man named Eric Mathis, a man named Emil Hupka, two other men, and Dr. Anderson. Each kiss Alicia’s hand upon meeting her. Alicia seems to know Dr. Anderson from before, and the butler announces that dinner is now served. All the guests take their seats at a long dinner table. As she sits down, Alicia notices Emil Hupka pointing at several bottles of wine and looking distressed. Sebastian hastily pushes Hupka’s hands down and shushes him, ushering him towards his seat. Alicia laughs at one of Sebastian’s jokes, but then looks back at the wine bottle that seems to have been so controversial with a distressed expression. We then see Hupka in the hall, a look of worry on his face as he paces around. The scene shifts back to the dinner table, where the other men consult one another about what is to be done about Hupka. While one man says that “it was a very understandable slip,” another insists that “it was a very dangerous slip.” Eric Mathis tells the men that he will decide what to do with Hupka, but stops short as Hupka reenters the room.

Hupka stands beside the table and brings a message from Madame Sebastian, asking where they want to drink their coffee. When he apologizes for “making an exhibition,” the men assure him that it is completely understandable and he is forgiven. “You have been overworking…You need a rest. Your health is very important to us,” Mathis says. Hupka agrees and says he should be leaving, but Mathis insists that he should come with him, offering to drive him. Hupka protests, but Mathis assures him that he can drive. The men wish Hupka goodbye and he apologizes again for causing a scene in front of strangers. Hupka and Mathis leave.

The following day we see crowds gathered on the beach. We see Madame Sebastian sitting beside Sebastian as he looks through binoculars, noting that Alicia has been gone for a long time. Sebastian urges his mother to be kinder to Alicia. Elsewhere, Devlin meets up with Alicia and greets her warmly. In a hushed tone, he asks where Sebastian is, and Alicia tells him that he’s in a box in the stands and probably cannot see them. Devlin takes out a piece of paper and a pen and Alicia begins telling him the names of the men who were at dinner. She describes Dr. Anderson’s appearance, then Emil Hupka who “made quite a scene about a wine bottle the other night,” and whom she guesses was killed after the dinner. When he asks if there’s any more information, Alicia says, “You can add Sebastian to my list of playmates,” which seems to upset Devlin. When Devlin disparages her for wasting no time with Sebastian, she scolds him for letting her go with him, telling Devlin that he could have stopped her from taking the assignment if he wanted to. He merely says, “A man doesn’t tell a woman what to do; she tells herself.” He then tells her that he knew she could never change.

Alicia is distraught about Devlin’s coldness and begins to cry. “Keep on your toes, it’s a tough job we’re on,” Devlin tells her, as he spots Sebastian walking towards them. Sebastian greets Devlin and Devlin leaves. When Alicia asks Sebastian if he enjoyed the race, he tells her that he was watching her and Devlin speaking the whole time through his binoculars. Alicia’s face falls as she realizes she was being watched. When Sebastian accuses her of having an appointment with Devlin, she laughs and tells him that they ran into each other by accident. “I watched you. I thought, maybe you’re in love with him,” Sebastian says gravely, but Alicia assures him that Devlin means nothing to her. “Would you care to convince me that Mr. Devlin means nothing to you?” Sebastian asks.

At Prescott’s office, Prescott tells a Brazilian government official, Mr. Barbosa, that Professor Wilhelm Rensler, a scientist going by the name of Dr. Anderson, is living at Mr. Sebastian’s house. Suddenly, they are interrupted by an announcement that Alicia Huberman is there to meet them. When one of the men, Mr. Beardsley, questions Alicia’s loyalty, Devlin speaks on her behalf, insulting the man, but immediately apologizing for his rash words. Alicia enters and greets Prescott, who introduces her to Beardsley and Barbosa. She takes a seat and apologizes for breaking the rules by coming to the offices, before telling them that she needs advice because Mr. Sebastian has proposed and needs an answer as soon as possible. “Are you willing to go this far for us?” asks Prescott. When Prescott asks Devlin’s advice, he says she ought to do it, before sarcastically asking Alicia “what inspired Sebastian to go this far.” Alicia tells Devlin that Sebastian is in love with her and thinks she is in love with him. Before giving her the go-ahead, Devlin suggests that if Sebastian wants to take Alicia on a long honeymoon, that will hold up their operations, but Prescott says that he thinks they can rely on Alicia to get back into the house quickly enough. Abruptly, Devlin leaves as Prescott thanks Alicia for her work.

The scene shifts to Sebastian speaking to his mother, who questions whether Alicia came to Brazil with the express desire of ensnaring Sebastian. Sebastian doesn’t believe her, however, and refuses to discuss it further with her. He scolds his mother for always being jealous of any woman that he is interested in, and informs her that the wedding will take place the following week, leaving the room. The scene shifts again and we see a car pull up to Sebastian’s mansion. Sebastian and Alicia come in to the house to find it dim. They are returning from their honeymoon, but no one is there to greet them. Sebastian asks Alicia if she wants to eat anything, but she tells him she is tired and they go up to bed.

In the next scene, Alicia, Sebastian’s new bride, is giving orders to the servants in Sebastian’s mansion, unpacking her belongings. Finding the closet too small, Alicia approaches a locked closet, which a butler tells her is used for storage. She asks him for a key, but the butler tells her that he doesn’t have one. “Madame Sebastian has charge of all the house keys,” the butler tells her. When Alicia asks where Sebastian is, the butler tells her that he is in the study with some of his business associates having a meeting. The scene shifts down to the study, where Sebastian asks Dr. Anderson for a “written report” and Dr. Anderson informs him that his work is done. Alicia knocks and begins to open the door to the study. When Sebastian comes over and invites her in, she apologizes for interrupting and tells him that some of the closets are locked upstairs and that she would like the keys. He says that he will get the keys, and goes upstairs with her.

Upstairs Sebastian goes to get the keys from his mother. Waiting in the hallway, Alicia listens in on their conversation and hears them arguing about it. Madame Sebastian eventually hands them over, and Sebastian delivers them to Alicia, telling her that he will busy for the rest of the morning. We see Alicia opening various closets and doors in the house. When she goes to open one door in particular, the butler tells her that it is the wine cellar and that Mr. Sebastian has the key, which stops her short as she remembers what happened to Hupka. As they walk away, she looks back on the lock on the door as ominous music plays.

Alicia meets with Devlin in a park and tells him about the fact that Sebastian has the only key to the wine cellar. When he tells her to get the key from Sebastian, she says that she doesn’t know how, and that if she got in the wine cellar she wouldn’t even know what to do. Devlin tells her that when she gets in the wine cellar she ought to find a bottle that looks like the one that Hupka pointed to that night, but Alicia resists, telling Devlin that she’s no mastermind. “It’s no fun, Dev,” Alicia tells him, but he tells her it’s too late for that, then encourages her to get Sebastian to throw a large party next week. If she invites him, Devlin tells her, he can find out more about the wine cellar. Alicia tells Devlin that Sebastian suspects him of being in love with her, which might make his invitation harder to sell. Devlin responds that she should convince Sebastian to invite him on the grounds that his witnessing their marriage will calm any love he has for her. She agrees and Devlin tells her that he is flying to Berlin, but will be in town in time for a party next week. They say their goodbyes.

Analysis

Alicia's infiltration of Sebastian's mansion is significant and made all the more dramatic by the grandeur of the home. From the minute we see the mansion, its formality and scale, we realize the extent to which Alicia must go undercover, and the ways that her true identity must be covered up by a masterful performance. From the minute the butler opens the door, the photography of the film shifts, and we are yet again in Alicia's perspective. The camera remains stationary as Alexander Sebastian’s mother walks towards Alicia, which builds a kind of suspense. Trapped inside an elaborate world, a kind of dangerous and beautiful wonderland, Alicia must use her wits to protect herself and work for the good of the Americans who have hired her.

Adding to the suspense of the espionage is the fact that it is circumnavigated through a rather recognizable interpersonal drama between Sebastian and his mother-in-law. Madame Sebastian is suspicious of Alicia in the stereotypical way of the mother-in-law being suspicious of the woman her son admires. But her suspiciousness also has a patriotic tinge: she mistrusts Alicia's devotion to Nazism, her father's ideology. While the viewer is very familiar with the trope of the jealous or suspicious mother-in-law, Notorious puts a spin on this trope by mapping it onto to the political struggle between the Germans and the Americans. While Madame Sebastian does not necessarily suspect that Alicia is an American spy, there is something about her that makes Madame Sebastian suspicious. A major force threatening to reveal Alicia's angle is the threat of a mother's intuition.

In this section of the film we also learn that a large part of Alicia and Devlin’s romance rests on the question of whether Alicia can change, from "loose" daughter of a Nazi-at-large to a stay-at-home American girl devoted to Devlin. Devlin’s ability to write Alicia off as not being worth the effort is connected to his conviction that she is a fundamentally disloyal person, and that while she will help the Americans get the information they need, she will never become the loyal lover he desires. He is blinded by jealousy and his conviction that Alicia does not really care about him. The horrible irony is that the more he denigrates her and writes her off, the less loved she feels, and the less loyal she becomes, in spite of her love for him. Alicia and Devlin are fundamentally unable to trust one another, as Devlin feels too much loyalty to his job as a spy.

While there is frustration in knowing, as a viewer, that Devlin and Alicia are in love with one another in spite of not being able to admit it, the way that their romance gets entangled in espionage makes Alicia and Devlin's romantic narrative all the more exciting. The unbreechable distance between them, especially once Alicia has consented to marry Sebastian, makes their meetings all the more tense and exciting for the viewer. It would be too easy for Devlin and Alicia to just get together immediately, so the impossibility of their love heightens the feelings of romance between them. This ties in to the enduring tension between duty and devotion. When spies fall in love, they must keep their cards close to the chest, never revealing their true feelings, until it is absolutely safe to do so.