Free Psycho: 1960 Argumentative Essay Example
Alfred Hitchcock is famous for his surprisingly suspense thrillers. His 1960 masterpiece, ‘Psycho’ was one of the best. The use of Mise-en-scène very craftily for most of the scenes and settings of the movie. To produce something so creative and suspenseful in 1060 is truly a huge challenge. In modern world, all the technology and special effects are there to support the vision of a director. This paper talks about the in-depth analysis of the movie ‘Psycho’ from the point of an argumentative level. The center of focus is the ‘Women domination’. The thesis of this paper is to analyze if the female characters are more dominating than the male characters. Most of the sequences in the movie needs a rather elaborate analysis to come to a conclusion. This paper will use the Mise-en- scène to describe the use of certain things to bring out one of the best psychological thrillers of the history of filmmaking. The paper discusses if the director has tried to show the women characters in the movie as more dominant and active than the counterpart. The counter arguments will focus on the points that prove it otherwise.
Coming to the use of Mise-en- scène of the movie. The lighting of the movie, the use of contrast of black and white in most of the scene is very intuitive. To instill suspense and thrill to a scene, the director uses the flat contrast in lighting and shadow to bring out the suspense of the moment. For example, in the climax scene, when Lila sees the skeleton of Norman’s mother, she accidently hits the light bulb on the ceiling leading to the pendulum movement of the bulb creating the perfect aesthetics for the biggest suspense of the movie, ‘The psycho killer’. Similarly, use of contrast lighting to shoot the scenes of Norman’s house and the mysterious figure of his mother visible through the windows is also very convincing for the viewers. The use of lights and shadows to reveal or conceal some of the majestic elements of the movie is the craftsmanship of the director that has paid off very well in the final product.
The use of props and costume in the movie is also amazingly intelligent. The portrayal of the regular characters of the society and various professions of the society are in such a way that describes the civilization and culture of that particular time period of the movie. The costumes and appearance of Norman amidst the normal people, and blending of his real psychological duality with the clothing sense of the character is also very intelligent. The appearance of his mother on the other hand, is on a whole different level. When the cheap wig and the ugly dress of her mother reveals itself to the audience, the feeling of disgust that the audience feel while watching that last scene speaks for the achievement of the use of costumes and make-up of the movie.
Talking about the conversion of Hitchcock’s vision into a real motion picture, the editing of each sequence is mark of perfection. The best example is the first scene where the view of the busy city zooms in to the window of the hotel room where the story begins. The contrast camera angles to portray the conjugal meeting between Marion and Sam holds the deep inner meaning. The editing of this shot is done in such a way that the suspense about these character’s future starts to build very rigorously in the mind of the audiences. Another shot in the moving car when Marion is running away with the stolen money envelopes the perfect blend of her emotional struggle as well as the beautiful aesthetics of the moving car.
The use of props and editing of the scene where the revelation of the skeleton of Norman’s mother is very intriguingly dark. The perfect climax for the pile of suspense and mystery that was build up till that very moment. The camera angles in the killing of Marion is also one of the classic scenes in the history of this genre of cinema. That shot was pictured with absolute reality. The scene also encloses the first entry of the psycho killer. The scene is shot with such craft that the differentiation between Norman and his mother convinces audiences to believe the existence of these different identities. The location and setting of the motel and Norman’s house is also very creative. The killing of the detective and hiding the car in the swamp shows the domination of the wickedness of the psycho killer to hide the previous crimes. The use of props like the shower curtain is very intelligent in the killing scene of Marion. The killer stabs her repeatedly, she struggles to hold onto something that can give her power over her killer, but she only finds the curtain that is drenched with her blood. The use of shadow to hide the violence of the stabbing is also very thoughtful from Hitchcock.
Coming to the character of Marion. She is an ambitious young girl who is having an affair with a man who is in a financial trouble. The fact that the man she loves is in the trouble doesn’t stop her from loving him. On the contrary, it motivates her to steal 40,000 $ from her boss, who trusts her a lot with his money. The character of Marion gives a dual perspective to the audience. She is brave and fearless for sure. These characteristics shows her domination in the relationship with his partner. She does not consult her partner before committing a serious crime for their relationship. Using uptight city clothes for the character of Marion is very thoughtful from the director to show her ambitious nature to achieve her dreams. She is very sophisticated in choosing her clothes, car and words. She want to grab every opportunity that she gets to make her future bright. Her clothes say more than her words and actions in this movie.
Her partner is absolutely unaware of her adventures whatsoever. This shows her domination in the movie. She works out a plan to change her car form the used car showroom, she also figures out a way to get out of this crime neat and clean. But, amidst all these bravery, her character loses the image when she is forced to stay in a strange motel due to weather conditions. All her bad dreams come true when she is attacked all of a sudden in the bathroom with a knife by the horrible character. In this particular sequence, she becomes so scared and helpless, that she fails to put up a fight against this killer. This part of her character shows her flaws as a weak person. Of course one has to consider the element of surprise when she saw a killer in her bathroom. So, the character of Marion is brave and intelligent shows her domination very clearly. However, she fails to protect herself and misses the obvious strangeness in the behavior of the receptionist of the motel shows her weakness as a feeble character. She is the kind of girl next door who is the eye candy of the office reception. Her boss, flirts with her occasionally. She is very scared in travelling alone. She pretends to be composed during her crime, but actually, she is scared to her death when a policeman stops her car on the highway. She also gives away her concealed intentions to the car dealer when she makes a poor deal to sell her car. So, her character is rather weak and guilty altogether.
The scene when the skeleton of Norman’s mother turns very slowly towards Lila, and her immediate fear is captured very amazingly by Hitchcock. The immediate entry of psycho Norman dressed up as a woman reveals the story’s truth with amazingly horrifying sound and great camera movements. Every character in this movie is represented by proper use of props, especially the character of Norman’s mother. When Lila enters her mother’s bedroom, she finds the fresh soap on the sink. The fireplace filled with the woods, the closet filled with neat clothes of woman. All these props are suggestive of the existence of a living person, Lila is so convinced about the existence of his mother. But unfortunately she has to go for a shock when she finds out about the truth.
Coming to the character of Sam, who is a struggler financially, aims to become successful in his endeavors is an essential character in the movie. His honesty to tell his girlfriend about his financial shows the submissive nature of him. He is brave and adamant to find out the truth about his girlfriend’s murder in the later part of the movie. But, he does not take any initiation to do so on his own until Lila comes along. This shows the dependency in his character. He is equally submissive to both Marion and Lila. But, the other side of his character shows up when he bravely protects Lila from the monstrous Norman in the end. That shows his male superiority. His depending nature and inferiority in almost every sequence shows the women domination in the movie. While investigating the murder of Marion and disappearance of the detective, Lila has to push Sam on every step to go ahead. From the body language and clothing of Sam, it is very evident that he is rather lazy or scared to pursue such a thing. Even while investigating the bedroom of Norman’s mother, Sam remains satisfied in engaging the Norman rather than going himself.
Norman, who is a tormented boy with the worst childhood develops split personality. Enraged young boy kills his own dominating mother. To spare the horrifying guilt, he keeps her alive inside his mind. He is so used to her dominating him, that even inside his mind, he build her as the same old mother who shouts and scolds her child. His suppressed rage and anger for his mother gives birth to his murderer counterpart. He wants to take his anger out on the all the women in the world. So, he constantly looks for a reason to kill every female customer at his motel. To hide his guilt as a murderer, his conscious switches to her mother’s character while killing an innocent woman. He intentionally, befriends the lonely women to encourage the feeling of possessiveness of her mother. That possessiveness triggers the switch in his persona, and the strong dominating mother kills the women under the pretense that the new woman will snatch her only child away from her. This psychological brutality is so deep in the character of Norman, that it can take a lot of brainstorming to analyze completely. That is the beauty of Hitchcock’s storytelling. In this one person, resides two character exactly opposite to each other. Norman is very inferior to his mother. The psycho mother is ruthlessly pragmatic about killing innocent women, whereas the immature son wants to befriend them. The constant parental pressure on Norman leads to his complete surrender to the dominant personality of his mother. Even in the police station, where he is apprehended, his mother overpowers his physical and mental self. He lets the evil dominant persona take over the complete control of his psyche. This shows the innate weakness of Norman’s character.
Another true sense of domination is seen in the last scene where Norman’s mother speaks to herself. The ultimate defeat of weaker Norman has inspired her to flourish in her true sense. The shot slowly zooms towards Norman’s face. The fly that is sitting on the hands of Norman with the background narration from her mother is a beautiful presentation of editing and sound mixing.
Lila is an independent young woman, who wants find out the truth about her sister’s death. She is ready to go to any level to do so. She is also brave and intelligent like her sister. She takes help from Sam to find the truth. Her domination is clearly visible in her initiation to start the investigation about the death of her sister.
She is fearless in true sense. Even after learning that the personal investigator is missing, she is ready to go to the motel to face the horror herself. All these virtues are of a dominant, brave woman. She knew that the secrets and mysteries that she is intending to solve are not going to pleasant. Yet, she was very determined to pursue the truth. This virtue of her shows her domination in the movie. She wants to take control of the situation on her own. The use of props and costumes to create the character of Norman’s mother describes the domination of that character over Norman’s mind very clearly. The knife, the wig, the gown and the collectables of Norman’s mother are clearly a deep insight of the domination of the psychological illness over the timid and fearful mind of Norman.
Hitchcock’s creative vision, stunningly beautiful visuals, realism in the action sequences is appreciable. The style of his filmmaking is most engaging. The art of keeping a suspense till the last scene of the movie is very well deserved virtue of Hitchcock. Even in 1960s when the lighting and visuals options were very limited, he used the balanced lighting in the sequences of the movie. The use of high-key, low-key, frontal and back lighting is good. In the scenes involving the motel rooms and Norman’s house, the use of focus, deep focus and depth of field is amazing. The staging of the props and sets of each shot is also a work of art. To show the darkness in the motel atmosphere, the props of mummified animal heads and rare collectibles are visually apt for the situation. Similarly, the props and staging of Norma’s house including the remaining of his mother are a piece of a good portrayal.
In the male predominant society, some women are predominant. The character of Marion, Norman’s mother and Lila are a proof of that. Scientifically, women’s survival instincts are more powerful than men. They do not have the muscle power to dominate a man, but they have the psychological advantage to manipulate the man to her own will. The same thing happened in this movie. The dominating nature of Norman’s evil mother altered the psyche of an innocent tormented boy. The invasion of Norman’s psyche by her mother is so deep that it is difficult to revert it back. Usually, when a human mind thinks about killing another human being, the consciousness calls for a protest. However, in split personality, the consciousness is overpowered by the dominant character. In this case, it is the mother of Norman.
"A Thematic Analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho." Novel guide. 4 Mar. 2015. <http://www.novelguide.com/reportessay/literature/novels/thematic-analysis-alfred-hitchcocks-psycho>.
"Psycho study Guide." Film education. <http://www.filmeducation.org/pdf/film/Psycho.pdf>.
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