“Psycho” is a classic suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock which features a central female protagonist, a seemingly ordinary young woman named Marion Crane, who crosses paths with a dangerous mentally ill motel owner, Norman Bates. As their strange relationship develops, a dominant theme of good versus evil is introduced to the audience through the use of characterisation, editing, mise-en-scene and various other media techniques.
From the outset, Hitchcock introduces an initial theme of good versus evil during the opening credits. The title scene could be seen as a reflection of the personality of Norman Bates as the credits themselves are presented as fragmented titles which come together as one on the screen but then shake and split up again, which hints towards the disjointed personality of Bates. The fact that the titles are dotted around the screen suggests that his character is severely unbalanced and not in a stable condition, foreshadowing the idea that his mind is in different places at different times and it is hard to tell when his mind-set will alter. The contrasting colours used in this scene are also important to the later character development as the black, white and grey each reflect the constantly conflicting part of Bates’ temperament. The darker areas on the screen reflect the deepest inner shadow of his mind, while the lighter areas show that he can also be a good person. They show the persistent inner conflict and the constant battle between good and evil. The grey, however, represents the uncertain parts of his split personality but could also be interpreted to refer to the indecision and doubt seen in the character of Marion as the film develops.
This primary theme is developed as we are familiarised with the character of Marion Crane, the dominant leading role. We first see her meeting up with her boyfriend, Sam, in a hotel room during her lunch hour. The camera enters the room by zooming through the window and Hitchcock wants us to feel as if we are intruding on a private moment between the characters inside. This sense of voyeurism is clearly accentuated by the very first shot of the couple which is very personal and intimate – making the viewer feel rather awkward. This scene acts as a vital link to the film as a whole and is fundamental for the expansion of the theme of good and evil as it gives Marion a clear reason to steal the money in the scene that follows. Marion is presented as a good character at this point as her good intentions are outlined: we see that she just wants to marry Sam and for them to be able to be together respectably. When Sam states that he would not be able to provide for her, Marion is given an obvious ulterior motive and a chance to make the transition from good to evil, therefore setting up the entire film. We also notice that, the first time we see Marion, she is wearing white underwear: hinting to her kind and innocent personality but, when we see her after she has made the decision to steal the money, she is wearing black underwear. This visual symbolism presents a contrast between the two different stages of characterisation and depicts the character change of Marion as she goes from good to evil.
Similar to the original view of Marion, when we first meet Norman Bates he seems like a very ordinary person, but as the scenes progress we begin to notice slight abnormalities in his behaviour. When Marion arrives at the Bates Motel, the heavy rain which forces her to stop is foreshadowing her impending doom while acting as effective pathetic fallacy as she is feeling isolated and guilty at this point. The fact that Norman hesitates before giving her the key to cabin one hints at his irregularity, along with the fact that he opens the window as soon as he enters the room – as if he is setting up his own escape route – and he never mentions the bathroom, foretelling the event which will take place there. Also, when Marion is checking into the...
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