I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho to help out with research on thrillers and for my own ideas on making one. This film is a tribute to classic 1940’s Noir thrillers and sound is a very dominant feature creating suspense and tension.
The main character is Marion Crane, a dominant femme fatal and was filmed in black and white to add to the unglamorous and nightmare locations. The opening scene is very classic and is almost a voyeuristic experience. The camera pan’s into a window (like a peeping tom) and shows us a secretive relationship between two lovers (Marion Crane of them).This window signifies the secretiveness of them, and is seen as an unglamorous cheap location.
Later on we find out that Marion is a secretary. This shows us the status of women at this periodic time, and also reminds us how she wants a commitment with this man who’s having an affair with her, but he obviously doesn’t. This signifies that she may be feeling lower then him, and this could be important to what is going to happen in the film and what Marion is going to do.Marion is asked to take some money from an important client to the bank, we se her deciding to take the money and run away from everything she’s leaving behind. There is one very effective scene in this film, where the sound and images reveal all.
She is packing her belongings and this is where she has changed form black to white underwear, showing seduction. Whilst she does this, non- digetic music plays over the top. The opening shot of Kill Bill 2 is an exact replica (interstitial reference) of this.Where Marion is escaping with the money, she is driving out of Arizona. In Kill Bill there is an exact shot like this, where the bride is in the car and looking directly at us.
Also this opening scene of Kill Bill is shot in Black and White, so remind the audience of Psycho and the upcoming events to warn them. When Marion is in the car there are many thriller references. The colour of Black And white is typical and the non-diegetic music playing, which acted like her heart beat, gradually getting faster, increasing fear.Another Thriller reference is when Marion looks through her car mirror window, she is being followed by a policeman and behind her in the mirror she sees the car. This provokes more fear as she is trying to hide but is being chased. This is a cross reference to Jewel, where this scene is featured, showing a generic signifier.
Camera angles are very important in this film and is sometimes all the information that the audience needs. Marion is in a toilet outside a car lot, she wants to buy a new car, to change her identity.The toilet is a generic signifier because it’s unglamorous and a confined space. There is a close up of Marion’s hands clutching them money, and then we see her reflection in the mirror. This may show a double personality of Marion when she with the money, and we see this later on when she uses a different cover name. Marion finally gets away, and comes across a motel. She gives a man (hotel worker) Norman Bates a fake name and hesitates choosing a room number. This shows she is paranoid and vulnerable to what she has been doing.
There is no dialogue in the next scene; she is trying to hide her money in a appropriate place and non diegetic music plays whilst Marion’s decides. In Psycho music and soundtrack is always played when we build to climaxes. When we meet Norman bates we straight away can’t tell what sort of person he is, and it all seems mysterious along with the unglamorous location.
Later on, we watch them having a conversation whilst eating supper. There is a shot where Norman, is made to look like he has Wings in the shot, by shadowing of objects around him.The room they are in is filled with stuffed birds, and the significance of the birds show death and paralised freedom (captured). We see birds as very delicate and fragile which also reminds the audience of how vulnerable Marion is and how she could be seen as ‘bird like’. Marion’s second name is Crane. This is significant because ‘Crane’ is a type of bird, and as the room is filled with uncomfortable stuffed birds, the audiences start to panic in what is going to happen.
This all anticipates Marion’s fate, which could end to death like the birds.Norman later on is used to provoke irony, he says “You eat like a bird”, this not only shows how weird Norman is, but how we fear for Marion. Another generic signifier at this point is Norman. His second name is Bates. This shows how he is luring ‘Crane’ into his game like a bird, he is using ‘Bate’ she is his prey.
Norman shows signs of madness. There conversation topic was evolved around Love, death and Sanity stating he was once mad and also emphasizes on the word ‘Grave’! The lighting in the film is mostly Non Ambient.The camera angles are always significant in Psycho, we always see Norman in high perspective shot form a low angle.
This shows he is superior and in control compared to Marion seen in a low perspective shot from a high angle showing she is the victim. Marion emphasises his voyeuristic nature, he is very sinister and is ‘watching his prey’. We see him looking through a hole in the wall, which the camera zooms through revealing Marion’s bathroom. This makes the audience feel they are there, also watching. This is also like the opening shot to psycho, looking through on someone/something.
We see someone entering a shower, from the bottom half of there body, showing they are vulnerable in a very confined space, with a shower curtain for there barrier which shows a generic signifier. Then the camera is at a high angle shot, and we can see someone entering through the door, not revealing there identity. The only sound playing at this point is the diegetic sound of the shower, sounds similar to rain, which was the weather outside earlier on.
She is stabbed by an anonymous person, and as she dies she cling to the shower curtain pulling it down with her, we see a shoot of her from a high angle showing she is not in control at all.This turns into the shower almost washing her sins (blood) away into the plug hole which is very significant as the plug hole is shot slowly rotating and turns into Marion’s eye. Then we see the camera shot up and out towards the money and then to the house. After this, Norman notices one of his picture frames of a bird has fallen from the wall, this shows she is dead. And the bird has finally fallen to its downfall. Once this has happened we see Norman rush into the crime scene and reacts like he is very shocked by her death.This shower sequence is a main generic feature of a thriller and is very popular. Norman wraps her in the shower curtain, which was once her barrier and is now her body bag.
Norman starts cleaning frantically and looks like he knows what he is doing and has done this before. he places Marion’s body into a car boot, with is again very enclosed and confined. This is a cross reference too Jackie B. Jackie Brown features a scene of a person being killed in a car boot.
Then we see Norman driving a car downhill into a swamp, and we here the diegetic noise of the bubbles rippling to the surface.