Hitchcock's Tension And Suspense In The Film Psycho

1403 words - 6 pages

Hitchcock's Tension and Suspense in the Film Psycho

Of all of Hitchcock's films "Psycho is certainly the most critically
acclaimed. It is thought of by many as 'genre-defining' and it
certainly introduced many of the popular horror conventions used by
filmmakers today. It is about a young woman named Marion who has
stolen money from her employer and plans to run away with her
boyfriend. On her journey she stays in a motel where she meets Norman
Bates, a seemingly innocent man who lives with his mother and runs the
hotel. Norman turns out to be a schizophrenic murderer who believes he
is acting out his dead mother's wishes.

One of the reasons why "Psycho" has achieved such success is the
intense amount of suspense created, which far surpassed any previous
films of the genre. Indeed, audiences of today are often desensitised
towards the film. This, however, is only because the conventions set
down by the film have been interpreted and developed on in modern
films to such an extent.

Hitchcock's effort to create such an air of suspense was extremely
thorough and he left nothing to chance. He bought every copy of the
novel that the film was based on so as to conceal the true story line
from the viewing public. He also created extremely misleading
publicity posters, which gave the impression of a romance or love
story: They showed the leading actress in her underwear sporting a
suggestive expression and the character Norman topless. It is also
worth noting that while audiences of today would equate the title to a
more sinister meaning, audiences of the time were much less aware of
such terms. Furthermore, films at the time would conventionally run
all day in a continuous loop. Hitchcock insisted that those wishing to
see the film would have to wait until the end of the previous film and
watch it in its entirety. This intense attention to detail ensured
that even before people had seen the film there would be a sense of
suspense concerning the true meaning of the story.

This attention to detail was carried through into the film. This is
apparent, for example in the parlour scene where in shots of Marion
only round picture frames are visible suggesting innocence. In shots
of Norman, however, square picture frames and looming birds of prey
form the background suggesting Norman's underlying intentions. These
points can easily be dismissed as insignificant details but they do
invoke thought about the true nature of the film and its characters.

"Psycho" was also a landmark in terms of controversy: For example it
was the first time a toilet had even been shown in a film. That's
exactly, it seems, Hitchcock's intention. By pushing the bounds of
"decency" so far he can achieve the greatest effect possible. It is
partly the films reliance on being so ground breaking that causes

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