Psycho review and analysis
Over the last several days I have been taking a look at several Alfred Hitchcock films and analyzing the skills and techniques shows on screen. I tried to avoid all the obvious classics Hitchcock has made: Vertigo, The Birds, Rear Window, North By North West; but there is one classic which I could not miss partially because it is my favorite Hitchcock film, partially because it is nearly a perfect example of the craft of on-screen storytelling: Psycho.
For those who have not seen the film, this is obviously a full recommendation! Psycho is a stunning piece of cinema and is both intriguing and immersive still after over 50 years. The acting is great, the cinematography is wonderful, and the story itself is both creepy and mysterious. There are countless in-depth analyses of every facet of this movie, so I will not attempt to either take a deep look, or make a comprehensive judgement, but I am going to point out a few things that I love about how this film plays out.
One aspect of Psycho that I love, and that I feel is missing from movies in general, is the voyeuristic shots which give all the facts behind a situation which no words and little to no focus on the actor. An example is early in the film once Marion decides to take the $40,000 cash and leave town. During this scene Marion spends a good amount of time in the closet picking out clothes while the camera dances around the room giving close ups of the envelope of money and the suitcase Marion is currently packing, Marion then emerges from the closet to finish up packing. Although no dialog was given and Marion has not yet said or shown that she is stealing the money, the camera has show in for her. This allows us as the viewers to be more in her head and then experience the following 30 minutes of the film as if we are experiencing it with her and not simply being a passive audience.
One other technique I love in Psycho is the use of the soundtrack. Music often fades into the background (and it normally is better experienced that way), but choosing when to play music and when to have silence in a scene is a skill that I hope to one day master. A great example of this is once Marion leaves with the money intending to never return. She runs into her boss, he sees her, then she drives away and eerie music starts to play. During her trip to the Bates Motel every time she is alone the music kicks in because we, as the audience, are experiencing the stress and anxiety Marion is feeling along with her. In contrast, every point that she is stopped by someone or has to “act natural” to not draw suspicion, the music completely cuts and we are left with just the dialog and silence. Beautiful work with the music!
Thank you so much for taking this little trip into Alfred Hitchcock’s work with me over the past several days. The next director(s) I will be examining is the Coen brothers. I am extremely excited to see what I can glean from their work and I hope you’re excited to join in the fun!