How Psycho Thrilled
Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho Psycho, by Alfred Hitchcock, was shocking for its time. Made in the 1960's when film censorship was very tight to today's standards, Hitchcock pushed the limits of what could be shown and did with psycho things that had never been done before. The cinematic art, symbolism and sub-conscious images in this film were brilliant for the time and still are now. Realised for this, psycho has been copied in many ways and the things that made it great have become very clichéd. 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.
Fundamental to this superb artistic expression is Hitchcock’s manipulative camera; the seemingly omniscient camera allows the viewer to observe the opening scenes in a voyeuristic way, this enables the viewer to feel as if they are seeing things they shouldn’t be. It begins with the unique dynamism to the bold title graphics; the camera then cuts in with a surveying pan over the city rooftops. The surveying pan almost arbitrarily but purposefully, gradually zooms into first one of the many buildings and then one of the many windows to explore before the audience is introduced to Marion and Sam. In the intimate post-coital opening scenes, the implicating camera later witnesses Janet Leigh’s undressing through a peephole. The building is also identified with an exact date, time and location, we can see from this that Hitchcock is trying to wrong-foot the viewer into thinking that there is no abnormality to come, although this of course sets the viewer completely oblivious to how the horror film unfolds. 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.
Almost all Hitchcock’s films are similar in the ideas, he was fond of shooting suspicious and psychological thrillers. Putting the visual effects as one of the main points of our discussion, it is important to state that Vertigo is very similar to Psycho. A triadic image is seen when Perkins appears in doubles, as Bates and Mother. The theme of “psychological consequences of seeing and being seen” considered in Vertigo is highlighted in the other Hitchcock’s films, especially in Rear Window and Psycho.Considering the main topics of these movies and the techniques used for their shooting, it may be concluded that the main message the author wanted to deliver is that that human desires may ruin everything what people desired. It seems that the problem of voyeurism and objectification is really important for the author, as he has implemented this theme in many American films. Thus, it may be concluded that visual effects, camera movements, music sound and other techniques the director uses while shooting a film are extremely important for movie perception (Vertigo. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1958). We have based our attention on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo and the effects the director used to reach the desired goal. The film director wanted to show us the different between seeing and being seen. He managed to do this via numerous camera and visual effects which added to the understanding of the scenes. Lightening and sound were also important as they paid our attention to the specific profiles and shots.Providing the audience with the story about a detective Scottie who had to retire from the police work because of the developing latent acrophobia and Madeleine/Judy who fell in love with each other but the strange story of Madeleine’s death does not allow Scottie and Judy be together (Orr, John, 2005). The finale of the movie is unpredictable as no one can expect that Judy is going to die.
In summary, Phoenix office worker Marion Crane is fed up with the way life has treated her. She has to meet her lover Sam in lunch breaks, and they cannot get married because Sam has to give most of his money away in alimony. One Friday, Marion is trusted to bank forty thousand dollars by her employer. Seeing the opportunity to take the money and start a new life, Marion leaves town and heads towards Sam's California store. Tired after the long drive and caught in a storm, she gets off the main highway and pulls into the Bates Motel. 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.