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Hitchcock’s Psycho

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In its use of camera shots, the shower scene was exceedingly original. For example, Hitchcock’s decision to use an extreme close up of the showerhead is very effectual since it shows the spectators Marion naked, having a shower, thus putting her in a vulnerable position. This particular shot also indicates to the viewers that they, along with Norman Bates, are spying on Marion and invading her privacy. Hitchcock also uses another extreme close up, this time of Marion’s mouth. This is simply utilized to show Marion’s sheer and utter fear. She is terrified by what her eyes have just seen.

This camera shot, therefore suggests to the audience that Marion is in agony and is helpless. It emphasises an atmosphere of inferiority, as she is weak and vulnerable, powerless in defending herself against any attack. Instantly after the stabbing has occurred, Hitchcock applies an extreme close up of Marion’s hand. This illustrates her grabbing the shower curtain to try and stand up. The audience see that Marion is unable to rise, although she is striving for her life. It shows her dramatic situation and thus suggests to the spectators that the lead woman is probably going to die, even though it is only a third of the way into “Psycho”.

Conversely, it also creates an atmosphere of suspense, as the viewers would have expected her to live, based on their previous experience of horror films. Conclusively, a close up of the face of Marion, lying dead on the floor, is used by Hitchcock to emphasise to the audience that she is deceased and will not come back to life. This would have been shocking, as in horror films prior to “Psycho” no lead woman had ever been killed so early on. Hitchcock cleverly uses this shot as it allows time for the viewers to recognise and accept that Marion is dead, creating an atmosphere of unease and sadness amongst them.

Hitchcock has deliberately made the shower scene interesting and original by linking Norman’s actions with Marion’s. At the start of the clip, Marion is sitting at a desk calculating the money that she must return. This is obviously illustrating to the viewers that Marion regrets her previous deeds. Norman, in the section immediately before, comes into his house and sits at the table, thinking about whether to murder Marion or not. This idea is very effective as it ties the two characters together. The correspondence is mysterious at the time, but is bourn out later when Norman is proved to be the killer.

Another ingredient that Hitchcock uses interestingly is music. Different types of music are played throughout the scene to put the audience in specific frames of mind. Music is heard at the start of the scene to create tension. Hitchcock uses this to make the viewers realise that something important, yet unpleasant, is about to occur. Then he follows this by silence, again to emphasise anxiety and to make sure that the spectators are focusing only on Marion. This continues until the killer has drawn back the curtain. As he stabs Marion a screeching noise is heard, which is to highlight to the audience that the flesh is being cut.

Each stab is correlated with the screeching violin. The killer runs out straight afterwards, and the viewers start to hear a sad music, which is cleverly used to make the audience emotional as well as shocked. This sad music is pursued by silence, which allows time for the spectators to recognise that the lead woman, Marion, is dead. The audience is presented with two close ups of very important clues for Lila and Sam in their hunt for Marion. First of all, Hitchcock allows the spectators to observe a bit of paper, ripped, inside the toilet. This is obviously the paper on which Marion did her sums to work out how much money she owes.

She rips the paper and flushes it down the toilet. What she does not see, but the viewers do, is that one piece is still floating. This is noticed later on when Lila and Sam investigate the scene of the crime. The second clue is that the shower curtain is missing, pulled off during Marion’s struggle for life. Norman Bates wraps up Marion in this shower curtain and gets rid of it. This is a consequent clue as Lila and Sam notice that it is absent, instantly making them suspicious. As the viewers watch Marion in the shower there is no music played. This gives an impression of safety, where the audience sense a clean, harmless atmosphere.

Marion displays her innocence by smiling towards the spectators. Then, suddenly, the murderer launches a brutal and savage attack on Marion, which astonishes the viewers, as well as Marion herself. Hitchcock applies a range of different angled shots to show the wounds and the fight. These varied viewpoints make up for the lack of blood. Furthermore, they focus fully on the action and show Marion falling, struggling for her life. Thus, there is a dramatic change in the mood of the scene from the start to the end. Just before the end of the scene, Hitchcock chose to use two extreme close ups.

Firstly, a plughole is shown, into which water is being drained. This represents Marion’s life being washed away. Secondly, Marion’s eye is displayed after it merges with the plughole shot. It is very still and is shown, purposely, to allow the audience time to apprehend that Marion is dead. The extreme close up of the eye also signifies that the viewers are witnesses to murder. It tries to make them feel culpable, as they have watched the murder and done nothing about it. Hitchcock uses suspense to build up curiosity about the identity of the murderer. Firstly, the spectators can see that the slayer is a female, but her face is blanked out.

She is wearing a dressing gown. When the actual murder takes place, the killer’s face is concealed by the shower curtain as well as cleverly timed angled shots. This obviously misleads the viewers, as they start to believe that Norman’s mother is the assassin, whereas Norman Bates is the real person to blame. At the end of shower scene there is a panning shot. Firstly it looks at Marion’s presence, which indicates to the audience that she is dead. Then the panning shot slowly moves on to the newspaper in which there is the money. This is vital evidence which shows the spectators that Norman did not kill Marion for the forty thousand dollars.

The panning shot now connects to Norman’s house from where the viewers hear Norman shouting. They hear Norman say, “Mother, Oh God Mother, blood, blood. ” This is designed to intentionally confuse the audience and make them believe that Norman cannot be the murderer, and that the mother is responsible. Later on, near the end of the film, they discover that this was deceptive, as the real killer was Norman. The camera zooms out from Marion’s eye to her face, then to her body during the shower scene. There could be two possible explanations for this.

Firstly, Hitchcock is permitting the audience time to determine that Marion is dead. Secondly, he may want the audience to assume that Marion is having an “out of body” experience where her soul is moving away from her dead body, looking back at it. As well as a zoom out, a zoom in is also used in this scene, from a view of the whole bath to a focus on the plughole. This is used to suggest how fragile life is, as it represents Marion’s life being washed away, showing the audience that she is dead. For the original spectators, this would have been unbelievable, and they would have expected her to come back to life.

But she does not, and this is the important shot that suggests Marion is going to die. Many features seem to be missing in the shower scene, which could have been included to enhance it. Although this may have caused controversy, Hitchcock may perhaps have decided to display more sexual parts. Blood for wounds could also have been applied by Hitchcock to develop the shower scene. Furthermore, there is no precise camera shot that shows the knife entering the flesh. Hitchcock does not display the face of the murderer to the audience, but for good reason; as if it was exposed it would have ruined the whole story line of “Psycho.

Historical changes that were happening in 1960 are reflected in the composition of the shower scene. This was rebellious and controversial in its content to mirror the turbulent time of 1960. This is seen, for example, when the knife is actually pressing against the stomach, and a droplet of blood plunges out of the body after Marion is stabbed. These shots would have been controversial, and the audience might have thought of it as exposing too much, as they had never seen this before. By 1960 sexuality was more openly discussed by society, and this is reflected in the shower scene.

For instance when Marion’s legs are shown, the camera goes far higher than the knees, although we do not see anything improper. The group of shots that concentrate for four or five seconds on the top half of the body are also examples of a focus on sexuality. Again, nothing inappropriate is displayed, but it is oriented towards a sexual portrayal of Marion. In 1960 the rights of women were being argued, and Hitchcock decided to react against this in the shower scene. He chooses to use high angled shots of Marion when she is in the shower to show the audience her vulnerability.

If a female director were to depict this scene she may have illustrated fighting back from Marion, or even Marion defeating her attacker. However Hitchcock does not, and he deliberately puts Marion in a weak position and the man in a strong one. He also has a long focus on the dead body of Marion lying naked on the bathroom floor. It could be argued that this is anti women’s rights as the focus is held longer than strictly necessary. Hitchcock shows women as vulnerable to attack from men at any time. Audiences in 1960 could be more voyeuristic because of modern technology, and Hitchcock took advantage of this in the shower scene.

This can be viewed when the murder takes place before the audience’s eyes. Hitchcock cleverly makes the spectators feel guilty, as he shows them the slaughter which they witness and do nothing about. So, in order to make an impact on the viewers, Hitchcock cleverly capitalises on modern technology. Since there had been cases where society felt sympathetic towards the murderer, the public started to view the killer as a human rather than a monster, which Hitchcock responds to in the shower scene. These cases were when people who were not guilty were wrongly convicted and given the death penalty.

In the shower scene, when silhouette shots of the murderer are shown, we clearly see that it is a human. The outline of the body as well as the old lady’s figure suggests that the assassin is a human. This was new to an audience, as in previous films a monster such as Frankenstein’s would have been the slaughterer. Censored attitudes and behaviours had started to be explored, for instance, when the group of shots illustrating Marion naked in the shower are shown. Before, in earlier films, this had never been publicized. Another example of this is when the whole murder is made visible.

In previous films when a slaughter was about to take place the screen went blank. However, in ” Psycho” the murder is demonstrated in its entirety. The audience digested horrific scenes such as the shower scene, easily because society was secure and peaceful. For instance, when a murder was shown the audience was frightened mainly because of the shots which show a knife in the murderer’s hands, and those which display the killer with the face concealed. However, although the shower scene would have intimidated the audience, they managed to digest it.

Psycho”, a film of great contemporary relevance, has been influential on subsequently released movies. Before “Psycho” the killer was usually a monster, whereas in “Psycho” the murderer is a human serial killer using a domestic weapon, a knife. This was an unfamiliar yet effective idea of Hitchcock’s, and it is commonly used in films nowadays, for example, “Scream”(1996). In “Scream” the assassin is a human, who hunts like the serial killer Norman Bates. Jason looks kind and stable, but turns out to be the killer.

This is copying “Psycho”, as Norman Bates, the assassin, appears normal at first, but turns out to have an illness. “Halloween”(1978) also copies Hitchcock when the murderer uses a butcher’s knife to kill. The slayer in “Friday 13th”(1980) wears a mask, and his identity is concealed until the end. This is similar to “Psycho” where although the murderer does not wear a mask his face is still hidden in shadow. Only a third of the way into the film, independent Marion, the lead woman in “Psycho”, is unexpectedly murdered. In films prior to “Psycho” this would have been very uncommon.

However, films following it, such as “Scream”, use these characteristics as their basic structure, as we see in the early death of Drew Barrymore’s character. In “Psycho” the killing of Marion takes place when she is in the shower, whilst in the film “Set It Off”(1996), a woman is raped and then slaughtered in the same location. The film “Halloween” features Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of Janet Leigh, who plays Marion in “Psycho”, and it therefore makes reference to the earlier film. The amount of nudity in “Psycho” was very unusual compared to previous horror films, as it focussed on sexuality more.

A mixture of violent and sexual scenes was innovatively used by Hitchcock and influenced future films such as “Scary Movie”(1999). In this movie a woman in her underwear is stabbed to death. Whilst a couple are having sex in “Predator2″(1990) the man is killed, and in “American Psycho”(2000) the eradicator murders women after having sex with them, and stores the bodies in a room. “The Shining”(1980) and “Halloween” are related to “Psycho”, as they both have men in the shower who get stabbed; in one case the woman is the assassin. All of this content clearly owes its origin to “Psycho.

Previous to “Psycho” a murder was never displayed, but in this film the slaughter is shown and heard in detail. This particular technique is used in modern films, for instance in “Nightmare on Elm Street”(1984), a nail is heard scrapping on the wall, which is similar to “Psycho” as we hear a screeching noise when the murder takes place. “Candyman”(1992) also shows a slaughter and allows the audience to hear the “murder music”. In early horror films the results of murder were not even talked about, let alone shown, but Hitchcock decided to include these.

In “Psycho” Norman gets rid of the body of Marion, wrapped in the shower curtain, by throwing it into the swamp. We now commonly see a ‘clearing up’ after murder scene. For example in “American Psycho” we view the killer put all the dead bodies into a room, whilst in “It”( ) we observe bodies in the cave. “Jeepers Creepers”(2001) copies the technique used in “Psycho” more explicitly, as it demonstrates the assassin wrapping a dead body in a plastic bag and throwing it in a swamp. These characteristics would not be present now if it was not for Hitchcock, and his big hit, “Psycho. “

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