The film Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock is regarded as one of the most scarring films ever made. The film based on real life events depicting an ordinary neighbor turned in to a monstrous killer. Hitchcock filmed Psycho in black and white as he considered that the gory movie has to be made in color. The first scene in the movie is misleading as one can easily assume that it is a romance movie (Kolker). Hitchcock left most of the imagination to his viewers as the psycho analyses the main characters to the greater depths their minds can imagine. This differs significantly from the horror films that are made today where the viewers are taken through the steps leaving little to their imagination. Psycho is most notable for its treatment of psychology, violence and sexuality. Hitchcock treated these themes in uncompromising manner that deviated from the formalities in Hollywood in 1960s.
The film brings the idea of darkness or evils that humanity is capable to do. Audiences are pushed into situations that they would rather not be in as the dark side of the human nature is brought afore. From obsession, sexual deviancy to madness Hitchcock drew in his audience to greater depth of humanity dark sides with his voyeuristic masterpiece. He tries to implicate his viewers by showing the sadistic nature the humanity is capable of with his subjective shots and forward tracking scenes. This leaves the audiences imagining the destructive desires that are held in human beings. The movie has a mixture of humor and suspense. Hitchcock used this technique to enable the audiences lease the unbearable tensions in the classic horror film.
Character Analysis Psycho (1960)
Marion is depicted as a good woman whose love for a hopeless man eventually drives her into a crime. Norman, on the other hand, is a likeable character with deep psychological issues. His overbearing dead mother is depicted as one of his dual personality and assigned the blame for all his grievous crimes. The audiences can easily sympathize with Norman even as a ruthless killer for his crimes can be apportioned to his evil mother. Marion’s boss, on the other hand, is portrayed as an arrogant authoritative man a trait which leads the audience to sympathize with Marion. Sam is a man trapped in his own past, his father’s debt and failed marriage turn him into a skeptic who is unable to commit to a woman whom he loves.
Themes in Psycho (1960)
Psycho begins with a very misleading scene that helps establish the first theme in the movie that of the crippling effects of our past. We are taken into an ordinary hotel room, where two lovers, Marion Crane and Sam Loomis, are in deep embrace after making love. The two secret lovers have past histories that get into the way of their wishes and happiness (Bellour). Sam is recently divorced and is in debts. While Marion wishes for respectability and for the two of them to get married and hopes that their next rendezvous will be in her house. Through their discussions, Hitchcock brings to the attention of the audiences the effects that our past can have on one life and get in the ways of one’s future and cripple their dreams. Due to his father’s debts and the alimony to his divorced wife, Sam is financial predicament that prevents him to marry his lover Marion. Besides, he is ashamed of his living arrangements as he can only afford to live in storeroom behind his hardware business. His pride cannot let him marry his lover until he can afford to take care of her financially. He is, thus, crippled by his past, which is responsible for his current financial troubles. Hitchcock also brings in the power of sacrifice as a theme in Psycho. Marion is ready to sacrifice her dignity and anything else to be able to marry her lover Sam. Her readiness to sacrifice for her love, also leads the audiences to conclude that she is a good woman.
The theme of power of money is also shown in the movie. First, Marion and Sam cannot enjoy their lives for lack of money. Then, we have Marion’s boss who thinks that happiness can be bought for money. He brags of his daughter and the wedding gifts that he is about to give her. He uses his money, however, to exercises his power over his daughter. Hitchcock uses the house to depict the power that Mr. Lowery wields over his daughter. His arrogance makes it easier for Marion to steal his money. He also uses colors to communicate different effects to his audiences. In the first scene, Marion is wearing the white undergarment, but after stealing from her boss she wears black signifying the transmission from a good woman to a thief (Deutelbaum and Poague). The same effects are seen in the entire movie, which was made in black and white instead of color. He used this technique to reduce the effect in the gory scenes as well as to save on his production costs.
Psycho also has strong gender power theme the two protagonists Norman and Marion are trapped as subordinates in their relationships. Marion is the strongest in her relationship with Sam as opposed to the traditional male-female relations, where men are seen as the stronger partners. Norman, on the other hand, has a relationship with his dead mother, where he is the subordinate. By this, Hitchcock tries to bring to his audiences the powerful nature of the two genders. Both Norman and Marion are forced to act beyond their nature due to the powers of the other gender. Marion’s stagnant relationship is a result of the male Sam failure to commit. It is clear that they both love each other. But Sam is unwilling to make a commitment unless he can be able to afford to support her. This also brings out the theme of gender roles whereby men are assigned the roles of providers, while women are the home makers. The traditional gender hierarchical roles are also highly emphasized in the movie. Marion and her female coworker are, for example, under a male as their boss. This helps in emphasizing the traditional male gender role of males as leaders with power, wealth and authority. She is also depicted as a shy predictable female character with a likeable demure in the movie.
There is also a strong theme of internal conflicts and their effects on an individual’s life. Sam is unable to come with terms with his mother’s murder, what leads to his dual personality. Marion, on the other hand, is a good woman who turns to stealing in order to resolve her own conflicts. The conflicts are brought out in the Bates motel, where it is easier to challenge the traditional roles assigned to the different gender. On hand we have a male, whose every move is controlled by his mother. Defying traditions, where males are supposed to be the leaders and not women. On the other hand, we have a woman who has decided to control the direction of her relationship with her lover, this also defies traditions.
The theme of mental illness and its consequences is played out throughout the movie. Hitchcock made Norman a sympathetic character that the audiences can easily identify with. We get to learn of his childhood and his predicaments and easily identify and sympathies with him. This takes away the shocking nature of his crimes and instead one easily understands his monstrous acts. His failure come to terms with his reality which drives him to commit the monstrous acts; and the audiences are left with deep sympathies for the man.
Plot Vertigo (1958)
The 1958 film vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock is a movie about guilt, sex, love, fear and obsession. The psychologically thriller is a story of romance between Det. John 'Scottie' and Judy Barton that is based on a novel by Boileau-Narcejac. Det. John 'Scottie, a retired policeman, turned private detective is afraid of heights and is hired to trail Madeleine by her husband to find out the causes of her peculiar behavior. His fear of heights caused the death of a fellow policeman forcing him to retire. Scottie is unable to overcome his fears and his ex-fiancée feels that only deeply shocking emotion would help him get cured (Bellour). He discovers Madeleine spends a lot of time in a museum staring at a woman’s painting that is a close resemblance of her. Her husband believes that she is possessed. Scottie further discovers that the portrait is that of Madeleine’s grandmother who committed suicide. Scottie saves her life as she attempts to commit suicide and the two falls in love. She eventually dies tragically as she falls from a bell tower with Scottie watching as he is unable to overcome his fear of heights.
Character Analysis Vertigo (1958)
The main character Scottie in Vertigo was a likable character. However, his fear of heights leaves the audiences frustrated with him, especially when he is unable to save Madeleine. Scottie and Madeleine are portrayed as two deeply trouble individuals with strong psychological issues that they are unable to overcome. Scottie`s fear of heights results in two preventable deaths, that of his fellow officer and Madeleine. He eventually ends up in an asylum after a mental breakdown. Madeleine is also depicted as a psychologically trouble woman.
Themes in Vertigo (1958)
Vertigo has a deep theme on the power of fear. Fear forces Det. John 'Scottie to retire from his job as a policeman when a fellow officer dies because he could not save him for his fear of heights. When his friend hires him to follow his wife, it was because he was afraid that she would commit suicide that he was able to prevent her from jumping into the San Francisco Bay. But, because of his fear of heights Scottie is unable to save his love and he watches as she plunges to her death from the bell tower (Deutelbaum and Poague). Fear also eventually drives him to find help for his problem since he is afraid of admitting that he was unable to prevent Madeleine’s death because of his phobia. The theme of fear is also shown in the movie through the actions of Scottie’s acquaintance Galvin Elster. Galvin is afraid of his wife’s peculiar behavior that he hires his old acquaintance Scottie to trail her and solve the mystery. He is also afraid of the portrait in the museum and its capability to posses his wife.
Like in the movie, Psycho, the theme of an individual’s pasts and its crippling effects on his or her future is also played out in Vertigo. Madeleine’s Great grandmother suicide is in her past. In fact, she is unaware that the portrait in the Museum is that of an old relative yet it somehow draws her toward it. The fact that the portrait possesses her and drives her to commit suicide has also got to do with her past. Scottie is prevented by his past from overcoming his fear of heights. He is, therefore, unable to save Madeleine, when she falls from the bell tower. This incidence also enables him to finally seek treatment for his phobia. The theme of sexuality is also addressed in Vertig.
Differences and Similarities in the Films Psycho (1960) and Vertigo (1958)
In the two movies, Psycho (1960) and Vertigo (1958), Hitchcock uses sound, lighting and color as the most crucial elements in telling his stories. Psycho was made in black and white colors to reduce the effect of horrific scenes. It is, therefore, different in this element with vertigo, which had colors. The chilling sounds were used in psycho to convey the chilling events to the audiences. The two psychological films have similar themes such as love, sex, obsession and fear, which however, differ in the presentation of these themes. In psycho the power of love and its consequences are addressed, when Madeline, a nice woman, turns to stealing in order to fulfill and enjoy her love with Sam (Kolker). In Vertigo, Scotties love for Madeline is not strong enough to help him overcome his fear of heights and save her. The power of one’s past and consequences is also addressed in the two films differently.
In Psycho, Norman`s past turns him into a killer while in Vertigo, Madeleine`s past comes to haunt her inform of her great-grandmother and her suicide tendencies. Marion, on the other hand, is turned into a victim by her past; in Psycho, while Scottie’s past causes him to have a mental breakdown. He is eventually able to meet a new love in his life Judy, who resembles Madeleine from his past. One of the main differences in the two movies is the strong gender power theme in Psycho. The theme of gender power in Psycho is addressed through the two protagonists: Norman and Marion. They are depicted as people trapped in their subordinate genders in their relationships.
Marion is the strongest in her relationship with Sam as opposed to the traditional male-female relations, where men are seen as the stronger partners. Norman, on the other hand, has a relationship with his dead mother, where he is the subordinate. Hitchcock used suspense and humor in the two films to keep his audiences deeply engaged in his work. The two films had also similar psychological issues giving an in depth analyses into the main characters, and winning them sympathy from the audiences despite their shortcoming. Norman, for example, can be easily forgiven for his crimes as they are seen to be his mother’s fault. Scottie’s inability to save his love draws more sympathy than anger, leaving one feeling sorry for him and wishing to help him (Deutelbaum and Poague). Madeleine suicide is seen as a result of her soul being taken over by her great grandmother, thus, one is unable to perceive her character. She is instead seen as a troubled woman trapped in circumstances beyond her strength.
Hitchcock’s ability to draw his audiences into the storyline of his movie is strongly demonstrated by Psycho and Vertigo. The two psychological films have similar themes such as love, sex, obsession and fear, but they, however, differ in the way the themes are presented. In Psycho, the power of love and its consequences are addressed when Madeline, a nice woman, turns to stealing in order to fulfill and enjoy her love with Sam. In Vertigo, Scottie`s love for Madeline is not strong enough to help him overcome his fear of heights and save her. Fear in Vertigo is the main theme with the cost that can accrue if one is unable to overcome their fears strongly brought out. Hitchcock’s ability to get his audiences to empathize with his characters, and their predicaments is strongly demonstrated in the two films.