Psycho Or How a Killer is Born in a Hitchcock Film Essay
Psycho Or How a Killer is Born in a Hitchcock Film
Film analysis doesn’t require a philosophy of deep thought, but merely requires the participation of the viewer. In films the audience will witness aspects of their own lives played out; the actions, emotions and scenery draw from the viewer their frame of reference. The art of film can be analyzed through specific scenes and the meaning they have in reality. For instance in the cult film Psycho the viewer is placed in third person point of view mainly focusing on the story of Norman Bates. The audience becomes part of the film because of the intrigue the writer, director and actors bring to the screen.
The feeling of loss of meaning is very prevalent in the duration of the film; the antics of love, exploit, desire in the viewer and in the end of the film is well orchestrated by the director Alfred Hitchcock. That is the purpose of filmmaking, to begin a story and have the audience become so engrossed in its unfolding that they lose a sense of themselves in proportion to reality and completely step into the film, the character’s triumphs and misdeeds become the audience member’s own guilt, and as the story progresses, the audience forgets their own selves in order to better become part of the caste of characters in the script.
The following paper will analyze Psycho as directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Alfred Hitchcock creates his scene through the use of different camera angles. In his other films as well as Psycho, he makes good use of the camera shooting from an aerial vantage point and he uses elements of the scene to be incorporated in the shot (Arnold paragraph three). This is seen in Dial “M” for Murder in which the camera does an aerial angle from the ceiling and shoots Wendice and Captain Lesley (or Swann) discussing blackmail and the chandelier is used to be incorporated into the scene and it is used in Psycho in which the camera angle depicts Norman Bates and Marion Crane are having a conversation in Bates’ taxidermy room and the camera shoots through the animals from a downward angle in order to create for the scene a sense of foreshadowing.
Thus, the animals are a symbol of the emotions of the woman; they foreshadow her death and eventual ownership through her death to Norman Bates. One element that Hitchcock utilizes in this movie is a symbol; the phone. The phone is not only used as a transference of scenes but also as a revealing factor of the character; the characters reveal their true intentions on the phone, their feelings, their desires, and it is with the phone that the plot progresses forward and things about the other characters are revealed to each other, such as Marion’s boyfriend trying to get a hold of her, and the police detective’s phone. Hitchcock uses other things that are of importance, that are part of the scene in his other movies such as windows in The Birds in which the characters can witness the danger going on outside but also have distance from that danger, whether or not that distance is false.
Hitchcock uses the mother in Psycho for this revelation to characters and the audience alike in that Bates dresses up as his mother, uses his mother, and her voice in a mis-in-scene in order to persuade characters in believing a lie instead of the truth; the truth being that he dresses up as his dead mother and kills women whom he could potentially have a relationship with, or whom he likes. It is with these elements that the movie audience can have that voyeuristic sense of discovery of the character’s intentions and plot development that Hitchcock creates and progresses the thriller movie genre.
The psychosis of the character Norman Bates in Psycho truly takes on the development of a serial killer. There are sub-categories of serial killers: visionary, mission oriented, hedonistic, power oriented, and among these there are organized and disorganized. For each of these types of killers there are certain character dispositions. The visionary types are compelled by voices or visions and are described as being psychotic. They will not choose a victim because the motives are outside of themselves (voices, visions). The mission oriented type kills people because they believe that the victim is unworthy of life; this type is said not to be psychotic.
The victim of this type of killer will fulfill a psychological need (as with Norman Bates character, in which he had to kill young women because his desire for them was overruled by his mother’s overbearing personality even in death, and therefore Norman had to keep his mother alive in order to continue to feed his desire for killing what he could not have, and in order to maintain the consistency his life had when his mother was alive and ruling his life by not allowing him to entertain or go out with girls). The hedonistic type kills simply for the high of killing and there are signs of sexual arousal involved with the killing (which could also be part of Norman Bates’ personality type as he killed as his mother for sexual arousal).
A comfort killer is a subtype of hedonistic killer and they will kill victims with whom they have some sort of relationship (also as with Norman Bates whose victims were young women who stayed in his hotel). The power oriented killer kills for control, is not psychotic and is obsessed with holding the power of the victim’s life in his/her hands (in Norman’s case however, the killer, him/his mother, killed in order to keep control over Norman’s actions, thus his psychosis could be persuaded by the issue of control but not control over his victims). Usually each of these killers (excepting the comfort killer) will use a hands-on method of killing using weapons in violent fashion (In Norman’s case it was a knife). Each of these typologies involves either organized or disorganized killings. An organized killer is usually competent, intelligent, targets strangers as victims, uses restraints, and performs sex on their victims.
The organized killer will be very aware of their crime and leave no trace or evidence at the scene of the crime (this is what Norman did at the beginning of the film, as is seen in the shower, and his clean up of the scene and dumping the car in the pool/swamp next to the hotel). On the other hand a disorganized killer will often be socially immature, may kill people they know, are often sexually inhibited, live alone and leave the scene of the crime full of fingerprints. (which also described Norman Bates). It would them seem as if Hitchcock created a serial killer in Norman Bates who epitomized every variable of serial killing psychosis; in point of fact, Hitchcock created the supreme serial killer, mixing in different elements of each sub-category into the one character.
Spatial mobility is also an area where serial killers differ (as seen with Hitchcock’s keeping his scenes mainly in the hotel, or the Bates’ family home, which is given its own character by the lighting and the silhouette in certain scenes). Among this category there are geographically stable killers and there are geographically transient serial killers. The geographically stable serial killer live in the same area for an extended amount of time and they will kill in that area and dispose of the body somewhere close to home or within the neighborhood (which is what Bates does with his victim’s cars). A geographically transient serial killer will travel constantly, killing from place to place to confuse law enforcement agencies (here is an element of serial killers which Hitchcock does not give to Norman Bates).
For, if a killer kills too many people in one area, the agency may believe the killer is from that specific area, and when the killer moves to the next town the same will happen so that there may not be a blatant pattern. As the number of crimes increase the lapse of time or cooling off periods decrease (as is also presented in Psycho). There is a tendency of degeneration of personality and the crime scenes will show a high increase of violence toward the victim (another reason why female serial killers are not believed to be transient killers – too violent of a personality). This is in correlation with the killer thinking that since they’ve done this type of thing before and haven’t been caught then they are in a realm of invincibility.
Serial killer studies have been attentive to whether or not a killer is psychotic or that they kill for a type of self-preservation. In the case of Bates, it seems that a lot of his aggression, and violent temperament came from his abusive mother. Psychosis has grounding in the idea of the nurture or nature of a person. Childhood studies bring up issues such as the stages of when a mother is detrimental to the healthiness and mentality of a child and when a father is more apt to be an active participant for that child. The basis for the study is founded on the idea of a person not suddenly waking up one day and deciding to kill (as has been thought in past studies). There is a fundamental concept of socialization involved with such behaviour.
The idea behind the killers motive is almost certainly tied to how they perceive their surrounding environment and how they don’t connect on the appropriate level with that society. A Swedish study done conceives of the matter of killers being narcissistic and unable to comprehend society in something other than egocentric terms. A dysfunctional family is used as a frame of reference, and if that childhood is stressful, dangerous, or filled with lack of love, then a certain consequence will occur, be it introversion or to an extreme, the beginnings of becoming a killer, as is seen in Norman Bates.
It is through this specific film that the audience becomes a part of the spectacle of the film; through the characterizations, the plot, the point of view, and camera angles, and the development and pathologies of the serial killer Norman Bates each scene in this film aids in the development of the audience becoming immersed in the progression of the film. Each of the elements listed above is an enhancement to the story, and without the use of Hitchcock’s bird’s eye view, and psychosis of the character Norman Bates as shown through the character’s dramatic scenes and off camera mother’s voice to enhance the scene, and the other film techniques used, this movies would not be memorable because the audience member would not be invested in the outcome.
Thus, the audience is immersed in how Bates became a serial killer, how he kills, why he kills, and the psychosis behind his killing. The character, the development of the plot, and the lighting and camera angles each add to the psychology of the film Psycho. This film allows for a supreme suspension of disbelief and it is through this that the true Hollywood thriller is found.
Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock. Anthony Perkins. Janet Leigh. Vera Miles. Shamley
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 16 February 2017
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