This is one of the most famous movies scenes of all time. Alfred Hitchcock was able to capture innocence, fear, hatred, and beauty all in a scene that lasted a little over two minutes. Alfred Hitchcock brought realism to a grisly scene while using black and white film. The scene, from the flushing of the toilet to the camera panning back to the bedroom last a mere two minutes and twenty seconds. He uses 52 different camera shot movements in the scene from the time the future victim opens the shower curtain. The scene is set as the victim gets in the shower, there is no music used to set the cene.
The absence of music and the empty sounds of a bathroom set the scene. Hitchcock seeks to get the audience to let their guard down. There is no danger here. No mood music leading up to anything bad. Just a girl getting in a shower. There set used echoes the sounds heard in everyone’s bathroom. A hollow sound – the metal rings sliding along the shower curtain rod, the turning of the faucet. The sound of water hitting tiles and a tub. A very innocent scene with no foreseen danger. Twenty three seconds into the scene a shadow is seen through the shower curtain.
There is still silence except for the sound of water running in a shower. The shadow seen through the shower curtain looms larger. Suddenly the music starts as the shower curtain is ripped open. Here the director begins using light to show the good and the evil. Everything outside the shower is filmed in shadows and darkness. Everything inside the shower is very well lit. The music is fast and intense as the scene unfolds a the same pace. The knife wielded by the attacker is often seen from below – as if coming down 1 always on the victim – and the audience. Hitchcock uses other camera angles to show the ictim being stabbed from above – as if the viewer is given a ride on the knife as it plunges down into her body.
There is the sound of the knife making contact with flesh nine times in twenty four seconds. The music continues at a thundering pace as the screams of the victim is amplified by the shower. The camera continues moving around at multiple angles. Each camera movement is abrupt and sudden. There is no panning in this sequence of filming – the audience is brought into the scene from multiple angles in rapid succession. Then as suddenly as the attack began – it ends.
The music changes as the attacker leaves the bathroom. The audience is left with just the running water as we look into the victims face as her life slips away. The audience feels the victims trauma in their own lives as she slips down the wall of the shower – her eyes pleading for help – her breathing more labored – her eyes questioning what has just happened. There is still hope that this is not death, there is still life caught in her eyes by the camera. The music continues at a slower pace – as if keeping time with a beating heart as the victim slides further down the shower wall.
Alfred Hitchcock uses thirty three seconds of film to catch the victim slip from life to death. As she reaches for the curtain and it tears away from the curtain rod the viewer is learning the reality of what they have witnessed. The sound of her lifeless body falling from the tub and hitting the floor by the toilet is the exclamation point to any doubts the audience may have had. The heartbeat tempo of the music ends as her own heartbeat concludes. 2 Alfred Hitchcock takes his audience back to the shower to show the blood being washed down the drain.
Here he uses the only panning of cameras in the sequence. He pans the camera with the blood as it goes down the drain. The camera angle follows the blood and enters the dark void of the shower drain. There is twenty one seconds of time used to show this sequence – giving the audience their own chance to catch their breath. There is silence as the water continues to hit the tile and tub. No intense action in this segment – just blood being washed away and down a drain. The scene is concluded as the camera frames just the victims right eye. The beauty of her eye fills the screen.
The beauty of her makeup – the mascara on the eye lashes, the neatly trimmed eye brow is captured in this scene. The camera introduces the audience again to the victim. There is time allowed for the audience to grieve and to question the scene they had all witnessed. Hitchcock guides the audience to where he needs them to be. He uses the camera to direct the audience to where they were and where they need to be in his story. As the camera pulls slowly back there is one drop of water near the eye and another on her nose. Almost as if a couple of tear drops have stopped to rest there on he victims face.
The final 30 seconds of the scene is used as the camera pulls away from the victim and pans away to from the bathroom. Alfred Hitchcock captured in this scene multiple emotions. All in two minutes and twenty seconds – and all in black and white. Yet many who saw it – felt they witnessed everything in living color. The cameras, the music and the absence of music painted the scene with all the color we would ever need. Hitchcock again demonstrated in this short scene – he not only directs movies – he directs emotional reactions from his audience.