Film Analysis #2 – Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho was a new kind of horror film, before it the subject of fear was usually some kind of monster.  For instance Dracula, The Mummy or Frankenstein’s Monster which often were symbols for bigger political issues in society.  In Psycho for the first time the thing we are supposed to be afriad of is something much closer, like the creepy neighbor down the road.  In the scene where Norman Bates cleans up the murder scene and hides the car with all of the evidence in the swamp displays Hitchcock’s manipulation of the viewer in getting them to relate with Norman, the Killer.

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1-This is where the viewer thinks that Norman has just seen the body and what “mother” has done.  He reacts like most people would after finding a dead woman in the bathroom, shocked.  At this point we do not know he is actually the killer but if we watch carefully Hitchcock makes no real attempt to hide it.  Norman is most often shot at a low angle like he is here, this portrays him as someone in control and someone to be feared, he is shot as the aggressor, not a victim, even though he acts more like a victim.

2-Norman does not take much time to react, he immediately knows what to do, as if this has happened before.  Still shot at a low angle here he closes the door and turns of the lights.

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3-With the lights out now we begin to see the typical high contrast, low key lighting common to horror films.  Norman lays out the shower curtain to wrap the body in and we see his shadow towering over it, further depicting him as evil but the viewer has already identified with him from his initial reaction and is now in fight or flight mode along side him.

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4-Here we see Norman finish wrapping the body before he takes it out to the car.  He is completely in shadow again placing him on the “dark side”.  It was not “ok” to show viewers how to commit a murder and get away with it at this point in time, it was very new for a film to show this, it wasn’t like CSI now a days where viewers learn how to commit a different crime and cover their tracks every week.

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5-Skipping ahead a bit Norman has put the body in the car and now scans the room for any remaining evidence.  he sees the news paper which we know has the stolen money inside it but he does not.  The paper represents the first crime committed in the film (if we are not counting Lila sleeping with a man out of wedlock which was a crime by society’s standards) Lila stealing the money, that is now longer relevant considering the larger circumstances now at hand.  Because of the human love of money the viewers cringe as Norman takes the news paper and tosses it in the car along with the body and her other belongings, yet we did not have nearly as strong a reaction for he body being tossed away.

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6-Norman drives the car belonging to Ms. Crane off into the night.

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7-This shot started with a close up of the license plate and then the car pulls away and we see Norman pushing it into the swamp.

8-Now we see Norman watching and hoping that the car sinks down into the swam.  the viewer cannot help but feel the same thing and share his emotion.  half of his face is cast in shadow, the half that is an accomplis to murder (well actually the murderer) and the other half in light that the audience wants to still think is an innocent man protecting his mother.

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9-The car stops dead in the swamp for a few seconds at before we see Norman’s reaction everyone’s heart stops.  all of a sudden the viewer is in panic, we want the car to go down, we want Norman to succeed, but he is the bad guy!

10/11-In these two shots we see Norman nervously stare at the car and look around to see if anyone else is here watching, he is trying to plot his next move and figure out what to do if it doesnt go down.  at the same time the viewer is scrambling to figure out the same thing.

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12-We see that the car does go down into the swamp.  notice also the whole time we are watching the car it is from a POV shot, not an over the shoulder but we are forced to see things in the same way Norman is seeing them, forced by Hitchcock to be in his shoes.

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13-Finally we see Normans relieved smile, the evidence is gone and he is safe.  the viewer cannot help but share that sense of relief with him.  Yet we should be able to tell by the way he is shot and also the title of the film that something is off about him, that he is the killer.  Yet somehow Hitchcock is able to blind our eyes and make us feel what Norman feels.

This film was very different in how it brings the viewer to the same level as the criminal.  Before this good and evil was much more black and white.  Without us realizing it Hitchcock has through camera angles and lighting made us as the viewer put our better judgement aside and sympathize with a psycho.

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