“How does Alfred Hitchcock explore the duality of human nature in the film Psycho?” Essay
“How does Alfred Hitchcock explore the duality of human nature in the film Psycho?”
Alfred Hitchcock uses many ways to explore the duality of human nature in his films, especially in the 1960 horror thriller Psycho. The duality of human nature represents our inner self, aspects that are mainly opposites, the light showing good, the dark showing evil, the natural and the unnatural, are just some examples of human nature. Hitchcock explored the duality of human nature using ways such as lighting, dialogue, camera angles, music, comparing and contrasting what different characters would do when facing the same problem and individuation.
According to Carl Jung, individuation is when a person confronts they inner side (usually the dark, negative and evil side). He believed that successful individuation meant that a person not only confronted their dark side, but conquered it as well and that people needed to recognise and confront the negative aspects of their personality or their “dark” side would destroy the person. This means that inside everyone, there is a darker side, an evil and bad side, that must be confronted, or it will ruin you. By looking at the two main characters Norman and Marion, and two minor characters, Sam and Lila, we can see the duality of human nature.
Both Marion and Norman are being confronted with their inner dark self, yet, Marion conquers her dark side, while Norman lets it take over his life. Sam and Lila, however, are mostly seen as good and “natural”. There are many key scenes throughout the movie Physco, which explore the duality of human nature. Some of these scenes include the opening scene, the scene in which Marion is driving away after taking the money and the parlour scene. The blackness of Psycho’s opening credits sequence symbolizes death and the opening scene of Psycho starts with a pan view of the cityscape of Arizona.
The shot, from a wide pan into a dark bedroom, leads the viewer into a dark, secretive space, showing the viewer immediately that we will witness something secretive and dark occurring during the film. The viewer also knows that the theme of hiding from something is established, as the two are hiding their affair, and Sam is hiding, or shying away, from marriage to Marion. We learn that the two have money problems, from Sam, who says, “I sweat to pay off my father’s debts and he’s in his grave. I sweat to pay my
ex-wife alimony, and she’s living on the other side of the world somewhere”, and “A couple of years and my debts will be paid off, and if she ever remarries the alimony stops. ” Marion knows the only problem between the two of them is money, and that if it wasn’t for money, the two could be together. It is at this time, that Marion begins to confront her inner self, the need for more money, so she herself can marry Sam, and not have to worry about her job. When Marion returns to work after her “lunch hour” she complains of a headache.
When Marion’ s boss asks her to deposit $40,000 for him, “I don’t even want it in the office over the weekend. Put it in the safe deposit box in the bank and we’ll get him to give us a check on Monday instead… ” Marion sees this as a chance for her to finally be with Sam and solve all her financial problems. Behind Marion’s desk are paintings of sprawling lands, including images of trees, woods and natural landscape. These images juxtapose her isolation and show her desires for freedom. The scene in which Marion is driving away from Phoenix is also a key scene in which Hitchcock explores the duality of human nature.
We see Marion driving away, after she leaves Phoenix and after she meets with the Police Officer, trades her car, and as she does so, the audience sees how uneasy she feels, the tension in her expressions, and we hear the imaginary voices she is hearing in her head, about what may be happening because she has taken the $40,000. Marion is thinking about what the consequences of her “theft” were, and what is happening back in Phoenix. The audience hears the voices in Marion’s head, the voices of Marion’s boss, her sister, what Marion is thinking. The audience is put into Marion’s mind.
We feel the tension when she is being interrogated by the Police Officer and in a way, we feel relieved when she is let off, even though what she did was morally wrong. In many places in this scene, we are put into the point of view from Marion’s perspective, which brings duality of human nature not only to her, but to us as well, as we feel like WE are in the scene. Hitchcock does this as he wants the audience to think, what they would do if we were Marion’s position, which questions our own duality. Marion, while she is driving away with the stolen money, has currently let her dark, inner side take over her.
She is taking advantage of her boss’s trust in her and is doing this out of personally greed and wealth. Here, Hitchcock is showing us what giving in to your inner dark side can result in. One of the major key scenes in Psycho that shows how Hitchcock explored the duality of human nature is the parlor scene, between Marion and Norman. At the start of the scene, after Norman returns from the house with milk and food, they converse briefly outside on the porch, and we see a reflection of Norman on the window. This shows his other side, his “mother” side, which has just been “lit” in him.
The framings of Norman and Marion are unnatural. She is roundly lit, while he is being lit at angles and relatively more dim than Marion. He is a man, offering milk to a woman, and the openness he shows towards her symbolize the fact that he has chosen her as his next victim. However, it is not till they go into the actual parlor that Hitchcock explores the duality of human nature even more. The parlor room is quite small, which forces Marion and Norman to sit quite closely to each other. Even though they are both in the same room, the lighting the two receive is considerably different.
Marion sits near a lamp, and her frame looks more lit, and well-rounded, giving her a glowing and warm feeling, as if she is good and positive. It appears to seem that she is redeeming herself from what bad she did before. Norman, however, has a frame with many shadows- a symbol of darkness and evilness and the lighting on him seems both angular and irregular, and unlike Marion, we cannot see the whole of Normans face, like as if Norman is hiding something. Also, while Marion looks like she is at total ease, Norman seems to be irregular and the atmospheres around him seems to be evil and dark.
During almost the whole scene, Norman’s left side of his face is the only side that’s visible, while we can see the whole of Marion’s face. While both characters do not look to out of place in they individual frames, when they are put side by side, there is a clear contrast between Marion and Norman. Marion, in light colored clothing, seems to represent goodness and normalness, while Norman, in dark colored clothing, seems to represent evil, darkness, and a sense of abnormality. Here, we see very, very clearly the duality of human nature.
Marion symbolizing the good, and Norman symbolizing the bad. But there is even more to this scene that adds onto the duality of human nature. We learn that Norman has a hobby for stuffing birds, and we see them, around the walls of the parlor, the camera often using a low angle shot to capture them. They seem to look over what is going on, and as they appear above Norman, look as though they are overpowering him, making his decisions and such. This shows that while Marion is trying to conquer her inner side, Norman has already let it conquer him.
Norman asks Marion “What are you running away from? ” and Marion seems shocked that he would ask. But when Norman says, “No. People never run away from anything. The rain didn’t last long, did it. You know what I think? I think that we’re all in our private traps–clamped in them. And none of us can ever get out. We–we scratch and claw, but only at the air–only at each other. And for all of it, we never budge an inch”, Marion begins to realize that she needs to go back and get out of her “trap” instead of trying to run away from it.
We also find out that Norman himself is also in a trap, but he says, “I was born in mine. I don’t mind it anymore”, it shows us that Norman has not been able to conquer his inner side and has let it conquer him. Unlike Norman though, Marion does conquer her inner dark self and we know this when she says, “I’m very tired. And I have a long drive tomorrow–all the way back to Phoenix”, “I stepped into a private trap back there and I’d like to go back and try to pull myself out of it before it’s too late for me too.
” This again emphasises the point that Marion is the good and natural side while Norman is the dark, evil and unnatural side. So by just looking at some of these key scenes in the film Psycho, we know that Alfred Hitchcock used many ways to explore the duality of human nature. He used lighting to bring some characters into “good light” and show the “goodness” in some and the “darkness” in others. He also used camera angles, the show the sense of normality in some and abnormality in others, making them natural or unnatural.
What different characters said also explored the duality of human nature, as the dialogue was very important, as it gave us an inside view to what the characters were thinking as well as what they said. Individuation- confronting and conquering your inner dark side, also explores the duality of human nature. Comparing and contrasting characters was another way Hitchcock explored the duality of human nature as he compared the good characters to the bad, and what different characters would do under the same problem. So, it is clear to see, that Hitchcock used many successful ways to explore the duality of human nature in the film Psycho.
Subject: Alfred Hitchcock,
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 13 November 2016
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