Psycho Analysis Psycho was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The horror film was made in the 1960s based on the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch. The film was distributed by Paramount Pictures in 1960 to 1968 and then by Universal studios 1968 to present. The thriller illustrates the encounter of secretary Marian Crane played by Janet Leigh who is hiding in an abandoned motel and the motels owner Norman Bates played by Anthony Perkins, it then proceeds to describe the aftermath of their encounter. The film was nominated for four Oscars including Best supporting actress for Janet Leigh and Best director for Alfred Hitchcock.
The picture also gained five wins, Best motion picture at the Edgar awards and again Janet Leigh Best supporting actress at the Golden Globe awards. Sir Alfred Hitchcock was born on the 13th August 1899 in London and died on the 29th April 1980 in Bel Air, Los Angles, California. The British filmmaker and producer developed many techniques in the horror and thriller genre. He directed more than fifty feature films and he remains one of the most popular and most recognised filmmakers in this modern day. Psycho was one of Hitchcock’s most successful films.
Produced on a highly constrained budget of $800,000, it was shot in black-and-white on a spare set. The extraordinary violence of the shower scene and the innocent lives extinguished by a disturbed murderer were all Ideas of Hitchcock and are now being used in many recent horror films. For the film Psycho Hitchcock was nominated Best Director at the Oscars in 1961 and also Best Director at the academy awards. He was also nominated for another five Oscars for films including Rear window, Spellbound, Life boat and Rebecca. The film Psycho was seminal, it changed audience positioning and made big changes in the film industry.
For example before the 1960s, the destination in horror films was usually far away from industrial cities and in abandoned places making the audience reassured but also less sensitive to real life situations.
But then Hitchcock brought horror into ‘our’ town or city creating that massive sense or realism that the murderer could be your next door neighbour. Audiences in the 1960 would have never experienced this therefore it would make them more fearful and it also raises questions about the amount of horror, violence we should be witnessing.
Tzvetan Todorov is an intellectual author particularly known for his work on the structure of narrative. Todorov’s approach is based on the belief in a common basis of human experience and the undying narrative behind all human activity. His sequence is made up of five propositions highlighting the basic state of narrative.
The three main propositions for the film psycho would be that the state of equilibrium is at the start when everything is in order, it is then disrupted by Marion running away with the money and then new equilibrium is everything back to normal.
Although apart from one disruption of Marion’s getaway there are many throughout the film for example Marion’s murder, Arbogast’s murder and also the conflict between Norman, Lila and Sam. At the begging credits Hitchcock has used slide transitions to showing the captions of the film. The transition is from the left and the right cutting through the middle then leaving the director name ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ and the title ‘Psycho’ etc. Bold white letters are used in contrast to the black background to make the words stand out.
The distorted letters are like a puzzle which connotes chaos and shows the natural order of things is disturbed foreboding anonymous signs of danger. The time, date and place is shown just like a detective putting the audience into the position. A voyeuristic feel of the camera as it pans to the right and then zooms into the private world of Marion and Sam. Marion is shown in this first seem to be promiscuous sleeping with a married man but her nakedness makes her seem vulnerable.
A narrative function is used when there is an extreme close up of the money and then to the suitcase this shows us what Marion is thinking.
A close up is used when Marion is in the car making a closer relationship between her and the audience. The audiences are positioned to identify the emotions of her character for example the non-verbal communication of her pursed lips and wide eyes bring a sense of paranoia. The light from the cars in front reflects of her face making it hard for her to see and making her look more worried. Night time brings a sense of fear nd danger and the pathetic fallacy of the downpour of rain causes her to go to the motel. Hitchcock uses motifs which are unnerving heard at the start and in this scene of the movie.
The Bates motel is unfamiliar isolated and off the highway, when she pulls up to the house it is silhouetted. When we first meet Norman Bates he is very helpful, well-mannered and comical. A close shot is used when Norman picks the key from the hook as he is very hesitant he insists it’s closer and easier for him. He offers he milk and sandwiches for dinner which seems very childlike, pure and innocent.
When Norman brings the food to the cabin she says his other isn’t quite herself today this, raises enigma for the audience of why she isn’t herself. The shower scene is one of Hitchcock’s most famous ideas now being used in films today.
The domestic setting of the bathroom which is a part of our daily routine is used to make the scene much more terrifying. Marion is a young beautiful blonde woman, her being alone makes her much more vulnerable as well as her being naked which sexualizes her. Hitchcock continues to use voyeurism throughout the film especially in this scene we are peeping into Marion’s everyday life.
She begins to have a shower and we acknowledge a silhouette of the murderer through the shower curtain this raises extreme enigma as we immediately want to know who it is. The director uses a sense of the slasher movie when the victims are killed by the use of a knife only, he does this because there is an easy accessibility to knives making it more worrying for viewers. Hitchcock has chosen us to hear the non-diagetic repeated sound of the knife ripping through the flesh to make the death more realistic so the audience can hear the squelching of the knife.
The music then begins to slow and the pitch becomes lower this connotes the slow and painful death. A slow zoom is used into the plug allowing the audience to assimilate the information. The plug then becomes Marion’s open eye this is done by a dissolved shot which is the transition of fading away where the other image is appearing. The camera zooms out from the eye using a canted shot connoting something isn’t right and that the natural order of society has been disrupted in someway. The open eye is used to make us feel disturbed and that something isn’t normal.
The camera then moves to the money reminding us that she was going to take the money back and making us ask the question will Norman find it. A high camera angle is used in the scene when Arbogast is on the stairs this is to make him look small and powerless. The slight opening of the door teases us and raises questions. A birds eye view is used making the statuesque disrupted and dramatic irony occur as we can see everything. High pitched music is used to indicate something has happened it is used to shock the audience and the knife is in a significant position so it can be scene.
Shadows are cast on the wall of Norman making him look distorted which suggests his body shape isn’t as it should be.
When he falls down the stairs a close up is used as well as non-verbal communication to depict him looking shocked and in pain making it much more frightening. During the scene when Lyla is in Norman’s room we see that it has been kept the same throughout his life from what it was when he was a child. We know this because the cupboards are cluttered with toys and games this connotes he still has not changed or moved on from his mother’s death.
In shock Lyla hits the lit light bulb above her creating shadows around the room. This distorts everything and makes moving abnormal shapes which enforce terror on the audience. A monologue of Norman and his mother is used at the end of the film.
The use of proxemics used is important as it makes Norman look and feel alone as he is placed in the right hand corner of the room, the long shot also makes him look distant from the audience making us feel sorry for him. The place in which he is almost looks like an asylum and the prison bars on the wall connote his imprisonment and creates a sense of danger to the audience.
A blanket is around Norman or his mother makes them look vulnerable and cold. During the monologue we notice slightly the change from Norman to his mother. At first he looks frightened and nervous but then his eyes change to be looking around the room which fits in with the monologue ‘There probably watching me ‘. The camera is close up making a relationship between the audience and mother.
She then looks at the audience and smiles we then know it is his mother and it makes an even stronger connection between the audience and the mother.
Hitchcock throughout the movie uses strong iconography of the horror genre. An example of this would be in the shower scene when Norman washes away the blood. This is also relates to religion as the washing away of blood is the washing away of sins, just like a priest when cleansing his hands. The staircase used when Arbogast is murdered is also a use of this as this dramatic irony creates suspension. A skeleton is used when she is in the cellar which represents death, it is also repetition of iconography.
The use of non-diagetic music throughout the film brings tension upon the audience for example the shower scene, Arbogast’s murder and when Lyla is in the cellar. In conclusion I believe that audiences have changed since the 1960’s. Media is still changing now and our knowledge and opinions are increasing and we are still experiencing new things. In the 1960’s the media was still experiencing new thing therefore I think the audience theory would have been the Cultivation Theory. This is when audiences watch more and more film and television and they gradually develop views about the world.
This approach draws attention to the fact that audiences gained a lot of their knowledge about the world from the media.
This also has its downfall as if it increases through the years people’s views of the world may become false. In this present day I think that if we are exposed to too much violence and sexuality we will become less sensitive to the real matters and behaviors. This is the Desensitization Theory. This theory draws attention to the volume of violence and sexual behaviors and raises questions about how much of this we should be witnessing.