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					Psycho (1960)




Director: Alfred Hitchcock
                       Plot
Marion Crane, office worker, steals $40,000 and flees
Phoenix to be with her debt ridden boyfriend in
California. On the way she stops at the Bates Motel
where she meets Norman Bates. Norman’s “mother”
murders Marion. Soon after, Marion’s sister arrives in
California with a private detective following her.
Arbogast, the detective, follows the clues to the Bates
Motel and is murdered by Norman’s “mother”. Marion’s
sister and Sam approach the local police chief and
discover Norman’s mother has been dead for years.
They go to bates motel in search of Marion where
Norman’s mother attempts to murder Marion’s sister but
is stopped by Sam. They then discover that the mother
is in fact Norman’s alter ego.
           Key characters
 Marion  Crane: Janet Leigh
 Lila Crane: Vera Miles
 Sam Loomis: John Gavin
 Milton Arbogast: Martin Balsam
 Norman Bates: Anthony Perkins
                Setting
 Opening scenes take place in Phoenix,
 Arizona but quickly moves to California.

 The time and place are clearly established
 by the screen titles.
                Opening Sequence
   The opening of a film is often the most critical part of the film. This
    is where the audience expectations are set up. What narrative
    possibilities are established in the opening of Psycho? What could
    be about to happen? Why do you think this?

   Consider the following:
                             Titles
                             Music
                        Camera movement
                            Lighting
                           Dialogue
               Opening cont’
 Titles: From the outset the audience is put on
  edge. The titling is quick moving and harsh. At
  points the titles are jagged and split horizontally,
  then rejoined. This could possibly insinuate that
  the Psycho has a split personality.
 Music: Bernard Herrmann wrote the score for
  the film. The music in the opening is full of harsh
  and abrupt strings which seem to set a one
  dimensional, yet suspenseful tone. The score is
  composed with ONLY strings in the orchestra.
  Apparently Herrmann chose this as he felt it
  complemented the B&W film by having less
  dimensions to it.
               Opening cont’
 Camera   movement: The camera is quite
 voyeuristic. It pans slowly across the rooftops until
 it begins zooming towards a window of a
 darkened room, hesitating at points as if peeking
 in on a secret. It moves from the normal city
 atmosphere to the abnormal world of anxiety and
 shady love between two unfree people. This
 camera movement could seen to be a metaphor
 of the flow of the film which moves steadily from
 the normal deeper and deeper into the abnormal.
             Opening cont’
 Setting:The city location and time is
 clearly established in the captions. The
 change from the brightly lit, bustling city to
 an unknown, murky and seedy darkness;
 from the very public to the very intimate
 was what Hitchcock intended. Hitchcock
 was known for making metaphorical
 statements in the opening shot.
                Opening cont’
   Lighting: The lighting in the hotel room is dim,
    yet gentle, perhaps representative of the secrecy
    of their relationship. There are no harsh
    shadows. Their conversation is based about
    Marion’s frustration with the secrecy of their
    relationship. When Sam agrees that they need
    to be more public he opens the venetian blind,
    flooding the room with light. The light is used
    symbolically to highlight the announcement that
    this relationship can now be public.
              Opening cont’
 Dialogue: The dialogue in the opening scene
  primarily alerts the audience to the predicament
  of Marion and Sam. Both are indebted to
  someone and deprived of their freedom. For
  Sam it’s about money, for Marion it’s about the
  constricts of her mother’s opinion. In a way this
  being dominated by people of the past
  foreshadows what is to unfold at the Bates motel.
  Notable quotes from Marion “…when your time is
  up”, “Sam – this is the last time” and “I pay, too”
    Character development
 How have production elements been used
 to develop two of the characters in
 Psycho? You must address the following:

            Dress/Appearance
            Visual Composition
                 Lighting
             Sound/Dialogue
Marion Crane
                  Marion cont’
 Dress/Appearance: Marion is depicted as an
  attractive, respectable, yet desirable young woman.
  In the opening scene she is wearing nothing but
  white underwear; white being a symbol of good. In
  the next scene she is dressed in respectable
  business attire, which may reinforce the perception
  that she is a responsible and respected person. In
  the next scene, when packing the suitcase, she is
  shown in black underwear; a symbol of evil, or in
  opposition to good. This highlights the inner struggle
  she is facing in regards to stealing the money.
  Hitchcock believed everyone had both good and evil
  traits which he wanted to demonstrate in Marion.
  When she is preparing to steal the money she is
  dressed in clothing relevant to her state of mind.
                  Marion cont’
 Visual   Composition: Marion’s character, despite
 a momentary lapse of reason, is a good person and
 a victim of circumstance. In the parlour scene we
 see her cleverly portrayed as the victim in the
 relationship between her and Norman. Marion’s
 surroundings are soft, gentle and rounded including
 the small stuffed birds. She placed so that she is
 facing the camera, at eye level, front on and there is
 nothing to hide. Hitchcock seems to be portraying
 her as redeemable. This is a stark contrast to the
 way in which Norman is shot in the very same
 scene.
       Juxtaposition of characters
Marion is shot from the front,
suggesting openness and
honesty. Everything near her is
rounded and soft. The small
stuffed birds may be symbolic of
the relationship between her and
Norman.

                                   Notice the placement of large
                                   birds of prey surrounding him.
                                   He is placed at an angle to the
                                   camera so part of his face is
                                   obscured, suggesting something
                                   hidden. Other objects in the shot
                                   are angular and harsh.
               Marion cont’
 Lighting: If we continue to focus on the parlour
  scene we see that Hitchcock has lit Marion in a
  way that she seems almost glowing with
  wholesomeness. She is evenly light by soft light
  which create almost no shadow at all. Despite
  the fact that she has embezzled forty thousand
  dollars from her employer, she is not hidden in
  shadows of evil or consumed by the darker side
  of her nature. Leaving Marion in light indicates
  that redemption is possible. Indeed, at the
  conclusion of the scene, Marion has done an
  about face.
               Marion cont’
 Sound/Dialogue: Although Hitchcock tends to
 tell a story visually rather than with dialogue the
 conversation between Sam and Marion in the
 motel room develops Marion’s moral dilemma as
 a character. Marion is portrayed as a good
 character and not in a sleazy way, despite their
 surroundings. The conversation develops
 Marion as a character that wants to do the right
 thing although circumstances are preventing her
 achieving her goals.
Norman Bates
            Norman cont’
Dress/Appearance: When we first meet
Norman there is nothing particularly unusual
about his dress. He is dressed very neat and tidy
which may indicate to the audience that he is a
normal person. Hitchcock probably did this
intentionally so the revelation that he was
actually quite disturbed was more of a shock.
The only clue to his character is that he is
usually dressed in dark clothing which contrasts
with the lighter clothing which Marion wears.
Darker clothing perhaps being symbolic of his
evil nature.
                 Norman cont’
 Visual   composition: We begin to grow suspect of
 Norman as the visual composition of shots including
 Norman lead us towards this conclusion. In the
 parlour scene Norman is framed with large,
 ominous birds of prey surrounding him to give him a
 menacing look. The use of angular objects about
 him suggest danger. If we look closely we can see
 the paintings in shot are of women being attacked.
 The fact that Norman is in a way that we can’t see
 his whole face also infers that there is something
 hidden or sinister. This composition is enhanced by
 the low key lighting creating harsh shadow.
      Painting behind Norman
The painting on the right is of particular significance
as it hides the peephole Norman uses to spy on
Marion. The painting is Ruben’s Susannah & the
Elders. A painting based on a biblical tale of two
elders who spy on the innocent Susannah as she
is about to bathe outdoors and then pounce on her.
They violate Susannah’s moment of relaxation
much in the same way that Norman violates
Marion’s privacy. Like Norman towards Marion, the
two elders felt lust for Susannah but were ashamed
of it.
Susannah & the Elders
                Norman cont’
 Lighting: The lighting on Norman in the parlour
  scene is particularly effective. The contrast
  between the way Marion is lit and Norman is lit is
  very suggestive of their roles. Norman is clearly
  presented as the predator and Marion the innocent
  prey. Norman is lit with a low level key light to
  create a sinister look. Both Norman and the stuffed
  birds create harsh shadows on the wall. Parts of
  Norman’s face are darkened, suggesting an
  unknown element to his character. He looks
  particularly menacing in this scene.
               Norman cont’
 Sound/Dialogue: The dialogue between Norman
 and Marion in the parlour scene reveals a great
 deal about Norman’s character. We learn that he
 spent most of his life living alone with his mother.
 The mother as an overbearing character that
 seems to restrict his development. Phrases such
 as “a mother is a boy’s best friend” lets us know
 that he is a reclusive sort of character. When
 Marion suggests his mother may be better in an
 institution his dialogue suggests that he may know
 what the inside of an institution is like and suggests
 that he is psychologically unstable.
            Cause & Effect
Narrative is all about cause and effect.
Without it, narrative would not exist. Cause
and effect provides the reason for the plot
and feed character motivation. It implies
narrative progression from an initial event
that triggers a narrative through a seriese of
linked events that develop the plot through
to a resolution.
          Cause & Effect
A narrative generally begins with a
situation, then a series of changes occur
according to a pattern of cause and effect.

With reference to Psycho, discuss two
examples to show how cause and effect
contributes to the way the narrative has
been set out or organised.
           Cause & effect.
 Sam   owes money and cannot afford to
  support Marion (Cause)
 Marion is tempted by the $40,000 and in a
  moment of weakness steals it and runs
  towards Sam (Effect)
 Marion finds it difficult to see during a
  rainstorm and leaves the main road to
  arrive at the Bates motel (Cause)
 Marion meets Norman and is murdered
  within several hours (Effect)
          Cause & Effect
Can you create a flow chart for the series
of events that structures the storyline?

At each point in the plot where cause and
effect are employed what other scenarios
could have been presented?
   Select a sequence from Psycho and discuss
    with examples how any four of the following
    elements contributed to the effectiveness of that
    sequence.
            •
            Camera/Film techniques.
•    Sound (music, dialogue, sfx, voice over).
                   • Editing
            • Developing storyline.
          • Character development
             • Creating suspense
           Parlour Sequence
 Camera/Film   technique: Camera positioning
 and framing in this scene gives the audience an
 indication of where the power lies between Marion
 and Norman. Shooting Norman from a low angle
 enhances the feeling the audience gets that he is
 the dominant character. This is particularly
 effective as Marion is shot at eye level, making her
 appear more natural and encouraging the audience
 to engage with her rather than Norman. Most of the
 shots are MS although we punch in to a close up
 as Norman begins to get agitated. This is effective
 in reinforcing our suspicion of Norman.
            Parlour Sequence
 Sound: Herrmann’s score is largely unobtrusive
  through this sequence, only becoming noticeable
  when Norman begins to get agitated. This change
  in the music enhances the sense of weariness the
  audience feels about Norman. This is coupled with
  the aggressive tone and content of his dialogue at
  this point to make the sequence more effective.
  Marion’s tone is calm and gentle. The questions
  she asks Norman seem innocent which not only
  enhance the idea that she is redeemable at this
  point but also serve to highlight the Norman’s
  aggressive behaviour.
           Parlour Sequence
 Editing: Although much of the story is told using
  long, voyeuristic shots with little editing in this
  sequence Hitchcock engages the audience with
  the use of a SRS sequence between Norman
  and Marion. The SRS (Shot Return Shot)
  technique makes the sequence more effective
  as the audience is able to see each of the
  character’s emotions and reactions to each
  other. It also serves to make the film more
  visually interesting as we are constantly
  reminded of the different angles the characters
  are being shot from.
              Parlour Sequence
   Developing Storyline: This is an important sequence
    in the development of the storyline. Throughout the
    film Marion is depicted as a “good” person who
    suffered a momentary lapse of reason. The
    dialogue and production elements in this sequence
    portray her as redeemable; she has reverted to her
    normal self and will return to Phoenix to face the
    consequences. In contrast to this the seemingly
    clean cut, well mannered Norman is beginning to
    develop an evil side. His dialogue and the way
    production elements are presenting him causes the
    audience to be wary. The production of this
    sequence is an effective way to convey the turn in
    the storyline to the audience. The story is moving
    from being about Marion fleeing with the money and
    focusing on this suspicious new character, Norman.
          Parlour Sequence
 Character   development: After 10 slide
 discussion on this earlier in the presentation I am
 not going to repeat it.
 Refer to the question on how production elements
 develops characters.
              Parlour Sequence
 Creating   Suspense: The creation of suspense in
 this sequence comes from the development of
 Normans character. Prior to this point the focus of
 the film was the money. Suspense was created
 around it. The camera constantly reminding us where
 the money was. In this sequence the money seems
 to be almost forgotten and the director is building
 suspense around Norman. This is particularly
 effective as this is approximately where the “second
 part” of the movie begins and the audience forgets
 about the money and the suspense created by
 Marion stealing it. The suspense is now focused on
 this new character and his “mother”.

				
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posted:8/23/2011
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