Psycho Analysis: an interpretation of Alfred Hitchcocks cinematic masterpiece

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Psycho Analysis: an interpretation of Alfred Hitchcock's cinematic masterpiece

In Rebecca , a cold, withholding man played by Laurence Olivier marries a woman from a lower social class who tries everything to please him, with little success. Hitchcock was well aware of his male characters' problems in this film and in Vertigo , whose very title derived from a psychological disorder suffered by its male protagonist.

Vertigo is perhaps the most powerful cinematic rendition of how a man's possessiveness literally kills the object of his love. Rear Window too does not readily exonerate its protagonist's over-controlling, voyeuristic impulses see Rohmer and Chabrol, In this film Jimmy Stewart plays a photographer confined to his apartment in a wheelchair after having broken his leg in a fall.

His girlfriend, played by Grace Kelly, is eager for marriage, although Stewart holds her at arm's length because of his fear that their professions she is a fashion magazine editor and lifestyles are incompatible. Idly observing his neighbors through his apartment window, Stewart eventually detects a murder, which he sends Kelly to investigate. In doing so, he endangers first her life and then his own, as the murderer confronts the invalid photographer alone in his apartment.

The film is an exploration of the motives and consequences of a career of watching others, commanding friends and lovers to become involved in the enterprise, and not being able fully to give of oneself except on one's own terms.

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In short, this is an explicit cinematic treatment of the existential issues Spoto attempted to deduce biographically. The issue of male-female combat was one never far from Hitchcock's mind. Sometimes, as in North by Northwest , the outcome is a positive one of mutual acceptance by the male and female characters, despite the male protagonist's emotional problems. In both versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much , a woman who has given up her career in the first version as a sharpshooter, in the second as a singer experiences conflict in her marriage.

In the climactic scenes in each film, the woman relies on her skill -- and courage -- to rescue her child. Considering particularly the date of the earlier version, Hitchcock might be seen to have been unusually prescient about issues of female independence. Hitchcock himself married an exceptionally talented person whose professional judgment he always relied on above any other. One actress related how, after being caught in a traffic jam, she deposited an anxious Reville at Hitchcock's hotel an hour late for dinner, a lapse which angered him and for which he would not forgive the actress.

Again, the issues Hitchcock did not deal with in his personal life proved exceptionally fruitful for his art. Notorious has Cary Grant portraying a government agent who enlists Ingrid Bergman to spy against her father's Nazi friends her father is now dead. An exhausted, dissolute playgirl, the Bergman character is induced by the CIA-like agency for which Grant works to marry one of the Nazis.

Notorious contains a kissing sequence between Bergman and Grant that is oft-noted by cinema students it is described extensively in Spoto, ; Truffaut, ; et al. The scene contains a long, claustrophobic close-up shot of Bergman clinging to Grant across the entire set of their hotel room as Grant first answers the ringing phone, and then walks to the door to leave. Bergman clearly expresses more attachment, almost a desperation, as she tries to ignore the demands of their jobs and their situation in order to hold onto her lover.

Hitchcock recounts in connection with this scene how he once saw a girl continue to grip the arm of her boyfriend while he urinated against a wall. It is meant to distinguish between the personality of the artist and the artist's creative power. Hitchcock consistently displayed the capacity to transform artistically impulses that caused him difficulty personally.

In addition, while Hitchcock did depict rape and murder on the screen, he never did so in the easy way of most contemporary films that might be thought to encourage the behavior being shown. Showing a viewer the difficulty, consequences, and reactions of the victim of aggression significantly reduces the likelihood that aggressive behavior will be imitated cf.

Bandura, Hitchcock understood this psychological truth implicitly.


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He shot the rape scene in Marnie to focus on Marnie's distress and horror while she is being raped, just as he noted her desolation and attempted suicide after the act. In Torn Curtain , Hitchcock shot a prolonged scene in which the morally ambiguous figure of an American agent played by Paul Newman slowly kills an East German named Gromek who is assigned to guard him. Hitchcock first established the likable, if boorish, character of the East German. The desperation of all three characters is so amply delineated that the viewer is left fairly drained for an analysis of the viewer's implication in the killing, see Wood, , pp.

Asked about this scene by Truffaut, Hitchcock remarked simply: "In every picture somebody gets killed and it goes very quickly. I thought it was time to show that it is very difficult, very painful, and it takes a very long time to kill a man" p.

Hitchcock's treatment of Tippi Hedren offscreen during the shooting of The Birds and Marnie was execrable and possibly pathologic. However, it is unwise to equate the offscreen and onscreen workings of Hitchcock's mind. Hitchcock's description of filming a scene with Hedren in The Birds a different scene from the one which turned into an ordeal for her makes clear the danger of underestimating the cinematic purpose of any footage Hitchcock shot in this period:. Space should not be wasted, because it can be used for dramatic effect. When the birds attack the barricaded house and Melanie [Hedren] is cringing back on the sofa, I kept the camera back to show the nothingness from which she is shrinking.

If I'd started, at the outset, right next to the girl, we'd have the feeling that she was recoiling in front of some danger that she could see but the public could not. And I wanted to establish just the contrary, to show that there was nothing off screen. Therefore, all of that space had a specific meaning.

The placing of images on the screen, in terms of what you're expressing, should never be dealt with in a factual manner. You can get anything you want through the proper use of cinematic techniques, which enable you to work out any image you need. There's no justification for a short cut and no reason to settle for a compromise between the image you wanted and the image you get.

Truffaut, , pp. Hitchcock declared as his worst critic might in response to a moralizing attack on Rear Window , "Nothing could have prevented my making that picture, because my love for cinema is stronger than any morality" Truffaut, , p.

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This badly understates Hitchcock's moral vision, one that typifies great art, through which the artist endeavors to lay out the moral conflicts he perceives and to engage the spectator in their resolution. It is not necessary to argue that artists are better people than others; what is required for the creation of the kind of art which Hitchcock presents is an awareness of moral tension and the ability to portray this tension meaningfully.

Rothman traced Hitchcock's explicit concern with the meaning of his art and the process of its creation from The Lodger to Psycho , finding the rendition of these overriding themes in Psycho to be more powerful than any of his preceding work. Critics of all ilks have conceded this film's power; Durgnat , pp. Braudy underlined Hitchcock's discussion with Truffaut about the film, quoting first Hitchcock:.

They were aroused by pure film. Braudy's purpose was to demonstrate that "all of Hitchcock's 'techniques' are aimed at destroying the separation between the film and its audience" p. Hitchcock's unflagging ability to interest audiences threatens to derail Spoto's existential explanation of Hitchcock's problems as a filmmaker.

Also contradicting the notion of Hitchcock's progressive dementia, his best output was from his mid-fifties until he was sixty, when he made Rear Window , The Man Who Knew Too Much , Vertigo , North by Northwest , and Psycho along with three lesser films. Truffaut's ; cf. Truffaut and Scott, balanced and empathic account of Hitchcock's final films may serve as the ultimate epitaph for that troubled genius. Truffaut also described Hitchcock's decline as being due to the failure of Marnie -- more particularly "the failure of his professional and personal relationship with Tippi Hedren" p.

Truffaut found Hitchcock suffered a loss of confidence in the aftermath of Marnie that led him unwisely to part company with his most important collaborators. Moreover, the failure of this most personal of Hitchcock's films dissuaded him from directly exposing his emotional concerns on screen again, and he strove to return to familiar formulae for the remainder of his films. At the same time, Truffaut was aware that Frenzy and other late successes buoyed Hitchcock both personally and professionally. Truffaut's posthumous analysis it postdated the death of author as well as subject again like his earlier edition expressed idiosyncratic and superfluous assumptions.

He unfortunately opined, "it could not have been easy for him [Hitchcock] to impose his neuroses on the whole world" p. But we must be grateful for the moderate tone displayed in this work by another distinguished director albeit one both more personal and less powerful than Hitchcock and cinema lover, one who can recognize that great artistic creation deserves its own level of analysis:. Hitchcock belonged to a different family: the family of Chaplin, Stroheim, Lubitsch. Like them, he did not merely practice an art, but undertook to delve into its potential and to work out its rules.

Overall, when we note that Hitchcock's films have been well-received in six different decades, we may identify as the critic's task to seek the source of Hitchcock's remarkable artistic productivity and longevity rather than of his decline. What causes people to respond to Hitchcock's vision after fifty years? Discipline, hard work, and sensitivity to his audiences are useful first approximations for such an understanding, while the rest may fall under the category of genius.

Under any circumstances, Hitchcock's films cannot with profit be regarded as elaborate excuses for their director's foibles and deficiencies, as uninhibited vicarious indulgences of Hitchcock's hidden yearnings, or as inchoate expressions of his unexamined and unconscious desires. Like all substantial art, Hitchcock's work is too complex morally to allow such easy, reductionistic synopses.

Despite many recent attempts to unify them, the biographical enterprise and the effort to analyze art from critical and moral perspectives remain irreducible enterprises, necessarily conducted separately and with different tools. Indeed, the ability to separate one's personality from one's creation may be the hallmark of the successful artist, the failure to do so the sign of artistic mediocrity. Bandura, A. Aggression: A social learning analysis. Englewood Cliffs, N. Bogdanovich, P. The cinema of Alfred Hitchcock. Braudy, L. Durgnat, R. The strange case of Alfred Hitchcock.

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The Psychology of Horror: An Exploration of Freud’s ‘Uncanny’ through “Psycho”

Cambridge: MIT Press. Kubie, L. Neurotic distortion of the creative process. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press. LaValley, A. Peele, S. Love and Addiction. New York: Taplinger. Rohmer, E. Paris: Editions Universitaires. Rothman, W. Hitchcock: The murderous gaze. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Spoto, D. The art of Alfred Hitchcock. The dark side of genius: The life of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Ballantine. Trilling, L. One that came to my mind immediately, is the Pyche Theory, which surrounds the human mind, body and spirit. The top level signifies the superego, as the public somehow sees it, and the superego incorporates the values of morals of society.

This particular Freudian concept explores and questions comfort, where the familiar becomes foreign and frightening. Although he might not have intended it to be funny, Freud amusingly makes links to The Uncanny by refering to the female genitals, as it is both familiar and unfamiliar; as we all inhabited the female organ, however, may not feel certain hominess towards it. Which is something the audience experience greatly whilst watching Psycho. Examples of these concepts are scattered all over Psycho, you just need to know what you are looking for.

Adding to the discomfort from the way Hitchcock pans the city, with shots creeping closer and closer into the window of Marion and Sam, making us feel like prowlers that are viewing the scene ironically through a peephole. Another clear example is when Norman Bates invites Marion into his lobby, and there are stuffed animals hanging from wire: foreign and frightening.

With distraction from the mother of Bates, the taxidermy is unsettling. This aspect is interestingly shown throughout the film, and there are many ways to interpret it. And in the case of Psycho, Hitchcock covers the Uncanny double creatively, by using mirrors, reflections and correct positioning to magnifies the emotions surrounding the characters, for example,Marion is shown through mirrors a lot at the time when she meets Bates.

Which brings me to my final point. The similarities between Marion and Bates are awfully alarming once you take notice. Voucher Codes. Just Eat. National Trust. Premium Articles. Subscription offers. Subscription sign in. Read latest edition. UK Edition. US Edition. Log in using your social network account. Please enter a valid password.

Keep me logged in. Try Independent Premium free for 1 month See the options. Alfred Hitchcock Rex. You can form your own view. Subscribe now. Shape Created with Sketch. Alfred Hitchcock's 20 Greatest Films Show all Generally considered to be the first British talkie, although there is some debate about this, Blackmail began life as a silent movie with Hitchcock given permission to shoot a few sound sequences.

Instead, he shot both a sound and a silent version, with the latter actually holding up best. Two young men murder a friend just for the thrill, conceal his body in a trunk and then hold a macabre dinner party to test whether any of their guests suspect their crime.

The aim was for the finished movie to look like one continuous shot, giving the audience the impression that everything on screen happens in real time. The Lodger was a sensation — a huge hit with critics and audiences alike — and Hitchcock himself considered it his first proper film. Aged just 27, Hitchcock was already an imaginative innovator, filming from below a plate glass ceiling to capture Novello anxiously pacing the floor. Often dismissed as minor Hitchcock, but in reality much better than that, Saboteur is basically a reboot of The 39 Steps and a road movie of sorts, allowing Hitchcock to shoot extensively on location as the wronged man Robert Cummings traverses America from California to New York seeking to prove his innocence.

It all leads to one of the greatest of all Hitchcock climaxes atop the Statue of Liberty. Psychoanalyst Ingrid Bergman falls for amnesiac Gregory Peck, who may also be a murderer, and tries to unravel the mystery of his past. Of course Spellbound is full of ludicrous psychobabble but the Salvador Dali dream sequences and evocative Oscar-winning score from Miklos Rozsa, combined with twists and turns typical of the Master, make for an essential Hitchcock movie.

Only Hitchcock would have considered taking on this typically daring single setting exercise about shipwrecked survivors from a U-boat attack adrift in the Atlantic. The fly in the ointment is the sole Nazi on board who insidiously asserts his influence on the survivors, allowing Hitchcock to examine all aspects of human nature as the protagonists do whatever they can to survive.

Hitchcock later called it a grave error and bad technique to allow the bomb to go off because it killed the suspense, but the scene was undeniably powerful and was required in the context of the film. On a transcontinental train in a ficticious central European country, the elderly Miss Froy suddenly disappears. Only a young woman admits to having seen her and she enlists a young Englishman to help her find said lady, who it later transpires is a British spy.

Hitch managed to fit in plenty of observations on human nature with even those passengers not involved in the kidnapping lying about their knowledge of Miss Froy for their own selfish reasons, such as the cricket-loving silly Englishmen who are anxious to get home for a test match. The film features several set pieces in the Hitchcock mould including an assassination on rain-lashed steps amid a cavalcade of umbrellas, an amazingly suspenseful sequence in a windmill, and a spectacular airplane crash viewed from the cockpit.

Joseph Cotten excels as prodigal uncle Charlie who is hero worshipped by his niece, also Charlie Teresa Wright , in this noir-ish slice of Americana with a bitter aftertaste. Gradually however, she realises that all is not what it seems and her beloved uncle is a serial killer of women. Hitchcock, aided by a screenplay from Thornton Wilder, masterfully exposes the dark underbelly of small town America in a film often cited as his own personal favourite. A chance encounter on a train between two men results in one of them suggesting that the two swap murders — each will kill someone for the other to ensure that neither is suspected.

There is no reason given for the bird attacks: Hitchcock invited the viewer to theorise whilst rejecting any unimaginative suggestions of a virus or disease. James Stewart is the photographer confined to his apartment with a broken leg who spends his time spying on his neighbours.