“Psycho” Parlour Scene Analysis

Everyone has as a good and evil side to him or her. In this scene of Psycho it shows the both sides of Marion and Norman. Through the use of camera angles, film techniques, dialogue, and sound effects, the film portrays the main characters, as they are being trapped, unable to escape their state of mind, the guilt of their actions. These sides are shown mostly through the lighting. Certain conflicts and how the characters deal with them and each other are what shape the structure of the movie.

These conflicts show the audience many sides of good and evil portrayed by the different characters in particular Marion and Norman.

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Lighting is used expressively in the film. When Marion goes to the Bates motel the lighting is more subdued. Norman’s office, parlour and house are all dark with very less light and prominent shadows. Lighting is also used to hide the identity of the killer. In the parlour itself, Hitchcock begins his work.

The room is small, barely big enough for the two chairs, the lamp table, coffee table, and chest that occupy it.

On the lamp table is a lamp, which is the only source of light in the room and thus the key light within the scene. The characters’ positions within the room and how they are lit by this single source key the audience to the characterizations. Marion, for instance, sits near and slightly behind the lamp. Her face is well lit, and she, like the lamp, appears to radiate glowing warmth. Despite the fact that she has stole forty thousand dollars from her employer, she is not hidden in shadows of evil or consumed by the darker side of her nature.

"Psycho" Parlour Case Study

Leaving Marion in light indicates that redemption and atonement is possible. The angle of the light source for this scene is high on the wall between the two figures, but closer and illuminating Marion more. The light falls on Marion’s head, and a beam of light points directly at Marion.

This suggests that Marion is the focus of Norman’s attention and makes her seem more vulnerable because she is “in the spotlight” or “in the sights” of the killer. On the other hand, Hitchcock positions Norman far from the light source and slightly to one side.

The effect is a harsh line-light and shadow-across Norman’s face, re-emphasizing the clash of his dual personality. Norman is also immersed in low-key lighting. The result is an unnatural harshness that indicates something is hidden. Back lighting and fill lighting are kept to a minimum, resulting in sharp, angular shadows cast gloomily on the wall and ceiling above Norman.

Hitchcock also cleverly uses camera angles to reveal all the audience needs to know about the troubled mind of Norman. As he did with the lighting, Hitchcock shapes the scene in terms of contrasts.

We see Marion sitting comfortably in her chair, leaning slightly forward, and enjoying a sandwich Norman has made for her. Hitchcock places the camera near eye level so the audience sees Marion as two people might see each other while sitting and talking. There is nothing unusual in this. In fact, this particular angle provides the audience with a sense of normalcy and comfort in Marion’s presence.

Hitchcock, however, moves out of the comfort zone to shoot Norman from an unnaturally low perspective. Only when they are put side by side there can any meaning be taken.

The shift to Norman’s angle suggests that Norman’s world is skewed, off balance. We feel uncomfortable in this position because we are not used to viewing the world from such an angle. The mise-en-scene emphasizes the duality that exists not only within Norman Bates but also within all of us.

For example, Marion is surrounded by scenic details that make her a sympathetic character, not without flaw but certainly not one to condemn too harshly. She sits at ease in her chair. In front of her is a tray with a small meal prepared by Norman.

There is also a build up a feeling of unease in the viewer because they are in contrast to Norman’s feigned friendliness to Marion. He smiles and acts with boyish kindness while at the same time plotting Marion’s savage murder.

Throughout the film, snippets of the dual nature of humanity present themselves, and throughout the film, lighting, camera angle and mise-en-scene make their contributions to the total concept. Their presence in the movie is consistent and each shift is justifiable, yet nowhere in the film do these three elements come together with greater effect and with greater contrast than in Norman’s parlour.