‘Psycho’ is a unique film this is because it cost $850,000 to make and has earned more than $40 million. Also the film style is film noir which is a group of films released in the late nineteen forties and fifties, The style of lighting used in film noir is low- key this is used to give the film a sharp look with some strong areas of contrast between light and dark. The films usually were set in big cities and the characters normally were detectives and plots with sleazy motives were used.
It is a dark and disturbing tale because the film is based on Robert Bloch’s novel, which was inspired by notorious serial killer Ed Gein. Gein was also the inspiration for Hannibal Lector (The Silence of the Lambs) and Leather Face (Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Also the use of low key lighting, Jump cuts and shrieking and repetitive music all help to give the film a thriller theme to it. It took only three weeks to make and cost only $850,000. It may not compete with modern day film thrillers but it is a creditable film when the cinematography techniques are considered.
The two scenes that will be analysed and interpreted in detail are the shower scene and Aborgast’s death these two scenes are worth analysing because they are significant to the films development and we observe a great deal happening and these scenes also determine the outcome of the film. Prior to the shower scene the audience has seen Marion flee with $40,000 she has driven out of town and has ended up in a motel she has had a meal with Norman Bates and now has gone back to her room she has concealed some of the money in a paper on the bedside table. She then takes a shower.
Just before Marion takes her shower the audience see Norman Bates he is analysing the guest register and then decides to take a look through a peep hole in the wall while Marion undresses, the picture concealing the peep hole is one depicting a rape this shows that Norman has found his prey and is ready to move in. The lighting of this scene is predominantly low-key this type of lighting shows dark areas of contrast between light and dark areas. The signals this lighting gives are ghastly ones, the light produces shadows, and this indicates something dreadful will happen.
This approach to lighting is matched by the parallel, non-dietetic sound of the violins in the background that build up tension also this music is expected to go with the scene e. g. screeching music for a thriller film. A particularly heart stopping moment is when the camera angle shows us Marion from Bates’ point of view, through the peephole. The use of this type of camera angle is so the audience see Marion through the eyes of the potential rapist and experience what it is like for Norman and you can see Marion’s fate but she cannot.
The mise en scene of the bathroom is important for the setting of the scene because the white of the bathroom contrasts with the blood of Marion also the plughole symbolises her life being lost as the blood slowly runs down the plughole. We, as the audience, experience Marion’s relief as she takes a shower and symbolically washes away her sins. The tranquillity of the scene is depicted by the unwrapping of the soap this symbolizes a new start for her as a new soap is unwrapped also her facial expression is very reassured as she thinks she has got away with the money and made a new beginning.
Her peace, and our calm are soon disturbed as the ‘silhouetted’ figure appears in the background. We, as the audience, fear for Marion’s safety before she is even aware of the danger she is in. She is brutally killed by the “silhouetted’ figure with a knife and then falls down and dies in the shower. Once again the use of the non-diegetic sounds of Herman’s violins signifies to the audience that something ghastly is going to happen. The audience first heard these violins when Marion was driving along the high way and there were no cars and it got dark.
Marion realises she is in danger when the shower curtain opens up and the silhouette appears to Marion. The main camera angles used are tracking and tilts. One angle used is a tilt, this angle was used in the shower when Marion was being stabbed it was used to run up and down Marion’s body to show her being stabbed this camera angle is on a fixed axis. Another angle used was a tracking shot this was used to follow the action. High angle point of views were used to show a view of Marion from the showerhead and it was used to show Marion from above and give us a wider picture.
The stabbing event is actually 78 edits. The jump cut is fast editing where the shot is cut so it can go from one shot to the next very quickly, this use of editing is successful because it creates suspense and anxiety and makes our hearts race. Never once do we see the knife enter the body but it is still successful since it makes the audience cringe as the sound is so realistic, the sound was produced by stabbing a knife into a water melon it was done very cleverly as the Knife never entered the body so there was no violence that was visible to the audience.
Marion’s terror and panic is portrayed to the audience by the way she behaves for example she screams in distress and tries to defend herself from the knife by putting her hands in the way and when the killer leaves she falls down in the bath with a traumatized look on her face as she dies. The audience experience the loss and waste of life through many symbolic film techniques. Firstly the shower curtain is used as a symbolic technique as it slowly rips down from the rail just like Marion life slowly slipping away. Secondly the diegetic sound of the water represents Marion’s lifeblood running away.
Hitchcock uses a very clever dissolve edit when the scene ends, it dissolves into her eye, there is an extreme close up of the plughole and there is diegetic sound of the water, representing her life blood running away. Gradually the shot of her eye dissolves into an extreme close up of her eye. After the disappearance of Marion, Aborgast, the Private Detective hired by Marion’s sister, seeks to find out information about what has happened to her. He is suspicious because when he arrives at the motel Bates says his mother is upstairs when the locals all say she is dead.
At first he denied Marion had even been to the motel and as Aborgast asked more inquired more the truth came out and eventually he admitted she had been at the motel. The framing of the shot is important as Aborgast starts to climb up to the house it portrays the idea of the victim and the attacker its almost like the audience knows Aborgast is about to go to his death. The shot of the house portrays it as a daunting place, there is a pan shot of the house from his point of view. When Aborgast enters the house the camera allows the audience to see what he sees the light is coming from up the stairs.
High key lighting has been used this is lighting where the whole scene is lit up. There is a lot of detail. It adds to the thriller theme, and adds anticipation to the scene because we want to know what’s up the stairs. The use of camera movement is important as Aborgast moves up the stairs. Here Hitchcock uses a tracking angle to follow Aborgast up the stairs so it’s almost like we are there with him when he is stabbed, Hitchcock cleverly uses a high point of view shot this is where we see the scene from a birds eye point of view. Sound creates a sense of anticipation and excitement for the audience.
The diegetic sound of his footsteps is quite eerie because the sound is repetitive and tension is created as he gets nearer and nearer the top. Also, the familiar sound of the repetitive violins indicates some thing shocking is going to happen as it has every other time the violins have been played. In contrast to this we see very little of the killer. All we see is the killers back because Hitchcock wants to conceal the identity of the killer, this adds tension so the audience are eager to now who the killer is then when we find out it is the Mother it comes as a shock and a twist in the story.
In conclusion, when analysing I have tried to show how Hitchcock has cleverly used a wide variety of camera effects, clever lighting and use of sound. By using jump cuts a lot of tension was created and for the lighting Hitchcock has used low key to create large shadows to add to the eerie theme of the play. And finally for the sound Hitchcock uses a lot of non -diegetic sound e. g. the violins, which always indicate danger and puts us on the edge of our seats through out the play.