Pyscho, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1960, is a film that pushed all boundaries, especially in its repressive era of the 1960s. Every aspect of the film is well thought out by Hitchcock, which eventually led the film to be the highest- grossing of Hitchcock’s career.
The film was shot purposefully in black and white, despite colour film being readily available. Partly for atmosphere and partly for financial reasons- the decision of black and white was not the only well planned corner cut. Hitchcock wanted to shoot the film for less than $1m. All the clothes worn by Janet Leigh were purposefully store bought as apposed to custom made. Hitchcock wanted his audience to relate to her, wearing typical clothes that a secretary would wear.
The score by Bernard Hermann, again created on budget, is now recognised worldwide. Created using a smaller, string orchestra, as apposed to a full symphonic, gives the events in which the music reaches it’s climax a rawer more bludgeoned feel. Hitchcock worked with Hermann for many of his films “Hermann, like Hitchcock, could be a bristly perfectionist, contentious, and pedant. Although Hermann was clearly not the sort who easily took direction” (Wiess, 2000). It’s this attitude from Hermann which brought the famous sound sequence into existence, originally Hitchcock wanted silence throughout the motel scenes.
Fitting in with Hitchcock’s want for shifting sympathy, he uses a wide variety of shots. Through this he allows us to experience the film from many different angles, leaving us unsure where our alliances lay once the credits roll. Hitchcock gives us wide shots, giving us a feel for every environment we are entering. He also gives us extreme close ups, when the characters are feeling under pressure or intimidated. This creates a claustrophobic feeling, especially with such a large face on large cinematic screen (Fig 1). In a few scenes, we get a hectic sense of what is going through the characters mind. For example in the scene where Marion is packing, we see shots constantly going back to the pile of money, as she decides whether or not to steal it. We see the same thing happen again when Marian enters Norman’s office and sees stuffed birds.
Hitchcock’s shower scene is famed and has been parodied worldwide since the film’s release. “Hitchcock’s masterful filming of this scene cannot be overstated. Using two cameras, multiple close-ups, over 50 cuts and a good deal of chocolate syrup, he crafted in just three minutes one of the most terrifyingly realistic murder scenes ever shot on film” (Dwyer, 2007) The close ups again give a sense of hecticism. Censor laws called for Marion’s naked body to be covered by strategic shots, but this works as it allows you to focus on the murder.
Wiess, E, (2000) Sound in Psycho at http://filmsound.org/articles/hitchcock/makingpsycho.htm
Dwyer S (2007) Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho at http://classicfilm.about.com/od/mysteryandsuspense/fr/Alfred-Hitchcock-S-Pyscho.htm
Still from Psycho (1960) at http://www.visualsoc.net/page/17