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Describe Hitchcock's techniques and themes in his classic film, "Psycho"

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Introduction

Describe Hitchcock's techniques and themes in his classic film, "Psycho" Sir Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) was a British film director. Having established his reputation in Britain in the 1930's with films such as The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938), he moved to Hollywood where his first film was Rebecca (1940). Outstanding among his numerous later works are the thrillers Strangers on a Train (1951), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). Though considered tame by today's standards, Psycho has done more to advance the horror genre than any other film of its time. Despite its low budget of �800,000, which was cheap even by 1960 standards, no other Hitchcock film had greater impact. The main themes that Psycho is based around are guilt, voyeurism, madness, paranoia and duality in people, parental influences, sexual desires and murder. Hitchcock invokes the guilt of the audience by making us see things we think we should not be watching, such as Marion in the shower, Marion in her underwear in the scenes where she is changing her clothes and she has just had sex with her boyfriend, Sam. In films in the 1960's, shower scenes or any other nudity was very risky. In the first scene, lots of flesh is shown as we see Janet Leigh in her bra. Bras were not shown in films before Psycho, as they were considered to be exposing too much. It was shocking for the audience, because areas such as the bathroom and the bedroom were thought of as private areas, not to be seen in films. However, this scene links to our own sexual desires, as the nudity of Janet Leigh in the shower scene provided a form of titillation for the audience, especially as she appeared to be enjoying herself so much. ...read more.

Middle

It also connotes the sexual repression and boy-like lack of experience in life. Parental influence is one of the major themes in Psycho. Norman felt sexually envious of his mother's partner and so killed both his mother and her boyfriend. Although he knows that "a son is a poor substitute for a lover", he felt as though he was being displaced. This links to the story of Oedipus, about the boy who fell in love with his mother and then married her, not knowing it was his mother. Later, Freud came up with the Oedipus complex, a theory that people develop sexual desires for their opposite sex parent when they are young. In boys, this is a conflict in which they wish to possess their mother sexually and perceive their mother's partner as a rival in love. Sam's theory that Norman killed Marion for the $40,000 to leave Bates Motel, is wildly off base, but serves the purpose of distressing Norman, as though he is accusing Norman of wanting to abandon his mother. "This house is my only world", says Norman. He is inseparable from his environment because the house imprisons him. The hotel seems to be Norman's reign, whereas the house represents Mother; When Norman is in the hotel, he is Norman, but when he is in the house, he becomes Mother. The house overlooks the hotel, almost as if Mother is overseeing Norman. What links the house and the hotel together is the long zigzagging pathway. This is where the transformation from mother to Norman occurs, for example when Marion first arrives at the Motel she sees mother in the window, but moments later, Norman comes down the pathway. ...read more.

Conclusion

Yet we find out that this is completely contradictory, as it is his mother that drives Norman to kill. Birds are also symbolic of freedom, something that both Norman and Marion feel they haven't got. In their conversation they talk about "private traps" and Marion states, "I am trapped". The stuffed birds in the parlour are all hunters, such as the owl, that watches and preys. This correlates to Norman preying Marion. Additionally, the theme of birds is continued with Marion's surname, Crane, and the town she is from, Phoenix. I think Hitchcock enjoyed using words that were similar to others or almost anagrams of others to create meaning. For instance, when Lila goes into Norman's untidy bedroom, on the record player, she finds Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony, which is similar to "erotica". Another example is "Marion", rearranged is "Normai", which is similar to the words "Normal" and "Norman". Marion signifies the normal, the mundane, as an ordinary secretary. She finds that she has had a moment of madness when stealing the cash, similar to Norman killing his mother in a moment of madness. It is the long discussion with Norman that caused Marion to go back out into the normal world and give back the money. Hitchcock's ideology in the film, Psycho is summed up perfectly by Norman Bates' statement, "We all go a little mad sometimes". Hitchcock is trying to say that whether you are an ordinary, perfectly sane person or a murdering schizophrenic, you can impulsively do something out of insanity. Psycho connects directly with our fears: Our fears that we might spontaneously commit a crime, our fears of being watched, our fears of becoming the victim of a madman, and of course, our fears of disappointing our mothers. ...read more.

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