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Hitchcock's Psycho.

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Introduction

I have selected Hitchcock's Psycho for the topic of my mid-term. I have always been partial to thriller and suspense films, yet strangely I had only seen Psycho once, and that was nearly 20 years ago. While I respected what I knew of Hitchcock's work, enrollment in this class is what really piqued my interest. Certainly it was time to revisit this classic film, now with some background knowledge to help me analyze and critique it. After one viewing, even with my sparse knowledge of film composition, I believe that this film lives up to every expectation I had. It is fairly common knowledge that this film was a defining moment in cinematic history, and it was amazing to take a close look and try to analyze why. This film is brilliant on so many levels, from the use of lighting, camera angles, editing, and certainly musical accompaniment. Upon multiple viewings, I examined each scene and am amazed at how structured this movie is. This movie manipulated the viewer on several levels - from suggesting confusion through odd lighting and angles, to creating disorientation through editing and dramatic music, to creating the transference of the audience from one supposed "main character" to another through subtle nuances and suspenseful scenes. ...read more.

Middle

This scene tells the story by camera angles, lighting, and edits; one does not need to hear the dialog or score to understand the tone being set. As Marion leaves and gives her real name, Norman is shown glancing at the registry. Chuckling to himself that she lied, perhaps he sees her as a 'bad girl' now, which leads to the next sequence. The sexual tension between the two was established earlier and after the parlor exchange, and the viewer is aware of Norman apparently fighting some inner demons. This is further exhibited in the peeping scene. The dark shadows on Norman enhance his predator-like state as he begins to peep into Marion's cabin. Through point-of-view shots we see Marion in bright light undressing (still in dark underwear, suggesting her bad side), preparing for her shower, symbolizing "coming clean". Cuts between Marion's calm state, and Norman's unblinking eye make the viewer feel a sense of guilt. We should not be spying on Marion, yet the point-of-view shots make it uncomfortably impossible not to. As we enter Marion's bathroom, it is brightly lit, suggestion a clean, safe place. "Bad things" typically happen in the dark, and the bright light reassures the viewer. ...read more.

Conclusion

The camera slowly zooms, intensifying the argument, then takes a very strange pan/tilt to an overhead shot of the door and staircase landing. We wait, and finally Norman emerges with Mother in his arms, leaving the viewer surprised and slightly confused as it was recently disclosed in a previous scene that Norman's mother died 10 years before. In the scenes following, the viewer encounters point-of-view shots (Lila's approach to the house), parallel editing (Lila nearing the house and Sam/Norman's conversation), and dramatic lighting when Lila finds Mother in the fruit cellar. The swinging light bulb adds to the eerie tone, creating strange shadows and a confused, unsettling feeling. As she screams, the now-familiar screeching music commences at the climax of the scene. When knife-wielding Mother appears, we are certain that Lila will be the next victim, as we've been conditioned by this music that it signifies murder. But, instead, we find that it is Norman and he is tackled to the ground, seemingly over the edge now. The scene dissolves to the Court House scene and the viewer is informed about exactly what they just witnessed. The final scene shows a disturbed Norman, with a voice over monologue by "Mother", and finally dissolves with Mothers face/skeleton super-imposed on Norman's evil grin, a symbol that the two personalities are now permanently one. ...read more.

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