Psycho and Marion

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Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho utilizes some innovative editing techniques, especially for its time. Particularly, the scene where Marion Crane drives her newly purchased 1957 Ford contains many edits that help drive the story. The approximately three-minute scene is comprised of 36 shots; however, there are only two distinctive shots throughout the entire sequence. As Marion drives, her mind begins to drift as she starts thinking about how her boss and others back home may suspect her of stealing $40,000. Hitchcock emphasizes Marion's torment and anxiety by alternating between a medium close-up shot of Marion and a first-person view of her driving.

At the beginning of the scene, Marion begins to surmise how others back home might realize she stole the money. The camera is fixed on her face and then sharply cuts to a first-person view of her. The shot of the road through the windshield last several seconds; it is actually the longest shot of the road in this scene. As the scene progresses and Marion's mind delves deeper into thought, the cuts between her and the road grow more frequently and the length of each shot decreases. This temporal technique of frequency helps to build intensity. At the end of the scene, we are given a final longer shot of the road as we see the Bates Motel come into view, emphasizing its probable importance in the upcoming plot.

Other less obvious editing techniques filled the driving scene as well. A spatial editing technique was used to make the connection between the two recurring shots. By alternating between medium close-ups of Marion to a first-person view of someone driving a car, the viewer infers that when we see the road it is through Marion's eyes. The quick cuts, as opposed to dissolves or wipes, support the effect of this spatial technique. For example, if there were dissolves between shots, a viewer could infer that the first-person view was of the police officer following Marion's car.

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