Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

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Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho received critical praise not only in the horror genre but also around the board in the film industry. It contains many main concepts that are represented by cinematic instruments such as camera action and music, sound, lighting, wardrobe, and stage design. The theme of insanity becomes more apparent as the film continues, focusing on the odd character Norman Bates.

Hitchcock's Psycho depicts the theme of insanity during the scene where Marion is taking a shower after resolving to return to Phoenix to return the stolen money (Crowther, 1). The scene is presented in two shots, one which shows the shadowy figure approaching from the door, and the other showing Marion showering, and seemingly unaware. The sound embedded within the scene is also effective as mainly comprises the running shower and further explicates the heinous intentions of the shadowy figure. While the act of murder is in itself a testament to madness, the scene does well to explicate the horrific event, capturing the drain which shows water mixed with blood running into it, as well as Marion’s eyes, which similarly, are draining of life. The scene also employs the use of high-key lighting in captured from a zoomed out shot to completely seize the dreadful act. The audience is sure that whoever the shadowy perpetrator is, they are mentally ill as no normal person would kill another human being.

Madness in the Parlor Scene

The parlor scene is a key portrayal of madness in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Norman Bates invites Marion into his parlor, much in the same way a spider captures its prey within its web. The room is lit by a single source of light, which softly illuminates Marion, exhibiting her purity, and capability for redemption even after being a fugitive as a result of theft. In contrast, the light harshly illuminates Norman, forming shadows on his face, alluding to his dual personalities and by extension, to his mentally challenged nature. The taxidermy birds which hang on the walls, are perhaps the most daunting and noticeable mise-en-scene within the parlor scene (Ebert, 1). The birds occupy a dual nature, just as is the case with Norman’s psyche; they seem to watch him intently, as a predator would watch its prey, while concurrently, they appear to linger above him like sinister angels. The inclusion of the birds in the scene further expounds to the audience of the peculiar and uncharacteristic nature the is Norman Bates.

Madness in the Final Scene

The final scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho also does well to emphasize Norman Bates’ psychosis. Within the scene, the camera focuses on Norman Bates’ face; we see that his lips do not move his mother's voice yet delivers the final monologue. It becomes increasingly evident that Norman has suffered a permanent psychological break, as he hears his mother’s voice within his mind existing separate from his conscience. The camera zoom also reveals that Norman’s facial expression and gestures correspond to Norma Bates’ epilogue (Crowther, 1). This further cements the madness that has befallen Norman Bates and perpetuated the theme of madness in the 1960 film. Hitchcock uses a single omnidirectional light, to illuminate the final scene, this coupled with the medium close-up shot of Norman, showcases to the audience, Norman in his true form, as though he has been brought into the light after years of murderous activity.

Works Cited

Ebert, Roger. "Psycho Movie Review & Film Summary (1960) | Roger Ebert." Rogerebert.Com,2017,

Crowther, Bosley. "Movie Review - - PSYCHO - Nytimes.Com." Nytimes.Com, 1960,

October 19, 2022

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