Psycho Rhetorical Analysis
There are many factors that contribute to making a film as a frightening as Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film Psycho, without all of the typical gruesome scenes moviegoers are used to seeing. The timeless movie Psycho is a 1960 American psychological thriller about the encounter between Marion Crane, a secretary hiding out after stealing a large amount of money, and the schizophrenic motel owner Norman Bates, both of whom must deal with the guilt and surveillance as consequences of their actions in the film. Hitchcock establishes his message by going beyond the parameters of a conventional horror film, leaving the audience shocked with his twisted mysterious plot. The audience was not only able to feel the guilt of the protagonists through close-ups of the camera, but also feel the surveillance aspect shown through the lens focusing at a distance from the scene. These deliberate and specific camera angles set the feeling of being watched, as many experience as a result of guilt in the conscience. Repeated uses of motifs, such mirrors, birds, and eyes, in addition to the camera’s focuses and the music played in the background, helped Hitchcock portray the themes of voyeurism and how surveillance and guilt come hand in hand. Without Marion and Norman’s feelings of getting caught, their guilt probably wouldn’t be so powerful in their minds. Anyone can be a witness to a crime, just like an audience watching a film, which makes their consciences that much more terrified. Hitchcock uses the very first scene to convey his strong surveillance and guilt message that pans out throughout the film using camerawork and text on the screen. The first shot pans across many skyscraper buildings and finally descends and starts to go deeper into one of many windows in a “cheaper, high-rise hotel building” (Johns). There, the camera pauses at the half-open window and then voyeuristically intrudes into the darkness of the room. This effective camerawork makes the viewers feel as if they are intruding themselves. The date and time displayed on the screen is specific, yet random, it shows how something significant must have happened at that exact moment; it is the complete beginning of the themes of surveillance and guilt playing out in the film. Although Marion was just trying to have a good time she still felt guilty for not getting back to work right away. It is later when the audience finds out how wrong her decisions become. Meanwhile the viewers are almost spying on her and her husband through the window of the hotel room. It is just one of the many ways that Hitchcock incorporates his effective camerawork and screen displays to show surveillance and guilt coming together.
The guilty consciences in this film have shown to result in voyeurism, and even vice versa. From the beginning of the movie Psycho, one of the protagonists, Marion Crane, shows her guilty conscience when she takes an extended lunch break. This sets up a precedent for the guilt complex shown in the rest of the film. Marion is so fed up with her life that she steals $40,000 to start fresh. Through the camera’s close-ups of her face, especially when she’s driving, viewers can easily see the indecisiveness and guilt she feels. Marion’s eyes are so significant that they could be viewed as the “windows of her soul” (Carr). It automatically shows the audience that she knows what she did was wrong. The music in the background is tense as it builds louder when she’s driving, and it contributes to the portrayal of her nervousness. It is even absorbed by the audience, as people are able to feel her emotions secondhand without any needed dialogue. When the man who owns the money, Cassidy, walks by on the street and stares directly at her, it makes her feel even worse, showing his surveillance and her guilt coming together. After she encounters the cop, the camera again focuses on just her facial expression for a while, giving us more insight to...
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