Freud's Psychoanalysis of the Film "Psycho"

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Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most outstanding filmmakers of the 20th century. He was born in 1899 in Leytonstone, East London. In 1920, Hitchcock obtained a full-time job designing film titles. While working, he endeavored to learn as much as he could about the film business. Within 3 years of starting his job at the studio, Hitchcock became an assistant director and, in 1925, a director. In a career spanning six decades, Hitchcock made 53 films, the best of which are at once suspenseful, exciting, disturbing, funny and romantic. The so-called ‘master of suspense’ pioneered many of the techniques of the thriller genre, and remains highly influential to this day. He was one of the first directors to portray psychological processes in film narrative. During much of Hitchcock’s career, Freud’s ideas were dominant, and although Hitchcock was skeptical of psychoanalysis, Freudian concepts and motifs recur in many of his films. Hitchcock’s films usually centre on either murder or espionage, with deception, mistaken identities, and chase sequences complicating and enlivening the plot. Three main themes predominate in Hitchcock’s films. The most common is that of the innocent man who is mistakenly suspected or accused of a crime and who must then track down the real perpetrator in order to clear himself. Examples of films having this theme include The Lodger, Strangers on a Train, I Confess, To Catch a Thief, The Wrong Man, and Frenzy. The second theme is that of the guilty woman who enmeshes a male protagonist and ends up either destroying him or being saved by him; examples of this theme include Blackmail, Notorious, Rebecca, Vertigo, and Marnie. The third theme is that of the (frequently psychopathic) murderer whose identity is established during the working out of the plot; examples of this theme include Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, and Psycho. Hitchcock’s films always have close relationship with Freud’s psychoanalysis. Through the devices of suspense and horror in his movies, he produced the perfect combination of film and psychology, which presents the audiences a vivid interpretation of Freud’s psychoanalysis. Hitchcock is the first great film director who explained Freud’s psychoanalysis theories, such as dream analysis, psychological trauma, Libido, Oedipus complex in his movies. Therefore, to some extent, he promoted the widely spread of Freud’s theories. Thus, people regard Hitchcock as “the Freud in movie industry”. Freud’s work was very influential during the 20th century. He became known as the founding father of psychoanalysis. Some of the important ideas that he introduced are the idea of human psyche being divided into 3 parts: the id, ego and superego, the Oedipus/Electra complex, stages in the development of a child etc. We will elaborate on these ideas once we start the detailed analysis of the movie Psycho. Since a movie is a product of the times when it was filmed, it naturally depicts the society of that time. Hitchcock’s movies, in particular, give us an insight into the abnormality that existed beneath the surface of the perfect American society. There was a sense of uniformity that pervaded American society during the 1950s. Conformity was common, as young and old alike followed group norms rather than striking out on their own. Though men and women had been forced into new employment patterns during World War II, once the war was over, traditional roles were reaffirmed. Men were expected to be the breadwinners; women, even when they worked, assumed their proper place was at home. Women were expected to be perfect, in every way. They were expected to wear pearls and high heels and await the return of their all-knowing husband. Women were trained into this routine from an early age. Everyone wanted the perfect TV family. Television and other forms of technology became widespread through the country. TV shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Honeymooners showed how it was to be a family in the...
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