How Psycho Thrilled
From the very first scene in psycho, it is clear that the viewer will be sucked into the world of Marion Crane and Norman Bates.
This opening scene builds up tension and suspense due to the arbitrarily chosen window as the camera jolts to and fro before settling, making the viewer wonder about the significance of this particular block of buildings. In addition to this, the music score at the start changes as the camera cuts from the dynamic graphics of the titles, to the wide angle shot of the buildings. Diegetic music in the titles by Bernard Herrmann, consists of inharmonious sharp violin stabs with a quick tempo and repetitive pattern. This repetitive pattern score combines well with the flowing movement of the bizarre repeating patterns in the titles. As the camera cuts into the surveying pan Arizona city scene; the music score creates a sound bridge, transforming into a more reassuring but mysterious violin ensemble to work well with the mise-en-scene. Importantly, the first signal implied to show a dual-personality sense is the various mirrors used throughout the film. Marion’s reflection and many other protagonists’ reflections are portrayed in precisely situated mirrors. Significantly, mirrors are a particularly unique technique to deploy into a film. They create awareness that there is more to a character than what meets the eye according to body language and stature, they also show give distance between the viewer and the subject showing dissociative personalities. In the picture, left, Marion is shown suspiciously in a small claustrophobic toilet, attempting to count the money she has attained. This already implies to a viewer something is wrong, since a toilet represents a very personal and private place where a character should not be deprived of their privacy. Therefore, Hitchcock get’s viewers to ask questions, such as: what is there to hide? However, with the clever bird’s eye camera angle and conveniently placed tilted mirror the voyeur is conveyed with a sense that an ever pondering conscious mind can often lead to sub-conscious thoughts while in private spaces. Everyone has their guilty pleasures, and a simple blend of a mirror and a smartly placed bird’s eye camera angle can expose all this. The incidental music in this scene is particularly effective in creating tension, the crescendo of the violin mysterious ensemble when it is reaching its peak note, causes the audience to realise that Marion’s head is racing and boiling over with thoughts about the money. In contrast, when the violins calm down again, it seems to be that Marion is not overawed by the thoughts. By using these sound effects, the audience is able to once again able to discover what is going inside Marion’s mind. The simple technique of a violin crescendo and decrescendo or a change in tempo, can be extremely useful for a viewer as it links to a characters heartbeat and mind furthermore masterfully building up the swaying tower of tension, which can only be knocked down by horror.
The finale of the movie is unpredictable as no one can expect that Judy is going to die.
The motel is managed by a quiet young man called Norman who seems to be dominated by his mother.
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Hill, Charles A. and Marguerite H. Helmers. Defining visual rhetorics. London: Routledge, 2004. Print.
Orr, John. Hitchcock and twentieth-century cinema. London: Wallflower Press, 2005. Print.
Vertigo. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. Paramount Pictures, 1958. Film.