Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960, USA)

It is hard to evaluate Psycho objectively, as the film has permeated our culture to such a great degree. My experience with the film goes back more than 20 years, when I first watched it on VHS. At the time I found it incredibly entertaining, a blueprint for the modern horror film. In time as I became more aware of the language of cinema, the true cleverness of Psycho began to dawn on me. Hitchcock was incredibly good at pushing buttons and exploring the darker side of our consciousness, and his most well-known film is no exception to this.
At the level of form, Psycho is as masterful as it is subversive. Eschewing the big budgets of his most recent efforts, Hitchcock took a “lean and mean” approach to making the film, working with the crew from his TV series, shooting in black and white, and keeping the budget down to a minimum. This economy extends to the narrative of Psycho - it is easy to tell that every single frame of the film was storyboarded and planned. 
Of course, the big narrative switch of the film - Marion Crane’s sudden death at the hands of Norman Bates - is still shocking. I found the moments after her death particularly interesting this time around. I had forgotten how much time Hitchcock devotes to showing Norman Bates cleaning up the mess. There is a seamlessness to the shift in perspective, where we begin to identify with Norman Bates and root for him in getting away with his crime.
The Freudian aspects of the film are fun, and Slavoj Zizek has done a great job examining them. Viewing the film through this lens, and especially the house - with its three levels signifying the superego, ego, and id - demonstrates Hitchcock’s playfulness with the viewer.



Popular Posts