Alfred Hitchcock has been called 'the Master of Suspense', considering 'psycho' state how effectively he achieves the element of suspense in this film. The film Pycho is known for its suspense. The dictionary definition of suspense is 'the anxious uncertainty the audience feels while waiting for an event. It's an attraction/repulsion response, or that 'oooooh errrrr' feeling! ' I personally think that suspense is the feeling of not knowing what's about to happen, feeling unsure of how to react to the next thing that happens.
It puts you in to a state uncertainty or excitement, like you are waiting for a decision. It makes you feel a degree of apprehension or anxiety. Alfred Hitchcock was brought up in a strict Roman Catholic environment. He always knew exactly what was right and what was wrong and was aware of other people's wrong doings. This comes across in the film. Marion was the first woman to be murdered and she was also the first person to be seen as immoral, she was seen in white underwear in the first scene as she was in bed with a man she was having an affair with.
This shows her flaunting her sexuality. She was also seen flushing the toilet just before she was murdered. This is another thing that Hitchcock was brought up to think was immoral also Hitchcock was a misogynist. This might explain why he killed off the main female character in the film. Work played a huge part in Hitchcock's life, he was a workaholic infact. People would describe Hitchcock as obsessive with his films because he would devote his life to and take so much pride in them. Psycho was released in 1960.
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The morals and attitudes of people were a lot different in 1960 to what they are now. There were far more of the population who attended church and would call themselves 'christian'. Also there was a much surer sense of definite rights and wrongs; moral and immoral behaviour was much more clearly defined. In the film this comes through clearly. In 1960, men were thought to be superior to woman they certainly occupied the higher status in their occupations. Marion is at work and the man who has come in to speak with her boss is talking to her.
He looks old and arrogant. He is boasting about how rich he is, telling Marion about how he is buying a house for his daughter. He is trying to chat up Marion but she ignores him. He sits on her desk so that he is at a higher level than her to show that he is more important. Marion is seen in her underwear. This was a very rare thing to see in any film in 1960. Before she stole the money she was seen in white underwear which is shocking enough. After she has stolen the money, she is seen again in her underwear but this time it is black.
White is seen as a pure colour so this is why she was wearing white before she stole the money where as black is not pure, a dirty colour, this is why she was wearing black after she had stolen the money, to symbolise that she has become immoral. The audience can now expect something bad to happen. Just before Marion steps into the shower were she gets murdered she flushes a check down the toilet. Films would never show a toilet being flushed in 1960. It was looked up on as an immoral thing to be seen. Now, in 2003, seeing someone flush a toilet on a film is completely normal.
The film starts with a shot of Marion and Sam (her secret boyfriend) in bed. They talk about running away and getting married. Marion goes into work that day as if everything is normal. She sits down at her desk when her boss walks in with a man. The man sits down on her desk and starts telling Marion about the $40000 he has in cash to buy a house and he gives Marion the $40000 to put in the bank but Marion steals the money so that she can get married. She drives to a motel - the 'Bates Motel', and gets herself a room.
She spends sometime talking with Norman Bates, the owner, and then goes to her room for a shower but as she has a shower someone murders her. Norman then takes Marion's body and puts it in a river. Marion's sister, Lila, realises she is missing and asks Sam if he knows where she is, he doesn't. Arbogast is a detective who try's to find Marion so he goes to the motel to see if she is there but Norman says that he doesn't remember her. Arbogast still suspects something so he goes to Norman's house however as he goes up the stairs, he also gets murdered.
Sam and Lila realise that Arbogast hasn't returned so Sam goes to the motel to look for him but he can't find him so then Sam and Lila go back to the motel. Marion's sister goes into the house to look for Norman's mother as Sam and Lila think that she knows something. Lila goes down to the cellar and finds a skeleton of Norman's mother just as Norman comes in to the cellar dressed as his mother with a knife to kill Lila but Sam stops him. Norman's mother was dead but he believed she was still alive, for example, he would pretend to be her and it was Norman being his mother who had murdered Arbogast and Marion.
This is a horror/thriller film. It focuses on an individual who is mentally ill and it explores some of the possible consiqueses of mental illness. This is one of the most successful of Hitchcock films. This could be due to the amount of suspense in it. Hitchcock has used very successful techniques of creating suspense. There are many scenes in Psycho that are suspenseful for example the shower scene where editing was used in a bold and sharp way. The shower scene, in which Marion was brutally murdered, was a huge hit with its audiences.
This is because is was so suspenseful. The quick cuts - the entire stabbing lasted only twenty seconds, the sound effects - you could hear the tearing of the flesh as the knife broke the skin but you never actually saw the knife cut the skin, the music - all strings, very high pitched, the sort of music that makes you cringe and know that something big is about to happen, all created a great amount of suspense. When Marion is in the shower we see the door of the bathroom open, but Marion doesn't. Seeing this makes us pay attention, at this point the suspense starts.
Then the music starts and we see the knife. At this point we are almost certain that she is going to be murdered. Then the murderer pulls back the curtain and Marion screams. In my opinion, this is the most suspenseful point in the murder. As she is being stabbed, there are alternate shots of Marion and the knife and the music is very loud and fast. When the murderer has gone, everything slows down as Marion slides down the wall and falls to the ground. There is a close up on the blood going down the plug hole after the camera has very slowly zoomed in on it.
There is then a close up on Marion's eye, as she lies dead on the ground, and the music is very low and slow and then all the action is over and the level of suspense suddenly drops. This plays with the mood of the audience, it takes them from a state of tension or anticipation, building up to the point were the murder is commited and then giving the audience a kind of release. The music plays a big part in creating suspense. The music used in Psycho is very sinister, high pitched and high tempo. The music not only creates suspense, it adds a certain amount of tension.
As the camera focuses on different things, the music tempo and pitch changed to build suspense, for example, as the camera pans across the room with the money in it the music is a medium tempo but as the camera zooms in on the money the tempo of the music shoots up. This draws your attention to the money. Another of the most suspenseful scenes in Psycho is where Arbogast is murdered. He walks in to the house slowly and curiosly. This is suspenseful as the audience know he's looking for something and are waiting to see what it is.
As he walks up the stairs, the audience see a door open slowly. This builds the tension and anxiety that the audience feel. We see someone step out of the room, at this point the music that was heard when Marion was murdered was played. The audience now associate this music with murder. The person who stepped out of the room starts to walk quickly over to Arbogast on the stairs. The music is very loud and quick at this point. The audience's heart rate is automatically increased and they are more exited/uncertain.
You then again hear him being stabbed but don't actually see it. As Arbogast falls down the stairs, the camera is above him, and he then falls to the floor and the murderer stabs him again, then the music suddenly stops and the camera cuts straight to a different scene. All through that scene there is a lot of suspense. There is a great deal of suspense created in the scene where Lila goes to talk to Norman's mother. Lila walks down to the cellar. The audience thinks she is down there because Norman had said previously that he was taking her down there.
When Lila walks into the cellar, she sees the back of who she thinks is Norman's mother. She turns Norman's mother around and find only the skeleton of her. Throughout this scene there is slow low music playing until she sees the skeleton then the music speeds up. We then see Norman running in to the cellar dressed as a woman. This confuses the audience but builds the suspense as the audience are unsure. When Norman walks into the cellar the music changes to the music played for the previous two murders.
The music automaticly creates suspense as the audience presume there will be another murder. At this point, the audience immediately suspect that he is going to murder Marion's sister but then we see Sam who stops him from murdering her. This creates suspense because it is a twist to what has happened with the other murders, so we do not know what to expect. As Sam fights with Norman he knocks the light bulb so it is swaying. There is a close up of the skeleton, it is in the shadow, then in the light, then in the shadow again etc. because of the light bulb swaying.
The audience feels calm at this point as the light bulb swaying slowly and quietly gives the impression that the drama is over. When Marion is driving away from Phoenix with the stolen money, the audience hear the voices in Marion head. We hear the voice of her boss, what he might say if he found out she had stolen the money. This is suspenseful because we are thinking what if her boss does know she stole the money... what would he do? The voices make the audience feel anxious because they hear what Marion is thinking, and therefore they are put in Marion's position.
We sympathise with Marion because we know what she is thinking. Although she stole the money, we don't feel sorry for Cassidy (the man whose money it was) he is a very arrogant man, he boasted about how much money he has and he tries to flirt with Marion. He doesn't respect Marion; he thinks he can easily get her because of his money. He says 'I never carry as much as I can afford to lose. ' This tells us that he can afford to lose the money and it would be good to use the money for a good cause.
If Marion had stolen the money from a charity, we would not sympathise with her because she is taking the money from a worthy cause. When Marion and Norman are in the parlour, Marion talks about Norman's mother. She suggests he puts her into a mental home. Norman's reaction to this suggestion builds suspense. He gets very angry and looks like he could get aggressive. He often compares people to birds as stuffing birds is his hobby. When Marion suggests his mother could go to a mental home, Norman compares his mother to one of his stuffed birds on the wall, he says how she is as harmless as one of them.
He says how a mother is a boys best friend which makes us believe that he is very close to his mother but he is closer to her then anyone expected. Hitchcock has the title 'The Master of Suspense'. I personally don't think that he deserves that title for this film. In 1960 he may have deserved it for this film as it was the first film like this, but now, in the year 2003, there are many films like this. It has suspense but I don't think it has enough suspense for him to have that title. Psycho is a horror/thriller film and it achieves the title of being a horror/thriller film better than it achieves the title of a suspenseful film.
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