Alfred Hitchcock – the acknowledged master of the thriller genre
Alfred Hitchcock is the acknowledged master of the thriller genre he was one of the first if not the first director to blended suspense humor and sex appeal to create something never viewed before on the world cinema stage.
He was known to his audience as the “Master of Suspense” and what Hitchcock mastered was not only the art of making films but also the task of taming his own rampant imagination. At the beginning of Psycho the camera swings over the rooftops and apartment blocks and seems to hesitate it then carries on to one particular block, hesitates again and then takes us through a slightly open window into a dark room with no light the effect is of random selection because the time and location are also shown the audience is aware that this has happened any time any place any where.
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There are numerous techniques in the film Psycho that assist Hitchcock to keep his end-user i.e. the viewer interested through out the various storylines one I deem to be important is the introduction of new boundaries. Never before on cinema screens would you have ever dreamed to imagine a semi naked figure on screen but when that’s the dress status of the first two characters you see your bound to be shocked horrified even this would deficiently keep a viewer interested and poised in there seats. While this is all taking place Hitchcock takes advantage of his hopefully stunned audience and uses a series of close and long moving shots to home in on Marion. I think this would make the audience feel particularly uncomfortable because it would almost seem that they were spying on Marion and her male companion.
Hitchcock’s use of irony is intense though out psycho Irony is created when the audience is aware of something that the characters are not this means that they can anticipate what is going to happen and this makes the audience become far more involved. Irony can also occur when something has more significance the second time it happens “seen or heard” It acts a hint on what could happen at a later stage during the film. These two techniques are used countless times during psycho One such instance is when the cop says “There are plenty of motels in the area…I mean just too be safe.” Then that same night Marion books herself in to the bates motel and ends up being killed this is just one example of the many cases of irony that have subtlety been put in the script so subtlety you may not even notice them.
Hitchcock develops story lines and plots very cleverly the film is entitled Psycho but in the first ten to twenty minutes the film resembles a romance story and then changes a police enquiry/chase if the audience are not guessing on what’s going on with Marion and Sam’s relationship I can granite you that they will be trying to figure out what the plot of the film actually is.
I think their is a lot of suspense through out Psycho one of the very first pieces we come across is after Marion steals the forty thousand dollars from her boss. As she is leaving town she comes to a zebra crossing and stops to let the pedestrians cross. She then see’s somebody she recognizes and they see her at this moment the viewer get to see a quick close up of her face which is understandably anxious looking because she has seen her boss who she had earlier told she was going home to lie down due to her suffering form a painful headache.
After a short hesitation Marion smiles innocently and her boss smiles back and nods his head while doing so just as he does this he ponders something and takes a double look at Marion as if to say you shouldn’t be here on the edge of town you said you were ill you should either be at the bank or at home why are you here? Marion hastily takes off and has become extremely fidgety and seems to check her rear mirror every few moments to see if she’s been discovered and is being followed.
I consider this to be the ultimate suspense the viewer I think would be on the edge of there seats wondering if Marion’s boss can put two and two together and come up with the correct answer witch is Marion’s a thief. Through out this scene we see Marion from angles witch I think act as Marion from two different perspectives we see her from the out side of her car screen window and from the inside looking out the affect of using these to different viewing points I think make the audience look at Marion as the accused when we look at her from the outside and the innocent when we look through her view angle out at her boss.
When she is awakened by the police officer she is once again reminded of the Significance of her situation. At this point the audience is drawn towards Marion’s cause. They want her to succeed they know that she not an unpleasant person because Marion hasn’t stolen the money out of greed it’s a crime linked to love and compassion. All she is trying to do is help Sam out of a difficult financial situation witch in a way is a nice thing to do. Her aims soon become the viewer’s aims and the audience loses all power of rational control and discovers how easily an ordinary person can lapse into the same condition Marion has found her self in the audience therefore become sympathetic.
Before her encounter with the cop Marion quickly lost her ability to think rationally. She started to imagine conversations in her head and knows that Sam will never accept the money. This in itself shows that her sense of logic is gone. A rationally thinking person would have realized that she would never get away with the crime to start with. She’s having second thoughts on whether she should carry on or turn back she’s clearly very guilt stricken and imagines what people that know her would say also if she kept going. Marion is in no fit sate to be driving because she’s clearly distracted and the conditions outside are far from ideal there’s fog and it’s raining heavily. Being in a daze is hardly appropriate while driving in this situation there’s a possibility that she might crash. I think that this particular scene in psycho is a cross roads, the story can going in two directions at this point she could either go back and probley be reprimanded or she could go on the run, in witch case the film would develop in to some sort of police search.
Through out this scene we mainly are looking through Marion eyes one affect this has is that the viewer is constantly reminded how bad the conditions are out side if the viewer can’t see how can Marion? It is hard for Marion to understand or control what she is doing, and so we understand why she decides she can drive no longer and stops at the Bates Motel. The audience knows that this is an unfavorable place to be by the way the sign suddenly looms out of the dark and mist.
Suspense in psycho comes combined with some thing else….. suspicion when bates watches Marion through the peephole I think that Hitchcock is particularly clever here because the audience would undoabley brand bates a weirdo and a pervert but would soon feel very strange because they would be watching through his eyes as if they were the weirdo and not Bates.
Bates I think deliberately puts Marion in that room so he can watch her undress he doesn’t whip out a drill and quickly drill the hole through the wall the hole is already there and concealed by a picture this suggests to the audience that he has done this before and as soon a Marion says good night and heads off to her room he goes into a familiar routine. As Bates continues to watch Marion undress at the back of the audience minds I think is the question if Bates is twisted enough to watch Marion undress what else is he capable of…rape or assault? I think it’s certainly necessary to use a term as strong as rape because the peephole is infect covered by a paining of a rape if any members of the audience noticed this they may think that this is another example if dramatic irony.
As Marion prepares her self to take a shower she walks from the bedroom area witch is darkly lit “dim light” into the bathroom area witch is extremely bright. This change in lighting is extremely noticeable. Because the change takes place soon after she flushes her calculations on how she is planning to pay back the money down the toilet she goes from a subdued light witch is associated with a villainish character such as a thief to a bright one it’s almost as If she’s redeemed herself. I think that this contributes to the viewer thinking that Marion has literally flushed her troubles away the sound of the toilet flushing I think was emphasized to act as a closure to the whole scandal.
As Marion continues on towards the bath room her back facing the camera and although she just has a towel covering her bottom half we don’t get to see any nudity. Hitchcock again is attempting to tantalize his audience. This short scene is set in a long tilted angled shot so the audience can see everything in the setting most of all Marion’s whole figure. Another reason for Marion to have her back to the camera is it makes her seem far smaller and vulnerable, because she can’t see what behind her even though the viewer can see the whole picture and Marion can only see half.
When Marion enters the shower there is a distinct sign of pleasure on her face as well as relief it’s almost sexual. The shot of her face is taken in a slightly higher than eye view angle. The sound of the running water is empfsized a lot here because the water from the shower is metaphorically washing away her stress and grief.
While Marion is taking a shower she is so busy enjoying it and relaxing she doesn’t hear the bathroom door open and she doesn’t see the bathroom turn dark when the light is obscured. In a flash the attacker rips the shower certain back to reveal Marion’s naked body. Its here where Hitchcock really crosses the boundaries and its here where many viewers were so intertwined with the plot they claim to see things that were not really there. It’s only when the attacker rips the shower certain back that we see a clear black silhouette and the outline of a knife one reason for the silhouette and the outline of the knife being so clear and distinct is that there masses of light behind the woman attacker. This scene is taken from a medium shot form an eye view “we are look through Marion’s eyes” Marion screams and the camera changes to an extreme close up of her mouth.
The attacker slashes Marion with the knife rapidly and each slash is a cut. You never see any naked interment body areas because this scene is so well constructed and closely edited together. Marion spent over half of her overall filming time on this scene so its perfect its said on a trial viewing somebody noticed Marion breathing at the wrong time and she had to go back and film that part again. Each time Marion is slashed the part of her body that would be in view is covered by a hand or an arm. Each slash is accompanied by a sound of a melon being stabbed to get an exact as well as a distinctive sound of somebody being slashed.
The audience know that Marion is close to death because she is bleeding extensively as the female attacker comes to the end of her attack the slashes come in a less rapid motion but are still heard when the camera gets a close up of Marion’s legs and we see the blood pouring from her
upper body and trickling down her legs and feet. Through this scene we are looking through Marion eyes the affect is we would may be cringe because it would be like looking at our own mutilated body the angle is high.
We see the plug hole in extreme close up and we see the blood and water swirling round before going down the plug hole the camera then goes through the plug hole and comes out though Marion’s eye Marion by this time is lying on the bathroom floor the effect that Hitchcock was attempting I think was Marion’s life was also going down the plug hole as the blood and water did. The camera then adopts a worm eye view and is moving backwards and swirling at the same time there is no movement what so ever from Marion and her eye is lifeless because she’s dead
There are many different sounds that are magnified in this scene the unwrapping of the soap getting into the shower natural sound and the constant running water
During Psycho Hitchcock maintains a fairly constant level of suspense which bursts into short sharp moments of extreme shock.
I don’t think that there are any positive correlations between the suspense in Psycho and the suspense in the Birds. Hitchcock uses a lot more irony in Psycho so you can guess what may happen before you see it. The plot of the film is based in a particular area and the characters are all in close proximity to the main area the Bates Motel. Every thing in Psycho for some reason revolves around the Bates motel so when you revisit it your are half expecting something to happen even though you may not be able to put you finger on it. Marion stores the forty thousand dollars at the motel, Marion is killed in the motel, The detective is killed in the motel etc. But in the Birds suspense has no limits or boundaries there’s no Bates motel there’s no main action hot spot things seem to happen over a period of time the birds attack and regroup then attack again but always in a different way unlike Psycho where every body is attacked with a knife.
Hitchcock is s director that I think takes enjoyment from misleading his audience he makes the viewer think that The Birds is some sort of romance story. At the start of the film Melanie is flirting with Mitch in the bird shop she’s clearly interested in him. In conversation Melanie asks Mitch what sort of bird he’s looking for as she poses as an assistant in the shop he hesitates slightly and says he’s looking for a pair of love bird for his sister. Although it is Mitch’s sister’s birthday I don’t think that Mitch had any intention of going into the bird shop if he hadn’t have seen Melanie and neither would the audience. Melanie orders the love birds for Mitch without his knowledge for the next day prior to this she gets Mitch’s license plates translated with help from her father’s newspaper she decides to go to Mitch’s apartment in Sanfansisco without any thought what so ever all she interested in is trying to get one over on him. She turns up at the apartment and is told that Mitch has gone to Bodega Bay I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the place that Mitch has gone too starts with the same letter as birds.
Examples of Detailed bits suspense in The Birds is where Melanie’s gets hit by a seagull when crossing the bay coming back from Mitch’s house. Mitch sees Melanie on the bay by using binoculars and drives like a mad man taking short cuts around the bay in hope he can get to her before she reaches the other side might there be an accident. Just as the two loves birds are about to reunite swoosh a seagull swoops down very randomly and hits Marion on the head before Melanie even has time to put her hand up to her head Mitch jumps over the various items on the pier and is immediately at her rescue. I think that this would frustrate the viewer just as there two favorite characters are about to come together some thing intervines.