The Macguffin Library

Noam Toran & Onkar Kular

14 September 2008


A term attributed to Alfred Hitchcock, the “MacGuffin” is a cinematic plot device, usually an object that serves to set and keep the story in motion despite lacking intrinsic importance. In Hitchcock’s words, it is “the object, the gimmick, if you will… that the spies are after… The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the object, plans, documents or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters…” Examples of MacGuffins are the statue from the Maltese Falcon, the glowing suitcase from Pulp Fiction and Kiss Me Deadly, “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane, and the monographed cigarette lighter in Strangers on a Train. 
The project considers the MacGuffin as a unique object typology, existing solely within the constraints of cinema, and defined in shape and function to achieve the singular purpose of driving a filmic narrative. The MacGuffin Library proposes the foundations for a library of future MacGuffins, produced by first authoring a series of fictional film plots which are used to inform a collection of objects. The film plots and accompanying objects serve to exemplify the repetitive format of cinematic genres, as well as the varying ways these genres are used as instruments of social critique.