How does Hitchcock create and maintain suspense in the 1960’s film ‘Psycho’?

essay A+
  • Words: 3631
  • Category: Suspense

  • Pages: 14

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all the help you need with your essay and educational goals.

Get Access

Psycho was a groundbreaking film at the time in many ways. One of the main reasons it was is because of new things included in it. As I said earlier on, this was the first time a woman has ever shown her bra on television. Some people would have been dumbfounded to see so much coverage, and it would have certainly been something to be whispered about.

The same goes for the first ever toilet being flushed. Now you must be thinking why on earth would it be a shock to see a toilet being flushed? Yet when more and more things are being introduced to the film industry, people will always be interested in seeing them, as each horror movie advances in time with technology.Hitchcock also promoted it cleverly. Psycho was originally a story from a book, and Hitchcock had stopped all the bookshops from the selling the book, so that it wouldn’t spoil the movie. He also made people swear not to tell others what happened, as the secrecy of it all would make people all the more anxious to see it. It was referred to as the ‘mother of the modern horror movie’, and was only callend this because of the taboo involved in the movie.

To them, exposed flesh and toilets being flushed is modern. As well as advanced graphics and animations are modern to us. It was showing new things on screen, which were never shown before. So it became the ‘mother’, as it was the first movie to begin all of this. Some of these scenes were not even allowed at first, and others were even cut off, enabling this movie to be even more unexplained.

Opening of the film and Marion’s fleeThe title psycho does really build up tension and anticipation. We think to ourselves, who is this insane person? When will they be revealed? What will they do to other people? Is there anything in their past? It makes us eager to see the film, because it has a storyline to it, which is quite interesting.When a film opens with an everyday situation, it makes us restless to find out the juicy bits. It does definitely make the film more realistic and not too extreme. Yet we can see the past and how this mad person was affected by it, so it creates a good affect on the film.

When Marion ran away with the money, it makes the viewer want to know if she would be caught. What might happen to her? Will she get away with it? It also made us distracted, as we only focus on the money, and when the psycho appears it will be a shock, because we were not expecting him or her to come at the time.When Marion runs away with the money, the music in the background helps a lot, as to making the film haunting. It was a deep, slow music and its steady notes made us enthusiastic to find out what might happen, as we no longer are able to be patient.

When Marion’s boss looks at her, she feels guilty, and we can sense that by her expressions. She looks tense, and worried because she ran off with $40.000. The policeman looks inhuman with his sunglasses.

When we look at huge eyes, we can think of an insect or bee, and imagine that staring at you directly, it seems freaky and nerve raking. Marion seemed in a rush to get where she was going. We can feel her intensity, and she clearly displays this by telling the policeman to let her go. If we can feel her strain, then surely the policeman would also want to know what she doing. So it becomes a chase between her and the policeman, and the camera shows her face very well.If the camera was at an angle, where we couldn’t see her facial expressions, then we couldn’t sense what she is sensing.

Her eyes hardly blink, showing her eagerness and awareness of the policeman she also is constantly looking at her mirror, to see if the policeman has gone away, and the more she looks into the mirror, the more interesting and afraid she becomes to the viewer.MotelThe motel Marion arrived at, was very unusual and secluded. It had no sign on, so it could give us the idea that this motel doesn’t want to be found, and that it is extremely mysterious. It also has a large, traditional looking house on the hill and you could think that there must be someone there, as there is a shadow of a woman and only one bedroom light on. It is portrayed like a haunted house, due to its dull image and eerie feeling.In the officeAt first Norman Bates acts very pleasant and kind, which is clever, because we wouldn’t find him as the psycho.

He was saying to Marion “oh sorry I didn’t hear you over the rain”. It makes him appear as suspicious, because there was a light on in the other house, so he must have seen her car pull up. He also hesitated when he was picking a key for a cabin, and then said “it’s closer to the office just in case you need anything”. In a way it was convenient for him and her, but why did he take so long? When he invited her to dinner, he again seemed courteous and generous. Yet when she eats, he comments she eats ‘like a bird’.

It is very peculiar as to why he was watching her eat, and has a link to killing, as he has birds of prey displayed on his wall. He then adds that he knows nothing of birds, but how could he not, as he knew how they ate?He says ‘we’ quite often when Marion referred to the motel or his own life. We don’t know who this other person is, and so many questions come up in our heads. Who is this person? Could they be staying at the other house? Why doesn’t Norman mention the other person, but instead keeps them hidden like a secret? It makes us focused on the other house.

So it grabs the viewer’s attention, and makes them curious simultaneously. Norman also confides in Marion. He says, “it is her illness I hate, I hate what she’s become”. It tells us that Norman never had a fixed opinion about his mother. He loves but hates her at the same time.

He also says “I wish I could go up to there and curse her and leave her there forever, or at least afire”. We think to ourselves, what type of man is he, to wish something so intimidating upon his mother? What has she done? Why does he have violent thoughts? He also says that he was set in his own trap from the very beginning, and that he does mind it, but he doesn’t wish to say he does. So he has separated thoughts, and so it strengthens our view on who this psycho may be.His fascination of deathNorman has so much fascination with death. He has stuffed birds on the wall, as he says that they are ‘passive’ to begin with. Meaning they are weaker than other animals, and do not look as horrible as beasts or animals do.

He says, “A hobby is supposed to pass time, not fill it”. So it implies he is lonely, and that he has nothing to do anymore. He even says how “a boy’s best friend is his mother”. He is so attached to her, but then wants to be broken free of this trap she sets out for him.

Norman has very negative views about life, and went up to a harsh attitude when Marion mentioned to keep his mother in ‘some place’. So his moods go up to extremities, and then back to normal. He says that “people always mean well, but then come out as oh so delicately” and “if you love someone you don’t do that if you hate them”. So he loves and hates his mother, he has a split view of his mother. It makes us as viewers a bit afraid of Norman, and why he has such a bad view of his mother. That he is someone very strange to both need someone, and then leave them.

The Shower sceneBefore the shower scene, there was a bit of conflict between Norman and Marion, about his mother. The was a tense feeling between them, and we could sense Marion was a little bit frightened because the more Norman spoke, the less she ate. When she retired for the night, Norman was just standing there and looking around. When someone shifts their head to and fro, it gives us a sense they are about to do something.

There were also many cameras involved in this scene. There was one on Norman and the other on Marion. So we can see both of their actions. There was also a close-up when Norman was spying on Marion through his peephole.

It makes him appear as perverted. Why would he have a peephole there in the first place? Could he have been waiting or watching her do something? Did he behave like this when other young women came to stay at the motel? When he stopped looking at her, the camera moved on to Marion. She removed her clothing, and went into the shower. For a while it was only the shower rain, which could be, heard, and that created an eccentric feel, as there is usually music in the background. She continued showering, but then the door behind her came into view.

There was a person there, like an old lady.She looked quite humble at first, because she kept her hands together, but then the shower curtain was pulled dramatically as Marion turned around. Then she screamed, and the knife, which the murderer was holding, was held in a threatening way, and upright. We couldn’t see Marion or the murderer, but only the knife cutting her body, and blood being spilt.

She fell down with her back to the wall, and then slowly pulled the shower curtain, indicating her last movement. The curtain blurred our vision, creating a boundary of what should be seen, so it could have been Norman’s mother or someone else. The last part of this scene was the zoom in of Marion’s eye, and the shower rain still drizzling down. So it created suspense and made us anxious of whom this murderer is. Note, water was not on Marion’s face entirely.

There were teardrops near her eyes. So she could have been crying when being killed, or could she still be alive? Her eyes were opened when she died which is normal, but yet, we are not certain if she is dead. We would think, that she might still be alive, and want to get revenge on the killer later on.As Marion is driving in her car the rain starts to gain speed, and heaviness. As Marion struggles to see through the window of her car, fast flowing music starts to play to add more nervousness. Marion then arrives to the Bates motel.

The audience then start to feel a bit edgy, because they know for a fact that this is the place where the murder is going to happen. The motel is dark and gives the damp feeling because of the rain. And it is very silent, because there are not any other people around. It is very deserted. Marion calls down up at the big house on the hill. This house gives the audience the impression that it is haunted, or that there is an evil presence.

Because the house is up on a hill, it seems as if it were looking down at the world.Also the house is dark and gothic. These ideas make the audience start to think why the motel is isolated. It adds more anticipation.

When Marion enters the office, the motel manager, Norman Bates asks her questions like ” What are you running from?” She hesitates slightly while writing her name.When Norman Bates goes to choose a room key, he is about to pick one, but stops and takes room number ones door key. The audience start to fell a little tense by now.After Marion is settled, Norman invites her to eat dinner with him, and she agrees. He comes back down from the house and invites her to eat in the office. She follows him into the back room of the office, the parlour.

As she goes in Marion gazes at all the stuffed birds. But these are not just ordinary birds; these are birds of prey.As Marion eats, he says, “You eat like a bird”. This is not usual behaviour, and it makes the viewers uneasy about the characters opinions.As their conversation blossoms about the motel, he mentions the words, “we” as if there were someone else in the house. This makes the viewers very suspicious as to who the other person is, and why is it he has not mentioned the person.

The spectators then learn that he lives with his mother who is ill. As Marion suggests that he should find his mother a special home, he starts to let loose some anger. He tells the story of his past and says that he hates what his mother has become. The viewers are by now felling sorry for Norman, but yet we feel that he is hiding something because he stutters, and hesitates.

His conversion then leads into death and how he feels he is trapped.Going back to the birds of prey, stuffing birds is Normans hobby; a taxidermist. The audience feel uneasy and Marion probably does too because it feels as if the birds are watching you.The main peak of the whole movie is the shower scene. As Marion leaves the office to go to bed, Norman listens to her shuffling next door, and then pushes a side a picture; which was of a women being raped, which shows another fascination of cruelty, and immorality.

Behind the picture there is a peephole, which looks right into Marion’s room. Norman then leaves the office, and runs up to the old house, his face shows that he is very determined to do something, which makes the audience very doubtful.As she undresses and goes into the shower, it’s all quiet, except for the sounds of the water. Around 50 cameras were used in this scene, to show Marion from different views, from below, the sides, and above.

The camera then focuses from a side view angle. We can see Marion and a view of the door. It’s still silent and Marion does not realise that the bathroom door is opening slowly. As the audience watches the door open, they start to feel fear, as if someone was going to jump out at them.

The spectators feel insecure as they look at the blurred figure walking towards the shower curtain; the audience suspect that it is Norman.. The audience feel tense, and as soon as the shower curtain is pulled back the audience still feel uptight because they cannot see the killer. Marion gets slashed with a knife a numerous of times, and when the camera shows the killers face, its just a shadowed figure.As the murder is tacking place, high-pitched music is being played. The piece of music consists of violins, and with every stroke of the violin, the murderer slashes at Marion.

As the murderer leaves we see their back, and we see the figure of what looks like an old lady, preferably Norman Bate’s mother.After being stabbed a number of times, Marion slowly slips down, running her hand on the bathroom wall. She grabs on to the shower curtain and pulls it down as she falls on to the floor. The music slowly dies out as the camera shows a shot of the blood going down the plug.

Then there is a shot moving out from close contact of Marion’s eye. This shows the emptiness.The music in this film was used to add more tension, and to add to the viewer’s feelings towards the different scenes. This was the first time this technique was used. The scenes where Marion is thinking about the money or other things, there gentle music playing, but when Marion’s escaping with the money or the shower scene, the music is played at a faster tempo.But some scenes did not require music to add tension; therefore only silence was needed, like the motel and shower scenes.

Throughout the film different cameras were used to manipulate the viewers into thinking about one problem, like the money, the cameras focused on the money in some scenes, which mislead the audience. And the camera uses long shots of the house, to make it look more distant and menacing. It took about a week to adjust the cameras in the right places for the shower scene.In 1960, this was a terrifying film, and yet still it makes us now tense when we watch it.

Many different techniques, which had never been used before in filming were used to manipulate the audience into thinking about one subject of the movie, which isn’t the main subject of the movie anyway.The film was cleverly put together using props such as chocolate sauce as blood for the shower scene, and because it was in black and white, the viewers could not tell the difference.I think that Psycho was a chilling movie and still is.By Natalie Rahemtulla. 10 Gresham.In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock, produced one of the finest movies of all time.

Psycho was not only a spine tingling movie; it showed the first time on screen, a woman in her bra, and apparently the first time a toilet was flushed. Alfred Hitchcock promoted the movie by doing various things, for example throughout the whole screening of the film, he had a chair labelled ‘Mrs Bates’ on the back, put on the set. He also produced a 6-minute trailer acting as a tour guide of the motel and house, gave misleading statements to the press and he had the actors on the first day of filming, swear an oath of secrecy.The title ‘Psycho’ builds up tension and anticipation because it wants you to get in the right mood for the movie. The title gets you wondering what’s going to happen. The film opens with a view of the city, and then going on to Marion’s apartment, where we see her with her lover.

This opening probably makes the viewers a little confused. The viewers are probably wondering how the movie is going to be scary. When Marion decides to run off with the money, that her boss told her to put in the bank, the viewers are tense with excitement, because they want to know if she will get caught, or will she escape. The viewers also are tense when Marion’s boss stares at her at the traffic lights. Alfred Hitchcock made sure that Marion’s boss stood out of the crowd by using lightings, and the viewers also look through Marion’s eyes, so the audience feel as if they are being stared back at.

She starts to hear voices in her head, conversations. She then starts to stress that there are possibilities that her lover, Sam, will reject the money.Marion is asleep in her car when the policeman arrives. He asks where she is going, and she hesitates a bit, which the policeman notices.

When she drives off, he starts to follow her. The viewer’s start to feel a little in secure as well as the character, for they think she will get caught.When Marion goes to buy a new car, the policeman stops, gets out of his car, and watches. Throughout the whole scene of when she is buying the car, the viewers get the impression that somebody is constantly watching them. The viewers also feel uncomfortable, because, the dark round sunglasses that the policeman has on, makes him look soul less, almost un-human, because the audience cannot see his eyes, only when the viewers are in the eyes of Marion we can see her reflection.When Marion gets back in the car and drives off, the following continues.

Alfred Hitchcock uses different camera angles to show how worried and scared Marion is. Then it starts raining which adds more tension. The viewers start to wonder if the policeman will carry on chasing Marion, or give up. The main point of the introduction to the film is too generally build up tension and suspense.

Marion is driving in her car the rain starts to gain speed, and heaviness. As Marion struggles to see through the window of her car, fast flowing music starts to play to add more nervousness. Marion then arrives to the Bates motel. The audience then start to feel a bit edgy, because they know for a fact that this is the place where the murder is going to happen. The motel is dark and gives the damp feeling because of the rain.

And it is very silent, because there are not any other people around. It is very deserted. Marion calls down up at the big house on the hill. This house gives the audience the impression that it is haunted, or that there is an evil presence.Because the house is up on a hill, it seems as if it were looking down at the world.

Also the house is dark and gothic. These ideas make the audience start to think why the motel is isolated. It adds more anticipation.

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member
unlock