Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Viewing–Hitchcock’s “Psycho”

I can’t believe that before now, I hadn’t seen this movie.  I knew the story from reading about it over the years. From my reading of Warren Buckland’s “Understand Film Studies” I can see why it has its place on the recommended films list. It is able to demonstrate the following aspects of film making:
  • Diegesis and film sound - Diegesis is the story or narrative world of the film. There is internal and external diegetic sound, external being the voices of characters, sounds of animals, the music soundtrack etc. Internal diegetic is sound heard only within the mind of a character (and the audience of course). in the closing scenes of the film, Norman is thinking with his mother’s voice, confirmation of his psychosis.
  • Montage – the classic shower scene montage (a non linear sequence which shows an idea greater than the sum of its parts) cut to Bernard Hermann’s rhythmic score, shows very little other than Norman’s “mother” wielding the knife, Marion Crane falling in the shower and dragging the curtain off the rail. There is no stabbing of flesh shown. The viewer fills in the gaps and creates in their mind the grisly slashing murder suggested by the music and the montage of images.
  • Narrative devices and structure – Hitchcock is a master storyteller and uses many devices in telling his stories. The first three scenes of the movie are a good example of causal logic in narrative development. 1. Sam and Marion discuss marriage but can’t afford it. 2. Sam leaves the hotel and Marion returns to her office. $40,000 dollars become available to her. 3. We see her at home with the money. She is packing a suitcase. This narrative device introduces an obstacle (no money to get married) She overcomes that obstacle but then creates disequilibrium in the narrative by becoming a fugitive. Omniscient narrative (the story is told from the point of view of many characters) and Restricted narrative (the story is told from the point of view of one character only) are both used by Hitchcock in Psycho. Omniscient narrative produces suspense while Restricted narrative produces mystery.
  • Hitchcock uses the process of searching for the dominant character using the camera. The film opens with a panning shot of the Phoenix skyline and then zooms into a hotel room to establish Marion as the dominant character for the start of the movie. After her murder, the camera wanders around the motel room until Norman enters and then it attaches to him as the dominant character.
According to Buckland, Psycho is a good example of Hitchcock’s emphasis on editing, particularly the montage in the shower scene (34 shots in 24 seconds) Shooting a high number of POV shots and shooting in a confined space (Lifeboat and Rear Window) are two more characteristic Hitchcock styles.

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