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“Psycho” contains many symbols and techniques that pushed the limit of acceptable filmmaking in the 1960’s. The violence had to be tamed in such a way that the audience would not be robbed of the experience. Hitchcock accomplished this by making the film in black and white. Not only did it aid him on the monetary front, but he felt the studio and the audience would be able to handle the graphic nature of the film with this technique. I’ve interpreted the use of black and white as a tool as to not draw attention away from the focal point of the scenes. Without visual distraction, the viewer becomes more attached to each character.
Another visual technique is the continuing motif of taxidermy. The characters discuss it briefly, there are some cutaway shots of the animals, but it is mostly left up to the viewer to infer the purpose of the visuals.
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The main star of the film is the camera angles. It is widely known that Hitchcock doesn’t get involved with character development. He believed that the hiring of a good screenwriter would compensate for this and that responsibility would lie with them. Hitchcock would storyboard his films and detail the shots he wants in the film. He basically instructed his actors where the camera would be and to get out all of their “troublesome” acting into the camera angles provided. Huge crane (no pun intended) shots such as the opening scene swooping through the hotel window, and the oblique camera angle panning out from Marion Crane’s eye, then focusing on the money, then finishing up on the house to eavesdrop on Norman’s dialogue with mother are just two scenes that provide awe inspired pauses to reflect on what was just seen. A few camera tricks have been included in this film as well. The infamous “psycho house” still located on the back lot of Universal studios in Hollywood, California, was built to a smaller scale. Upon driving a few feet from the house, it looked almost two-thirds the scale that is projected in the film. What Hitchcock did to develop the character within the psycho house, was film it from the base of the motel only, giving it a larger scale to the audience. One of the more subtle camera angles in the film is that often Norman Bates is shot from slightly low angle giving Norman the same imposing presence as the home he lives in. This adds to the already chilling depiction of the Bates family.
Although many of the ideas presented here are interpretations, each person watching this film will make many different conclusions. A good filmmaker leaves that privilege for any admirers of their work and this film is no different. When I watched “Psycho” again in preparation for this paper I felt that the last scene of the film gives an insight to what Alfred Hitchcock thinks about his body of work. I feel that instead of Anthony Perkins giving me the creepy smile and telling me that he wouldn’t hurt a fly, it is Hitchcock himself smiling at the audience because he knows he made the scariest movie of all time.