How Does Hitchcock create and maintain suspense in his 1960s film ‘Psycho’
The film psycho was produced in the 1960s by Alfred Hitchcock. This was a very different film not because of the story line but because of all the unseen scenes in the film such as the bra scene where spectator see a woman’s bra to us this is an everyday thing to see in a movie but in the 60s this was a controversial thing. If a flushing of a toilet was a big deal a woman’s bra would have been enormous. The promotion for psycho was also massive as even people weren’t allowed to enter the cinema as the cinema doors were shut.
Also the film used unordinary marketing and promoting techniques therefore the audience will think the film would be similar. This created tension before the film was even shown to the audience. The main reason for ‘Psycho’ to be such a groundbreaking film is probably because it dealt with taboo issues such as murder and death. This is also a big issue but is hidden as it is considered unsociable. This is probably why it was dubbed ‘the mother of the modern horror film’. Films which followed in the horror genre use some of the techniques
The title Psycho builds up tension as we don’t exactly know what its referring to as there are many forms of psychological disorders so this could be anything and even if watcher know that its about a murderer but most murders are pled on the cases of insanity but we will want to see what kind of psychotic disorder the Psycho has. Psycho also has connotations which are scary and spine tinkling. This gives the film a thrill factor. The opening scene is rather odd as it is an everyday situation. This makes the viewer think what has the title got to do with this?
It also may ‘lull’ the audience into a false sense of security and make them relax before the introduction of the Psycho. When Marion steals money from her boss it takes away tension from the psycho and the tension is switched on to the money. By having two storylines connected with one story creates tension in both areas one on the money and the other on the psycho himself. There are a few scenes where there are climaxes Marion and the money such as where her boss is staring at her at the traffic lights. This creates a peak of tension because his face is central to the shot and it is only focused on him.
What’s more, is that Marion shouldn’t be there to being with. Another scene where tension is mounted is where police officer stops her. This shows that she is bound to get caught as she has been so many times by people she doesn’t want to be around. Also, the officers appearance is scary as he is wearing large sunglasses this gives us a feel that he is inhuman. By the police officer trailing her gives us a feel that’s she is jumpy and tense. This is portrayed by the different camera angles we are given in a short duration of time.
The shot of her eyes shows she is nervous and makes the audience feel anxious for her. All of these shots create tension within the audience and makes them want to know what happens next but are worried about the outcome. When Marian arrives at the small, isolated motel she has no clue to what she should anticipate. The rain is beating down so hard you can’t hear anything all you can see is the enormous gothic house with a silhouette of someone in the window. As the house is above the motel it shows that it is menacing. What makes it more menacing is it is situated on a hill which shows it is superior to the motel.
This setting creates a terrifying atmosphere because it’s so dark and quiet observer does not know what to expect or what’s going to happen next, therefore generates anxiety within the audience all they know is something bad is going to happen but they don’t know what. At this point the music ceases. The change of mood also creates nervousness as this is definite proof something is suspicious. Darkness, stillness and silence all are associated with a touch of something sinister. In the office Norman Bates acts in a very unusual manner. Some good examples of this are the things he does and says.
He hesitates to which cabin to allocate Marion this gives the members of the audience a sense of something’s wrong or he is intrigues a shocking action. Bates also underlines that the motel is isolated meaning no one comes to the motel anymore. He observes her eating which is unnatural these also unnerves the viewer as he has a close interest in rather odd things. He mentions that she eats like a bird this shows symbolism to death; as he has an odd hobby of taxidermy of birds of prey. He says ‘we’ when he talks this is referring to another person at the motel other then themselves.
This makes the audience feel uneasy as they are unsure of who it is therefore the viewer feels intrigued to find out who this third person is. His conversations have links to death and entrapment this also makes the audience feel that Bates is rather suspicious and a suspect to the murders. Bates is ensnared by death all examples of this are his hobby of taxidermy and the creatures he likes to stuff are birds of prey this makes the audience think about him being the killer. The point where Marion gets murdered is in the shower. Alfred perfected this scene as he spent a week filming it using 70 cameras and many different angles.
This is the peak of the whole film as all the taboo incidences are occurring here. This is also a sudden switch of plot as the focus from the stole money is stimulated across to the murder. The focus begins when Norman is staring at Marion through a peephole, she is unaware of this. This shows that Bates is perverted. While Marion is having a shower we see a silhouette of a woman; this is a shock to the audience as no other woman has been introduced to viewer yet. At this point the music plays intensively to create a higher form on anxiety. This also creates dramatic irony as Marion is oblivious to the woman standing there.
The high pitched fast paced music suddenly starts as the shower curtain is rapidly opened and Marion is stabbed brutally several times. The audience never sees anything apart from the hand of the killer therefore at this moment in the film the murderer is anonymous. The audience sees water being washed down the drain this shows her life being washed away as without blood we can’t live. The shot of her in the shower is just of her hand sliding down tiles this shows connections to desperation. The shower curtain is pulled down off the rail this implies the brutality of the murder.
The final shot is on Marion’s eyes they are still and lifeless these are direct links to death and also join to Bates watching her through the peephole. The different camera angles work effectively as we shots of Marion, the knife and her blood. The viewer had expected a sin to occur due to the build of tension but we would never think its something this horrific. I believe a knife was chosen as the instrument of death as it shows more brutality because the average person would not die from one stab, therefore if it is repeated it shows emphasis on the brutality.
If the weapon was a gun this would not create tension because one shot would b suffice to kill someone. The music accompanies the action to give a higher sense of apprehensiveness. This was the first time this technique was used in a film. The music help heighten the action especially where there was naturally high tension such as when Marion steals the money and when Marion is murdered the pace of the music speeds up to give us the viewer a better feel of the action. Also the stabbing is in time with the music and the camera changes indicating when Marion is being hacked.
But while this is happening, the camera angles change quickly so the hacking cannot be seen. What this technique does, is that it creates suggestions, so the viewer’s imagination takes over, making them believe the death is more horrendous and heartless than it really is. When Marion is approaching the motel there is minimal noise apart from the rain as it shows its has connection to bad doings also its heavy and loud this shows that something on the same scale will happen now a days we see this as typical.
The minimal noises in the background also build tension and give a more uncanny feeling. Throughout the film the camera was in charged to manipulate the viewer unnerving them creating tension. In each shot there’s a focus, and this focus is in the centre of the shot the show this. The long shots of the house make the hotel look menacing; the distance is incriminating to the viewer that you don’t want to go into to that house, which creates associations. These shots connect the viewers associations with the gothic house to Norman Bates, making him just as intimidating as the building.
The camera regularly does close up shots of the money even though the main story is not about this, the effect it has, is that the viewers focuses on the money, but the money is irrelevant and apparent to the storyline, and what this does is it gives another viewpoint, it ‘sidetracks’ them, so Hitchcock can surprise the viewer at a different ‘angle’, this would be the murder of Marion as we would usually see her trying to escape with the money instead of getting murders by a psychotic man. The movie in its day was terrifying, and it still makes its viewers tense. This is because of Alfred originality.
Alfred has used many techniques to manipulate, and ‘sidetrack’ the reader and viewer. He also used techniques to make things seem more violent then they really are, and this is what made it so enthralling to watch and so unique. Most of the techniques used by Alfred are still used today, and this really shows the impact he had on the film industry as most of his techniques are still used today. Not only do directors use some of his ground-breaking ideas, but without these ideas, the film industry wouldn’t be as advanced and developed as today. Without this revolutionary film we wouldn’t get the movies that have been made in the present day.