Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Psycho is a film that defined a genre, and stupefied generations. Its ground breaking innovations in the field of horror at the time today look as if they where made in the modern day. The absolute success of its recipe lies in its essential simplicity. An eternal script leads to an eternal film. This film is successful through the role of its actors. For me this is a film that relies solely on the performance of the actors to achieve perfection. Though epitomized by Anthony Perkins stellar performance, the other characters play the roles that allow Perkin to come out.

Fig. 1 - The meeting between Norman and Marion
The story starts with the introduction of the first main character. Janet Leigh plays Marion Crane and for most of the first part of the film, we are convinced that she is the main character and I must admit being quit surprised by her death. As Roger Erbert confirms, “no moviegoer could have anticipated the surprises Hitchcock had in store--the murder of Marion (Janet Leigh), the apparent heroine, only a third of the way into the film, and the secret of Norman's mother.” (Erbert:1998) Today, one really gets used to the whole story of the main character being alive all along. She steals 40, 000 Dollars, a consequent sum in those days. Her lack of loyalty is quit appalling, her loathsome attitude not representative of her position. She leaves the town in a hurry, being stopped by a macho cliché of an American cop. He finds her suspicious, yet I found his role quit useless on the long term. While he could have played an interesting role, he is only useful in the beginning adding a touch of suspense. Yet he is a bit vague in his whereabouts as if he had simply been put there to give Marion an antagonist.

She arrives at the motel, and we get to meet the ace character of the film. Anthony Perkins turns an interesting first act into a legendary second act. He is a bit edgy, yet nothing implies his character at first. He acts a bit weird, has an argument with his mother, and comes down to have dinner. Here is first implied the use of mommies, where we get to see some stuffed birds, also a prelude to Birds. His attitude is misleading. Marion takes a shower, and in a seen of anthology is murdered by Norman. The victim’s sister then decides to hire a private detective, who finds his way to the Bates Motel. There he is also murdered after investigating the house behind the motel, a now classic and foreboding building, perched high on top of a hill, a chromatic inverse of what could have been a Hopper painting.

Fig. 2 - Norman Bates
The story then takes an interesting take as Marion’s boyfriend and sister, Sam Loomis and Lila Crane, head towards the motel to investigate. Here we get a closer look at Norman, who really starts to come out as an odd only half understood character. Something is wrong with him, yet, at first it is quit hard to understand what is. One scene almost ruins it for the film. When he brings his mom to the fruit cellar, as he carries her she is completely limp, while she had been shouting loudly to not touch her. The visual effect was not to successful, but nothing major that impeded the success of the film. As we reach the end, we find out in an amazing scene, where Lila goes into the cellar, and finds the mummified corpse of the real “mother”. Here Norman tries to kill her, dressed up as a woman, but Sam stops him. We are then taken to the prison, where we get a last shot of Norman, as he has completely shifted to his mother persona, giving probably the best and most unsettling looks ever seen on film.

The film is shot through an interesting use of angles, with extreme close-ups of the character turning quit banal scenes into rather unsettling moments. As the BBC film reviewer David Wood precises, “the proceedings are of course shot through with Hitchcock¹s sly, mordant and slightly sadistic humour which revels in the consequences of the oedipally induced madness and the sardonic irony of much of the dialogue” (Wood:2000) The strange relationship between mother and son is accentuated by those shots, the mother always show in the dark or as an outline at the window. The last shot in the cell is both perfect in composition and in setting, and the slight superposition of his face with his mother’s corpse face is simply stunning, a slight moment of supernatural to finish a masterpiece.

Fig. 3 - The Eyes
Psycho is probably one of the most influential films of the last century, as it defined a genre and shocked generations before the coming as such failures as Saw or Final Destination. As David Jenkings from Time Out London, Psycho “offers perfect case studies of suspense, paranoia and montage for lazy film-studies tutors." (Jenkings:2010) I end this knowing that I will never forget the depth of Anthony Perkins eyes when he stairs back at the camera saying he wouldn’t hurt a fly.



No comments: