Cinematography Of Hitchcock

’s Psycho Essay, Research Paper

Alfred Hitchcock is renown as a master cinematographer (and

editor), notwithstanding his overall brilliance in the craft of

film. His choice of black and white film for 1960 was regarded

within the film industry as unconventional since color was

perhaps at least five years the new standard. But this worked

tremendously well. After all, despite the typical filmgoer?s

dislike for black and white film, Psycho is popularly heralded

among film buffs as his finest cinematic achievement; so much

so, that the man, a big name in himself, is associated with the

film, almost abovehis formidable stature. Imagining it in color,

Psycho would not appear as horrific, and maybe it would also

not be, as a whole, as unified as it now stands, nor

memorable. Black and white has a quality of painting things

starkly, showing plainly truths about character, the emotional

determination or mood, as in vulnerability, and other

inexplicable, purely artistic elements. Regular among his

works, Hitchcock opens the film with a hovering crane shot

coasting over the setting of Phoenix, Arizona. Even without

the mysterious, chilling soundtrack, the shot itself watched in

silence evokes a timid passage into danger. In a long take it

sweeps across the cityscape to build initial curiosity in the

viewer, and then surpasses a curtain-drawn window into the

presence of a hotel room?s trysting occupants. Immediately

the viewer is called into confronting his/her discretion

regarding those things we are not customarily meant to see,

in such ideas as privacy and good taste. How far should the

law step into a man?s world before he is discovered with

reasonable certitude for engaging in illegal activities? This

question can still come to mind about Norman Bates when

he?s interrogated by Arbigast, even though it follows his

murder of Marion Crane. Norman obviously growing in

tension, the camera sadistically watches him from a low

angle, bearing its aim on his throat as he feverishly chews

and swallows candy corn bits. He?s suggested as a victim in a

way, despite the viewer?s (probably, (in moral optimism))

routine support of the law. One can feel sorry for him. And

how much do we question Norman?s character as he spies

Marion undressing through the parlor wall peephole?

Particularly today the viewer would likely question it less than

one watching Psycho during its first, theatrical release, what

with modern films? overwashing of the senses in gore,

mechanical sex and violence to program unconscious

indifference in viewers. Maybe it doesn?t come to mind as

readily because right after seeing the profile shot of Norman

hiding in the peephole light and shadows, there?s a cut to the

camera?s — or the viewer?s — voyeuristic assault on Marion?s

privacy. This lessens Norman?s culpability. But noticing him in

the act brings wonder to uncovering peoples? secrets. Maybe

these examples suggest engrossment of passive violence or

wrong to such a modest intensity that the horror of the murder

scenes still shock today?s viewer. Of course those scenes are

further dramatized by Hitchcock?s fast editing; indicative of

how wild and dangerous events occur within a trice of time in

real life. And the awe is preserved by not mulling over the

active violence in any indulgence, or further screen time.

Mastery of just a few core elements in film apparently intensify

its experience; of all, a compelling synergism for even an

ordinary story.