Connotations and Denotations of Objects in Films: The Case of ‘Psycho’ and ‘Some Like it Hot’
Films, as part of the mainstream media, play a very crucial role in shaping the minds of the viewing public - Connotations and Denotations of Objects in Films: The Case of ‘Psycho’ and ‘Some Like it Hot’ introduction. Since the beginning, films have been a medium for messages to be conveyed—whether explicitly or implicitly.
Some of the films shown in the mainstream have been used to injecting objects or symbols that have connotative and denotative meanings that could be derived by its audience. Consciously or otherwise, films have created a great impact on the viewing public’s minds.
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Examples of the movies which displayed objects which we could derive connotations and denotations are ‘Psycho’ and ‘Some Like it Hot.’
Released in 1960, Psycho is a suspense-thriller film by Alfred Hitchcock. It was described several times by film critics as a complex thriller and as the “mother” of all horror and suspense films as it all started the trend which was only followed by Chainsaw Massacre (1974), De Palma’s Dressed to kill (1980), and Motel Hell (1980), among others.
The movie talks about themes of confused identities, human vulnerabilities and some deadly effects of money.
The movie presents Marion (a real-estate secretary) as the main character who has a “lunchtime affair” with Sam, who has financial difficulties so he cannot go on with the annulment case with her former wife.
The film is filled with underlying themes and subtlety by suing symbols which appears occasionally in the film: reflecting mirrors and the stuffed birds.
The reflecting mirrors and the stuffed birds are always shown in the majority of the scenes of the film. It could be inferred that the stuffed birds symbolized “woman” while the reflecting mirrors show that someone’s watching what Marion is doing, probably.
The conflict of the movie starts as Marion checked in a motel named “Bates Hotel” owned and run by a crazy and psychotic guy named Norman.
Marion runs away from her place because she got with her the 40,000 worth of dollars that is supposedly to be deposited in the bank. The money concerns her work as a real estate secretary. Bringing the money with her, she hides in a cheap motel where no one else stays except the motel owner, Norman.
Norman initially appears to be very accommodating as he even offers Marion a simple dinner. Before the dinner, she overhears Norman arguing with his ‘mother.’
Her first hours in the motel seem to be safe because Norman show acts of kindness. But while Marion is taking a bath, Norman peeps in the bathroom through a hole behind the nude panting of a woman. Then the crime starts.
The unforgettable crime scene in the bathroom was emulated by the later suspense thriller films.
The scene starts off as the usual scenario of a woman taking a bath. She rubs her body and visibly enjoys the therapeutic effect of taking a bath. The head of the shower was shot close up intended to signify an eye. It provides a clue that someone is watching Marion.
Norman stabs Marion with mixed ejaculated blood and water running simultaneously in Marion’s legs, may signifies a brutal death and rape. The camera then focuses on the bathtub’s drain with mixed blood and water swirling counterclockwise.
Indeed, Psycho is evident of underlying themes manifested by the use of particular symbols. Aside from the usual denotations, the movie is creative enough to make its audience dig deeper into what is being presented.
The movie continues as Norman was investigated by the authorities, while the crime of Marion on stealing the 40,000 dollars on the side.
It turns out that Norman is just thinking or imagining that he still has his mother. It turns out that the ‘mother’ that he is referring to is also him He would play as if he is his mother. When Marion heard him talking with his ‘mother’, he was actually talking to himself.
The investigators concluded that it might also be Norman who killed the other casualties found near the motel. It is suspected that everyone who checks in the motel is killed by psychopath Norman.
The movie ended leaving a metaphor to the audience. The film ends into the searching into the swamp where Marion’s car, along with her dead body and the stolen 40,000 dollar are placed. And then, there horizontal black bars.
Some Like it Hot
Meanwhile, coming from another genre, Some Like it Hot, a hilarious somewhat sexy movie also displays some connotative and denotative symbols. The movie seems to concentrate on sexual illusions.
With Marilyn Monroe as the main star, Some Like it Hot was released in 1959, packaged as a satirical, outrageous, and ribald film.
The film was set in Chicago, during the rampant-crime, pre-depression prohibition era. The film started with scenes near a Parlor owned by gangster Spats Colombo. The Parlor turns out to be just a front for a “speakeasy.”
The film features two musicians in a band who also have big debts. Joe, played by Tony Curtis and Jerry played by Jack Lemmon discusses on how they would spend their salary from the job they got after four months of being unemployed. Joe stresses that he wants to bet the whole salary amount to a race by dogs he furthers that even if they would loose the bet game, they will have their employment for a long time. But Jerry is left unsure and uncertain.
Then the police raid the “Parlor” which left Joe and Jerry jobless. Desperate of finding another job, Joe and Jerry ends up accepting a “one-night stand job” to play that same evening at a St. Valentine’s Dance at the University of Illinois at Urbana. But as they are filling up the gas of the car on their way to the event, they accidentally witnessed the St. Valentine’s Day massacre involving gangsters. The two musicians then escape for them not to be killed. Unfortunately, there are somewhat identified by the gangsters so they are forced to have some sort of disguise—they disguised, since then as women to save their own lives.
To Jerry’s amazement, Joe called someone from a cigar shop who is seeking for a couple of lady musicians to play in Florida Unlimited. It is where they meet Sugar, played by Marilyn Monroe.
Sugar is presented there as a sex symbol. Wearing skimpy and sexy clothes which practically seem to tease and seduce every man.
Joe and Jerry since then become close with Sugar. Joe, having a problem with his sexual urges is asked by Sugar if she could help him. Joe told her that no girl could actually liven up his sexual libido. He feels blank and not aroused all the time.
But Sugar gives a try.
“The fuzzy sweet end of the lollipop” that was said countless times in the movie could actually be equated to oral sex.
Meanwhile, Sugar’s story that she and her sister used to pretend that they lost in a dark cave seems to imply that then that it is actually the female genetalia symbolizing also sexual curiosity.
The movie is actually film with underlying and metaphoric sexual subtleties.
Psycho and Some Like it Hot are not actually the sole movies which have underlying meaning in the objects that the films feature.
Using both connotative and denotative meanings on the objects presented in a film is actually a very creative way in conveying your message. IT somewhat tickle the minds of your audience. It somewhat give them a chance to think on their own.
But then, of course, symbols that are too profound that only a handful could understand the implied meaning could also be effective.
Thousand films have been produced using the technique of symbolism. Some of them are actually the one who garnered the most number of awards. But the film makers should also take into account the capacity of their target audience. If majority of the movie goers would just feel ignorant because of the “too profound” symbols, then the film that was produced seems to be only useless. A movie that is not understood and appreciated by the vast number of audience does not actually deserve to be shown in the most number of cinemas.
Bottom line is, using certain symbols that imply denotative and connotative meaning gives a film a kind of added element. It gives the audience to have the thinking themselves. It is actually used by “intellectual” film makers to denote certain meanings, which most of the time, intended also for the “intellectual” audience. But being “intellectual” could sometimes be subjective. But then, symbolism remains a very effective trick in a film.
“Some Like It Hot”. 2007. April 15 2007. <http://www.filmreference.com/Films-So-St/Some-Like-it-Hot.html>.
“Some Like It Hot Review”. April 15 2007. <http://www.starpulse.com/Movies/Some_Like_It_Hot/index.html>.
Dirks, Tim. “Some Like It Hot (1959)”. April 13 2007. <http://www.filmsite.org/some3.html>.
Ebert, Roger. “Some Like It Hot (1959)”. 2000. April 15 2007. <http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20000109/REVIEWS08/1090301/1023>.