|fig.1 film poster|
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, ‘Psycho’ is a 1960 American horror film that is well recognised and received film even in today’s society. Based upon Robert Bloch’s book under the same name, ‘Psycho’ was completed under a low budget yet retains a large number of memorable scenes. An example of this is the famous shower scene, married to the distinct sound track of unsettling notes. This film in particular stands out from the rest of Hitchcock’s films like ‘Rear Window’ and ‘Vertigo’ that utilise a larger budget and so relies less on expansive and complex sets and scenes.
The film starts by following Marion Crane, a real estate secretary who steals a large sum of money. After running away we see the psychological effects it has on Marion as it impacts upon her nerves. She eventually reaches a motel where she is murdered. From this point on the story follows her sister, Lila and Marion’s boyfriend, Sam. They attempt to trace down the location of Marion resulting in the discovery of Norman’s split personality.
With the film being directed by Alfred Hitchcock it is no surprise that ‘Psycho’ is full of suspense. Achieved through using Hitchcock’s formula of providing the sufficient amount of information the film is capable of holding the audience’s attention. "Hitchcock devotes his full attention and skill to treating them as if they will be developed for the entire picture” (Ebert, R. 1998). ‘Psycho’ has been written with the first half following a character that is killed off later in the film. While this is a convention that is not commonly used today it is used to great effect by Hitchcock. From the start the camera is led to believe that the main protagonist of the film is Marion the camera takes up her point of view through a variety of features. These include over the shoulder shots, close ups and non-diegetic dialogue. For instance while Marion is driving the audience can hear her mind wonder and imagine the conversations taking place in her head. The increase of noise and blinding imagery describe the psychological stress building up without explicitly telling the audience.
|fig.2 Marion driving car through rain|
The camera pans keeping the brick of money and Marion fresh in the audience’s mind hinting towards her train of thought.
|fig.3 camera focuses on money|
Throughout the first portion of the film the audience is encouraged to form attachments towards this character leading to an altogether more shocking death. This forces the viewers to transfer their invested emotions from Marion to Lila and Sam.
Hitchcock was also far bolder in terms of imagery that was being shown. The famous shower scene would not have been considered suitable for screens at the time. While considered tame by today’s standards the scene consisted of a naked women and the use of violent imagery and blood. This questioned the norm of cinema standards at the time.
“That had more than a hand in redefining the role of the spectator in terms of mainstream cinema, most notably perhaps in the famous shower sequence which re-explored the nature of cinematic voyeurism.” (Wood, D. 2000)
Following Hitchcock’s concept of information being key he ensures that the viewer’s attention is directed to essential components of the story. Alongside conveying the Marion’s thoughts through merely directing the camera angle, Hitchcock is able to withhold information with a number of carefully planned shots.
As always the biggest surprise is left towards the end and ‘Psycho’ is no exception. Incorporating psychology into the film, Hitchcock has managed to create a twist that reflects upon the split personality of a broken man. While better understood by the greater public today psychological issues such as multiple personality disorder was not well known at the time of the film’s release. Leading to what is often discussed as the film’s low point the penultimate scene takes up a much slower pace lacking the suspense that is shown by the rest of the film and would be seen as unnecessary in this age. Despite this the final monologue that is given by Norman’s other personality leaves the audience on the edge of their seats as the camera focuses in on his face and the personality changes to something far more sinister. In all ‘Psycho’ has retained its psychological horror factor and is easy recognisable even 50 years later from its original release.
Ebert, R. (1998) 'Psycho'
http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-psycho-1960 (accessed 31/01/17)
Grant, R. (1960) 'Psycho: Archive review'
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/oct/22/psycho-hitchcock-archive-review-horror (accessed 31/01/17)
Wood, D. (2000) 'Psycho (1960)'
http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/12/13/psycho_1960_review.shtml (accessed 31/01/17)
fig.1 'psycho' film poster
http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_md2wvk9i5A1qh35m6o1_1280.jpg (accessed 31/01/17)
http://1125996089.rsc.cdn77.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/psycho021.jpg (accessed 31/01/17)
http://alivingston.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/files/2011/12/money-psycho.jpg (accessed 31/01/17)