Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

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Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho has been commended for forming the

archetypical basis of all horror films that followed its 1960 release. The mass

appeal that Psycho has maintained for over three decades can undoubtedly be

attributed to its universality. In Psycho, Hitchcock allows the audience to

become a subjective character within the plot to enhance the film's

psychological effects for an audience that is forced to recognise its own

neurosis and psychological inadequacies as it is compelled to identify, for

varying lengths of time, with the contrasting personalities of the film's main

characters. Hitchcock conveys an intensifying theme in Psycho, that bases itself

on the unending subconscious battle between good and evil that exists in

everyone through the audience's subjective participation and implicit character

parallels.

Psycho begins with a view of a city that is arbitrarily identified along

with an exact date and time. The camera, seemingly at random, chooses first one

of the many buildings and then one of the many windows to explore before the

audience is introduced to Marion and Sam. Hitchcock's use of random selection

creates a sense of normalcy for the audience. The fact that the city and room

were arbitrarily identified impresses upon the audience that their own lives

could randomly be applied to the events that are about to follow.

In the opening sequence of Psycho, Hitchcock succeeds in capturing the

audience's initial senses of awareness and suspicion while allowing it to

identify with Marion's helpless situation. The audience's sympathy toward Marion

is heightened with the introduction of Cassidy whose crude boasting encourages

the audience's dislike of his character. Cassidy's blatant statement that all

unhappiness can be bought away with money, provokes the audience to form a

justification for Marion's theft of his forty thousand dollars. As Marion begins

her journey, the audience is drawn farther into the depths of what is

disturbingly abnormal behaviour although it is compelled to identify and

sympathize with her actions.

It is with Marion's character that Hitchcock first introduces the notion

of a split personality to the audience. Throughout the first part of the film,

Marion's reflection is often noted in several mirrors and windows. Hitchcock is

therefore able to create a voyeuristic sensation within the audience as it can

visualise the effects of any situation through Marion's conscious mind. In the

car dealership, for example, Marion enters the secluded bathroom in order to

have privacy while counting her money. Hitchcock, however, with upper camera

angles and the convenient placing of a mirror is able to convey the sense of an

ever lingering conscious mind that makes privacy impossible. Hitchcock brings

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