Psycho - Much of the films narrative occurs when there is little or no spoken dialogue.
James Longworth 11k
Much of the films narrative occurs when there is little or no spoken dialogue. With reference to at least 2 scenes explore ways this is done
Psycho was a hit film made in 1962, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film only cost 800,000 dollars to make and earned more than 40 million dollars in sales at the box office and merchandising.
The story was based on a book written by Robert Bloch. The ending of this film is so plot twisting and drastic the author of the book bought as many copies of it as he could to prevent the ending being given away to the audience of the film.
Alfred Hitchcock directed other hit films such as Birds, Vertigo and other great movies. Each and every one of his films he stared in a cameo appearance.
A theme which Hitchcock applies throughout the film is ‘birds’, there are many references to birds through the film, examples are Marion’s name Craine, Norman’s reference to Marion’s eating like a bird and the excessive amount of birds Norman has in his parlour.
The plot is about an office worker called Marion Craine, she is fed up with life because she has to meet her lover Sam in her lunch breaks and they cannot get married because Sam has to give most of his money away in maintenance to his ex-wife. One day Marion takes the opportunity to steal 40,000 dollars and start a new life. Marion drives towards Sam’s home. Tired after a long drive and caught in a storm she pulls in to Bates Motel, the Motel is run by a quite young man called Norman. Marion thinks, Norman is dominated by his Mother. After dinner, in the Motel Marion goes back to her room for a shower. She is murdered in the shower. The murder is investigated. You are led to think that the murderer is Normans Mother but in the end scene it is shown to be Norman dressed as his Mother. We discover that his mother has been dead for many years and kept in Normans fruit Cellar.
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Much of the films narrative occurs when there is little or no spoken dialogue, this tends to be a feature of Hitchcock’s films and something he is famous for. Psycho is one of the most famous and some people would say frightening films ever.
It is scary because of the way the suspense builds up, when there is no spoken word, it gives Hitchcock the opportunity to use other medium for example music, sound and different angle shots to set the scene.
If we look at two scenes we can demonstrate in more detail how this narrative occurs.
The opening scene
The film starts with the specific details of the time, the date and the place this is unusual in this genre of film and would be more specific to a crime film, so early on it suggests to us that this is a crime film rather than a thriller. The camera swoops in over Phoenix Arizona, acting like a bird in flight that is searching for its prey, the camera moves randomly picking any window and building this randomness demonstrates it could happen to anybody, even the audience causing an element of discomfort.
In this scene we discover a lot about the lives of the characters, which is odd in that most crime films this would unfold slowly and not in the first scene, it adds to the complexity of the film.
At the beginning Mr Cassedy the man who deposits the money that Marion steals at the start says “ I never carry more than I can afford to lose”. Which at the time seems a strange thing for anybody to say as $40,000 is an enormous sum of money, this has the effect of the audience lacking any sympathy for Mr Cassedy, because of this short statement it almost makes people think he deserves to have his money stolen.
In this scene Marion wears white underwear this signifies purity and innocence what is remarkable is that after she has stolen the money she is seen in black underwear almost as if she is soiled and evil, pictured in the following still.
The famous shower scene
This scene perhaps is the most famous scene ever recorded. On the surface we see a woman being murdered in a shower, but although we are witnessing a murder Hitchcock hides the violence by employing editing techniques including montage. What we actually see are Marion’s reactions, Hitchcock believed it would be more powerful only to see the reactions and for the audience to use their own imagination for the actual murder. The whole scene has no spoken dialogue, but tells a gruesome and complicated story.
When we first see Marion in the shower, she appears vulnerable because of her nakedness; this was risky for the director to do as nudity was frowned upon during the early 60’s when this film was made.
The shower suggests Marion is cleaning herself of the sins, she has committed, she washes herself for 40 seconds and this is delightful but then the first stabbing occurs and this is the end to her pleasure and the start of incredible pain. Just like her life, one minute everything is wonderful, she is on her way to be with her lover, but very quickly everything changes and she is gruesomely murdered.
When Marion has died we see the blood and water swirling away, this signifies her life swirling away too. We see Marion regretting her actions and we know this because we can see that she has a tear in her eye, as she looks at the money as she dies she is reminded of her wicked act and this remorse is obvious from the over exaggerated facial expressions the camera zooms in on. The camera shots in this scene change 28 times, this disorientates the audience and attempts to make the audience empathise with the disorientation that Marion would be feeling at this time.
The shower enclosure traps and encloses her, which is how she feels about her life. She is incarcerated by the walls of the shower and the confined space. As the murderer approaches she has no way to escape. Women were viewed differently by society in the early 60’s and it was more acceptable for women to be seen as the weaker sex, this is exploited by the director in this scene, and at that time would have made the character very attractive.
When the film was made in the 1960s it was unusual and daring to feature nakedness and it is very provocative, the lighting is bright on Marion in this scene, which almost signifies she is in the spotlight, this is demonstrated in the following still from the film.
Where as the lighting on the murderer is darker and makes them appear more sinister all this is done with lighting and no words.
In this scene Norman is seen cleaning up after the murder, the speed Norman cleans up is abnormally fast, even though Marion is naked and gashed, Norman is refusing to acknowledge the part he played, at this point the audience bond with him because they think he is cleaning up his mothers mess, the audience feel sorry for him because they think he is trapped by devotion to his mother, just by watching him clear up the murder scene.
As Norman leaves the set we see the money on the table under a lamp, this reminds the audience of the irony of the situation in that Marion thought she had everything and in reality she has lost everything.
It is appropriate to say much of the films narrative occurs when there is little or no spoken dialogue. Psycho remains, even today as one of the most effective stories told, with out the use of the spoken word. The clever use of camera work, lighting, sound and the expression of the actors all combine to make this one of the most popular films ever.
There are many interpretations of the film and because of the limited dialogue we use our own imagination to evolve the story this adds very much to the suspense.
Even at the very start of the film the intro credits swoop in from almost nowhere, making you sit on the edge of your seat and setting the scene for the entire film!!!
Alfred Hitchcock was a very talented director and story teller, who has made one of the best films of all times in the form of Psycho.