Sunday, 5 February 2017

"Psycho" review

Alfred Hitchcock legendary film director is known for many of his films in a psychological thriller genre.There are a lot of pictures on his repertoire: both silent and sound, however, most famous of his works are colour films, for example, „Rope”, „Vertigo”,  „Marnie”. Indeed Hitchcock’s career occurred on a birth of not only sound but also colour cinematography. Nevertheless, in his time Hitchcock once consciously returned to black-and-white cinematography.
Psycho” is Alfred Hitchcock’s extremely popular psychological thriller made in 1960 that was shot on black and white film. Hitchcock himself claimed that this film in colour would look „disgusting” "It seemed to me that the blood will look unnatural in colour."(1998) He thought that black-and-white image would look more expressive –“ an allusion always works much more powerful than the vulgar reality” (Ian Nathan, David Parkinson, Adam Smith, 2010). Colour is unnecessary in picture „Psycho”.Everything was told to the audience by characters’ faces, eyes, emotions and blood, which we cannot see, but we clearly can understand that it is there. Furthermore, he managed to get „Psycho” through the fence of censorship. Because there is one very popular scene in a picture, which would make collegium(staff) of censorship of that time go on the rampage.
This scene is a murder of a young woman, up to this point considered the main hero/protagonist of the film, Marion in a shower. This scene was repeatedly quoted in other films but also studied in detail in many cinematography and montage courses. It received its fame because of interesting and unique montage, according to director Hitchcock (1964), it consisted of „about 78 shots in 45 seconds. You cannot just show how they kill a naked woman with a knife. It was necessary to have an impressionistic approach to this problem. We used short shots - head, leg, arm, half of the body, the shower itself.
Figure 1. Various montage cuts(shots) from a legendary and horrific "Psycho" scene(2014)

Talking about the main protagonist in Psycho” is not quite simple. After all, Hitchcock used a very clever and crafty trick, by murdering Marion after 50 minutes of the film, because from the beginning we watch her story, how she stole a large sum of money from her boss hoping to use them to start a new life with her lover Sam. For the audience it seemed like it was a completely different movie, they were shocked and confused by seeing „the main protagonist” die, audience’s attention was diverted, and that is apparently, what film director was going for. My goal - provide the public with beneficent shock.”(Hitchcock, cited in Stanislav Dedinsky, 2012)
Suspense – is an increase of intense waiting. Alfred Hitchcock is also known as “Master of Suspense”. His picturePsycho” is one big feeling of suspense. From the very beginning of the movie thanks to the skilful suspense of „Psycho” viewers apparently, become accomplices in Marion’s crime.
We are worried about her because, throughout Marion’s entire escape, we can clearly see her strong uneasiness and panic and how she awkwardly lies and runs away from people. After Marion’s murder Norman Bates, owner of the hotel where Marion stopped for one night and also her murderer, very carefully cleans the bathroom, causing sympathy for himself, but the audience find themselves in a desperate situation and are forced to accept him as a new main protagonist of the picture „Psycho”.

Figure 2. Marion biting her lip out of nervousness and anxiety(2012)

Figure 3. Norman Bates shocked after discovering the corpse of Marion(2012)

Another very tense moment full of suspense was when a private investigator Arbogast, who was hired by Marion’s boss in order to learn where she might be, calls Marion’s sister Lila and Marion’s lover Sam to inform them about information he found out. He says that he will go and talk to Bates’ mother, who Norman carefully hides. From this moment audience understand that they can only anxiously wait for the inevitable to happen, when Arbogast hung up a timer on the bomb began ticking, and eventually, this bomb exploded along with private investigator. But it was not a shock for the audience because they knew that this is going to happen, they were immersed in the state of suspense. „Worry, wide-eyed speculation, and frenzied frustration grows exponentially within Lila and Sam as Hitchcock winds up the tension tighter and tighter toward Psycho’s climax – all because of the phone call.”( Michael Bays,2009)

The Same feeling of suspense we felt during the scene when Lila was searching for Norman’s mother in Bates’ house, but fortunately, everything went well, and the murderer was caught. The murderer was in fact, Norman Bates who was psychopath/sociopath with Dissociative identity disorder: both him and his mother lived in Norman’s body and mind.

The combination of loud screeching strings of Bernard Herrmann, interesting detective story, shocking and unexpected revelations, feeling of suspense and unique montage still brings a lot off emotions to its viewers. Alfred Hitchcock was like an experienced psychiatrist, he knew how to make the audience fully immersed in his work.

1. Hitchcock, A. (1998)Alfred Hitchcock: Dialogues about the movie” In: The Belorusskaya gazeta[online] At: (Accessed on 04 February 2017) 
2. Nathan, I., Parkinson, D., Smith, A. (2010) В стиле Хич:Всё об Альфреде Хичкоке[In Russian]In a Hitch Style:Everything about Alfred Hitchcock. Translated by Anastasija Strelcova At: (Accessed on 04 February 2017) 
3. Hitchcock, A. (1964) [Interview face to face, 2013]. 
4. Dedinsky, S. (2012) "Я играл на публике как на органе"[In Russian]"The audience is like a giant organ that you and I are playing
." Translated by Anastasija Strelcova At: (Accessed on 04 February 2017) 
5. Bays, M. (2009) Message in a booth: Arbogast's last words At: (Accessed on 04 February 2017) 

1. Figure 1. (2014)[Film Stills], accessed on 04 February 2017.
2. Figure 2.Dedinsky Stanislav(2012)[Film Still], accessed on 04 February 2017.
3. Figure 3.Dedinsky Stanislav(2012)[Film Still], accessed on 04 February 2017.


  1. A very interesting review Anastasija :)

    Be consistent with your speechmarks - they should all be " ", not ,, ".

    This could be a little confusing for a reader that hasn't seen the film,
    "...when Arbogast hung up a timer on the bomb began ticking, and eventually, this bomb exploded along with private investigator." - it sounds as though it was an actual bomb that went off, rather than the idea of the 'ticking bomb' as a means of building suspense.

  2. Good evening, Jackie!
    Thank you. About these quotation marks, yeah, I always have a problem with that, because I have 3 different languages on my computer and sometimes I type in English but using different language on my keyboard, and quotation marks are different in these languages.