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Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘Psycho’ was first released in 1960. The film
starred two key characters, who were; Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates
and Janet Leigh as Marion Crane. The film is set in Phoenix, Arizona,
but it mainly set in a small motel called the Bates Motel. The genre
of the film Psycho is a horror/thriller. This type of film added to
the success of it, as it won a few Oscars, including Best Actor. There
was also a sequel made in 1999. However, the sequel proved to be less
profitable than the original.
The film begins with Marion Crane having an affair with a man called
Sam Loomis. It seems as though Sam is in debt or having money
problems, and both Marion and Sam think of leaving Arizona together.
This is were Marion goes to work and is given forty thousand dollars
to cash at the bank, but she decides to steal the money and run away.
She then drives for a long time and happens to end up at the Bates
Motel, due to the bad weather conditions. This is where Marion meets
the anxious owner of the motel, Norman Bates. Norman appears to be
living with his mother, when questioned by Marion about his mother,
Norman seems distraught and very anxious to reveal any information
about her. As he states,
“My mother, My Mother, uh, What is the phrase?
She isn’t quite herself today”
This shows play on words, which is called a pun. It also shows how
edgy Norman is about his mother.
He then takes Marion to a room, which is Cabin 1. He shows Marion a
tour of the room and surprisingly cannot utter the words “bathroom.”
Marion then retires for the night and is reported missing after a
week. During that week, a Private Investigator, called Milton
Arbogast, goes to the Bates Motel in search of Marion Crane. But he is
also reported missing while he was there. Marion’s sister, Lila Crane
goes in search of Marion at the Bates Motel to find out what happened
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happened to the Marion and Inspector Arbogast, as the film reaches its
Hitchcock uses dramatic music throughout the film. The main features
of the music in Psycho are the shrilling string instruments, which are
clashing to create the tension and suspense within the film. The music
also helps to keep the suspense of the story line.
Also, the use of mis-en-scene is used, which is a French term that
means ‘putting on stage.’ This refers to everything that is arranged
in one frame.
In addition, there are different camera and lighting effects used by
Lighting is used in the film to create a sense of atmosphere.
Hitchcock uses black and white lighting to make the atmosphere and
mood to that of a mystifying effect. However, this could not have been
accomplished, if it were to be produced in colour.
The black and white feel gives the film a more sinister look, whereas
there is more shadows being created. An example of this is shown in
the shower scene do the film.
On the other hand, the lighting, black and white effect and the music
all portray the tension within the characters.
The effects of lighting and camera also play a big part in the shower
scene. This is where Marion is taking a shower and she is then
suddenly murdered. We cannot see the murderer’s face, as the backlight
was used to hide their face and make the scene more horrifying and
sinister. We see an outline shape of a woman on the murderer, so it
informs us to believe that the murderer is a woman.
The shower scene itself, took seven days to shoot and over seventy
cameras were set up for the shooting. The effect of the cameras shows
how there were quick shots being taken in a short space of
approximately two minutes. When the production of the film was
released, there were over 70 quick shots taken in the forty-five
The shots were made up of the climax to Marion’s murder and the murder
it self. But we never see the knife stabbing into Marion’s body. As an
alternative, we see shots of the knife and sound affects are added to
the appearance of the knife, which is attacking Marion. This then
gives the impression that Marion is actually being stabbed. Each shot
taken was edited for a montage effect, which is the process of
editing. Montage is the process of selecting; editing and piecing
together separate sections of cinema film to form a continuous piece.
The sound affects and the shrilling music combine to add more
suspense, but all sounds stop for a silence when Marion is helpless
and pulls onto the curtain railing and falls onto the floor.
Additionally, The shower scene also contains many different shots from
which they come from many different angles. Hitchcock uses a lot of
different shots to show contrast to the way they look to the audience
watching. We see a lot of close-up shots being used in the film, when
Marion is stabbed; a close-up of her screaming face zooms into her
mouth and more close-ups of her body are used during the stabbing.
These close-ups play a realistic effect on the reaction that Marion is
showing during the scene. Back lighting is also used during the
stabbing, which shows an outline shadow of the killer, but it does not
show their face. This brings mystery to the film
Another type of shot used in the scene is point of view shots; this
shot is used to show the audience mis-en-scene from Marion and
Norman’s perspective. This shot make the scene look more genuine.
Nearing the end of the shower scene, the intense music was playing
throughout the scene, but it suddenly stops as Marion falls out of the
bath tub and the shot shown of her falling out is high angle view.
This is to get the whole view of the bathtub and of Marion.
The camera then zooms onto the plughole of the bathtub and the effect
of fading is used to move onto the next frame. Editing did this, It
shows the close up the plug hole fading into the close up of Marion’s
eye and it then slowly zooms out with the sound the shower still
running. The sound brings it scene into realism.
This is also where the audience begin to think about what is going to
happen the body of Marion Crane.
Furthermore, Norman Bates’ character comes across as an anxious,
nervous and quite disturbed man. We can tell when he is under pressure
by stuttering when asked about the whereabouts of Marion Crane by the
Private Investigator, Milton Arbogast.
“Well, um, she arrived rather late one night and she went straight to
sleep and uh, left early the next morning…”
“oh, very early, … the, um, the, um the, next morning. Sunday.”
These quotes from the questioning with Norman Bates, it is clear that
he was very nervous and tries to avoid the Investigator’s questions.
Norman also has an aggressive side to him. He becomes very persistent
with Marion, when she suggests that his mother ought to be placed into
But Norman replies angrily,
““You mean an institution? A madhouse? ... Have you ever seen inside
one of those places? The laughing and the tears! And the eyes studying
This shows that Norman has strong feelings and emotions for his
mother. The quote also suggests that Norman could have been in one of
the institutions, as he seems to know a lot about them.
In conclusion, there are a few reasons that explain why Psycho was
classed as a classic film of all time. The director, Hitchcock used
modern techniques and varied them in different ways, which had not
been done at the time.
He tested different lighting structures with many different camera
shots and angles. An example of this can be the backlighting used, to
give the film a mysterious feeling.
The lighting helped change the mood and atmosphere of the film.
Also, the music played a big part in the film; it added tension,
suspense and a chilling feeling to it. The string instruments in the
sharp music indicated caution between scenes and whether something was
going to happen.
Hitchcock used film noir. This was much more effective than if he had
used colour film in Psycho. It makes the film look more sinister and
mysterious as well as authentic.
The techniques used by Hitchcock were well placed and presented, that
is what makes it the classic film that it has been so famous for all