In Tension Throughout The Film And What Effect
Alfred Hitchcock was a famous director during the late 1950’s and early 60’s. He was born in 1899 and died in 1980.
He was known as the master of suspense for creating tense and thrilling films including ‘Psycho’ and ‘The birds.’ In 1960 Psycho was released and was a big hit in Great Britain and America. This film shows how a young woman, Marion, falls in love and steals a large amount of money and to then begin a new life away with her boyfriend. As she runs away, she finds a motel to spend the night. Strange and scary things begin to happen here and the level of suspense and suspicion begins to rise. Tense films make us, as viewers, insecure and unsure about the environment around us.
Most thrillers can relate to everyday happenings making us feel that anything could happen to us. There are many tense moments in ‘Psycho’ including the famous Shower scene and the unexpected discovery in the fruit cellar!Lots of techniques are used in ‘Psycho.’ Techniques include the use of camera angles, sound effects, lighting and pathetic fallacy. The scene where most of these techniques are used is the well-known shower scene.
The scene begins with Marion taking a relaxing shower and only the mundane sounds of the shower can be heard. To us this comes across as more unsettling, as we can hear nothing else. In most of the tense moments in the film, only a few sounds can be heard, so when a sudden sound occurs we are more likely to jump out of our seats. As the killer enters the bathroom, Marion is facing the audience with her back to the killer making us feel as though we should be able to tell her what’s going to happen.
We now feel worried for her and are tenser. The music builds up as the killer slowly approaches towards Marion and an over-shoulder shot of the killer’s silhouette is shown through the curtain. The killer is backlit making them stand out more. We find this tense as the killer remains anonymous and Marion doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Marion lets out a blood curdling scream as the killer throws open the curtain and staccato music mirrors the action of the stabbing.
Cut shots are used to show the killer’s and victim’s perspective of the murdering.This allows the audience to be frightened in the view of the victim and feel sorry for the victim in the view of the killer. A high angle shot of the victim and a low angle shot of the killer is also used to make the killer look as though they are over looking the victim, being more powerful. The sound of flesh being torn is put in after the scene had been filmed. This is called a non-diegetic sound.
A close up of Marion’s hand on the wall is shown after she has been murdered, in the shower, and again of her hand reaching out to grab the curtain in the shower. It seems as though she is reaching out to the audience for help. But we are unable to help her. This again makes us feel helpless.
As she grabs it there is a sudden movement of the curtain coming off the rail. This symbolises her heart stopping as she crashes to the ground with a thud. We are a bit shocked as this movement is so sudden. A medium close up of her face then follows down her body to show the blood washing down the plughole. This signifies her life washing away.
Symbolism is used again when Norman is entertaining Marion in the back room. Stuffed birds are placed around the room and some are even positioned to face Marion. There are ravens in he room that also symbolise death. In this scene we expect something to happen to Marion but in fact everything is normal.Pathetic fallacy is a very important technique used to create tension.
The weather must match the mood of the scene or the right feeling or message doesn’t get across. If the weather were sunny and bright you’d expect the scene to be happy and cheerful, not sad or scary. A dark and gloomy night would suit this mood. This was shown in the scene when the detective Arbogast was murdered. The weather outside was dark and cold, when he entered the house he was nervous and the atmosphere was uncertain and edgy.
We expect something to happen in this scene but we are still unsure about what’s round the corner. The scene in the fruit cellar is another scene that uses pathetic fallacy. The room is dark lit and shadowy and movements are weary, tense and slow. This makes us as the audience feel weary also.Hitchcock uses tension in his films to create an atmosphere different to that of what’s around us.
If he uses a simple everyday area and turns it into an unsettling pool of suspense, we think that the same situation may come upon us. Hitchcock has created tension by using a number of techniques that are very effective including pathetic fallacy, camera shots and the way a character may speak or act towards another person. I think that without these techniques the contrasting relationships between the killer and it’s victims would be a little unclear. Also using these techniques the killer always remains anonymous making the murders more tense and puzzling as to make us think who it is. Not only are the cinematic techniques effective but also the use of music adds to the moments that are tense and worrying. The same staccato sounds are used every time an event occurs and sometimes begins to build up indicating that tension is rising.
I think that ‘Psycho’ is very successful in the criteria of being tense and thrilling and that is what’s kept it so popular today.