Media Studies Psycho Essay Charlie Anderson In his masterpiece “Psycho”, director Alfred Hitchcock propels his narrative through closely following and manipulating the different aspects of the film matrix. These include the basic uses of conflict resolution, the manoeuvring of time and space and the utilisation of the narratives codes and conventions. Hitchcock uses a succession of non-autonomous scenes to describe how the apparent protagonist, Marian Crane (played by Janet Leigh), decides to steal $40,000, flee her home in Phoenix and undertake a long automobile trip to California.
To the audience, it appears as though Marian Crane’s theft and flight are the principal elements of the film’s plot. Hitchcock, however, surprises the audience by using archival time both to lead us to believe that Marian Crane is his protagonist and then abruptly changes the direction of his film.Psycho begins with the camera drifting lazily from left to right across the skyline of Phoenix, Arizona.
Hitchcock used similar shots in the beginning of both The Lady Vanishes and Shadow of a Doubt, implying a movement from the general to the particular and from the objective to the subjective. This sets the scene for the beginning of the film, an establishing shot showing buildings from a distance tells us that it must be a reasonably modern setting in a city. From this (where Hitchcock establishes the motivation for the narrative) we are moved to a desolate highway and a small isolated motel. This part of the real images matrix is easily achieved in the movie as the film continues to progress.Early in the film we are introduced to the narratives supposed protagonist Marion Crane, Alfred Hitchcock appears to establish Crane as the main character of “Psycho” from the film’s very first scenes. From here we meet her boyfriend Sam Loomis in a discussion about his in debt and alimony payments, this tends to suggest that there will be conflict arising.
After the establishment of these and the catalyst of the story by way of Marions theft of $40,000 we are introduced to minor characters. These include the police officer who pulls over Marion and then proceeds to watch her at the car lot, he acts as a blocking character who is there to firstly create tension in the mind of Marion but also in the mind of the unknowing audience who still thinks that the story is about her. After Marions journey to the Bates motel we meet the real central character to whom the title refers to, Norman Bates. Hitchcock develops him as a young shy and defensive individual which leads the audience to think otherwise about the apparent “psycho that they have already established in their minds.
Throughout the introduction the director sticks closely to the basic form of central and minor characters. He uses them against each other to create different conflict throughout the film and finally leaves one being defeated. By following the features of conflict resolution, Hitchcocks narrative adheres to two of the possible three resolutions put forward by Mcmahon and Quinn. Person versus person, in terms of the clash between Norman Bates and our other characters.
Person versus self which could very well in some instances epitomise in the case of Norman Bates who disputes and loses internally against his alter ego, his mother.By using this character he sets classic conflict between others. We see early on the murder of Marion Crane, then of Arbogast. This leads to the involvement of Marions sister and Sam Loomis who create conflict within Bates himself resulting in his capture and the eventual resolution of Normans mental condition given by the state psychiatrist .
Hitchcock again, by using conflict which creates tension and suspense and then by resolving this very clearly results in the audience being satisfied that the film has ended and has been concluded. Throughout the film Hitchcock uses a constant amount of montages to convey different emotions and journey through time and space as the definition of Eisenstein in Macmahon in Quin suggests. For example when Marion flees with the money from Phoenix, music accompanies a short montage of simultaneous time, followed by a scene of Marian’s car on the side of the road. Soon a policeman approaches the car and confronts Marion. There is a quick shot of the policeman’s face which menacingly fills the whole screen.
The long montage (accompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s score) further leads us to believe that Marion is headed for a nervous breakdown or worse. The music builds in intensity while the officer follows Marion. It is heard during a long montage which creates shortened time throughout her trip in Marions car in which she is once more plagued by voices in her head. She hears the voice of the rich client as he demands Marian’s blood! This not only passes time visibly from day to night but gives the impression that Marian’s mental state is growing steadily worse is reinforced by her fixed stare as well as by the long highway trip itself (a journey into insanity, perhaps?). Through these examples Hitchcock shows that by his clever use of montage he is able to show the films movement through time and space by countless examples throughout the narrative.Again by the use of codes of film, Hitchcock not only uses these in the conventional sense but also pioneered the manipulation of many types of these. In the extreme case of the shower scene which has been highly acclaimed for being probably the most reputable scene in films history, Hitchcock combines unique technicalities such as the framing of each shot.
Using extreme close-ups of the face of the victim we can see her facial expression in great detail. We are able to see the enlightened horror of her emotion. Along with sound effects this creates a chilling experience even though we never see her being wounded, by this Hitchcock wanted to leave the visual image of her being stabbed in the minds of the viewer.Although there is little movement of the camera throughout the director uses an eye level angle to show the brutality as if we were actually there. He continues to switch from the perspective of the victim and the attacker which in turn enables more variation of angles and framing. Throughout the scene we only see very short shots and cuts this emphasises the intensity and ferocity of the sequence. During the film the DOP constantly uses the film stock of monochrome to play with black and white lighting which has practical as well as symbolic uses.
He does this to alternately contrast different characters and objects which in turn reveal and conceal characters such as the killer whos face we never see until the end.Symbolically it is always night at the Bates Motel, except for the climax, when the secrets are finally illuminated. Throughout the film we become more and more aware of Hitchcocks use of different methods of film, whether it be the way the story is told using montage or the technical use of the camera. He is able to convey his narrative by abiding by the the guide lines set down by Mcmahon and Quinn. By using these he creates an atmosphere that was pioneering for his time, he manoeuvres the matrix of film narrative in such a way that leaves the audience with a sense of resolution and the feeling that the cinematic experience that they have just experiences was worth the time.