Tension and Impact in the Shower Scene in Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Categories: Alfred Hitchcock

The film Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock is definitely in the genre of a horror film. A horror film should include the ideas of fear, suspense, unexpected surprises that make you jump, twists, history and depth in the plot, and an element of mystery. The film Psycho fits these ideas. Psycho which was released in the 1960's is a film that has maintained its popularity, and is still admired to the present day. Hitchcock directly asked people not to walk into the film when it was half way through and for them not to tell anyone what happens in the film.

This could have made the popularity of the film last longer, as it invited more viewers into the pictures as they did not know what to expect.

Hitchcock had to stick to the censors rules if he wanted to show the film to the public. The censors objected to too much nudity and any physical violent contact to the skin.

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Hitchcock had to make alterations to fit to the censors code, making sure that excessive nudity or violence were excluded.

The shower scene is one of the most famous scenes in cinema history, with tension and impact creating a gripping and memorable scene. The shower scene consists of Marion showering, when an unexpected figure appears from the shower curtain and brutally stabs Marion to death. The use of camera shots, sound and music help create a powerful sequence.

Before the shower scene, as Norman walks through the house guiding Marion, the music that is non-diagetic creates such tension but is quickly relieved as the music slows and becomes less urgent.

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This leads us to imagine that Marion is not at all worried, and has no suspicion of Bates, except that he is a little odd. The importance of music in the film cannot be underestimated.

The shower that she takes is meant to cleanse her of her sins, to return her to her previous relatively innocent state. Unfortunately, her sins cannot so easily be forgiven as she is prematurely killed. The sounds at the beginning of the shower scene such as the soap wrapper and trickling of the shower water are effective as they are very loud, which helps take the viewer closer to the scene. They are just natural everyday sounds that do not come as a surprise. We hear the sounds as Marion would hear them, and they drown out any other sounds. These natural sounds mask the entrance of the killer.

Throughout the time that Marion is showering, we get several close-up shots on Marion's face and the showerhead, bringing the viewer right into the action. The camera then focuses on a shot of Marion in the first third of the frame, and a shadow beyond the curtain approaching her in the last third. We get a shot of Marion in the shower from an angle where we can see the bathroom door. We see someone come through the door, but we cannot tell who it is because we see them through the shower curtain. The use of camera angle with both foreground and background action creates a lot of tension and suspense. We get a shot of Marion in the shower from an angle where we can see the bathroom door. This is a called a double shot when Marion is in the shower and the figure is behind the curtain. This could in a way create a symbolic impact as the figure behind the curtain is black and dark symbolizing evil, whereas Marion is a white figure which symbolizes innocence, goodness and purity. The black and white is a good effect as the dark/bright contrast is exaggerated, but if it were produced in colour then the silhouette may not appear as sinister.

The sound track is used to heighten the tension in the audience, and in places almost makes the audience feel they are part of the action. The camera stays stationary as the unclear figure edges towards the shower curtain, the tension builds as the figure approaches, it is almost certain that the figure has an aggressive intention. The shots are swift and precise, each lasting no more than two seconds, this highlights the stabbing and the brutality of the thrusting knife. We watch as the focus is directed to the knife being stabbed downward into Marion. As it does so, piercing violin noises accompany each stab, enhancing the situation. When the shower curtain is whipped back a black figure is seen but the viewer cannot make out the identity of the villain, as their body is covered in a shadow to conceal their identity.

As the villain leaves the room the music switches to a low pitched violin that could represent a heart beat. The music gradually gets slower and quieter, this could represent Marion's heart beat slowly coming to an end, resulting into her death. As Marion grabs onto the shower curtain in desperation for help, it is ripped and falls downwards along with Marion who dangles from the bath. This could be seen as symbolic as a lot of things in this scene are going downwards, Marion sliding down wall, the shower curtain, the water from the shower head and Marion toppling over the edge of the bath, this could symbolize Marion's life ending going down to hell for the sin she committed.

The shower scene bursts with techniques of tension and impact. One of the main ways in which tension and impact are created is through Hitchcock's extensive use of camera set ups, over seventy were used for this important scene alone. Lighting, music, sound and drama are also crucial in the shower scene. All of those aspects together create a huge atmosphere of tension, making this classic film memorable, dramatic and frightening.

Updated: Mar 15, 2022
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Tension and Impact in the Shower Scene in Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/tension-and-impact-in-the-shower-scene-in-psycho-directed-by-alfred-hitchcock-essay

Tension and Impact in the Shower Scene in Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock essay
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