A thematic analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

Christina Pomoni By Christina Pomoni, 19th Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1i3tla_0/
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Film & TV>Drama

Hitchcock’s talent was capable to alter the admittedly complicated story of a bifurcate personality with prevailing Oedipus residues from low budget experiments in a first size artistic and commercial success.


Psycho (1960) is the horror film that altered the cinema of terror for ever by being one of the cornerstones of artistic expression and of brilliant, both virtual and inventive, narration. Walking on his so recognizable misleading path, Hitchcock focuses the initial plot on the effort of Janet Leigh’s escape with 40,000 dollars in her bag, disorientating the spectator with a beyond suspicion look and a false signal of a persecution film. Marion will change car, a police officer will stare at her thoroughly behind his dark glasses, and all these are incidents of an artificially incurious plot, which substantially begins with the violent and unforeseen murder in the shower that reverses anything seen until then.

Psychological Impact on the Audience

Establishing the archetypical basis of all horror films that followed its release, Psycho inaugurates the audience in the film making it a subjective character within the plot. In that way it enhances the psychological impact on the audience that is forced to recognize its own neurosis and psychological shortfalls on the contrasting personalities of the film’s main characters. Hitchcock expresses an intensifying plot in Psycho, that bases itself on the unrelenting subconscious battle between good and evil that exists in everyone.

Those most famous 40 seconds of cinema - with the eight days shooting, the chocolate mouche and stubs on the melon as sound effect - have been analyzed thoroughly over the years, leaving, however, in second fate scenes that reflect the directing intelligence of Hitchcock in all its eminence.

Brilliant Scenes

The brilliant decoupage of the shower scene, a scene of anthology; the "castrated” Norman Bates, the most impressive figure of insane in the cinema; the imposing architectural structure, where the vertical house of Bates’ mother on the hill dominates and supervises a horizontal architectural building - the motel. The first space is that prohibiting, kingdom of malice of mother – castrator, whose threatening shade is reflected on the windows. The second space, ostensibly normal, is that of the unfulfilled erotic desires. The terror in the film is born by the dialectic relation of these two spaces, where no one can cross with impunity apart from Norman Bates, who resides there normally and is a bifurcate personality.

Brilliant Directing

Hitchcock has been praised for his ability to “enter” into the brain of his characters and simultaneously to place the spectator there. This is achieved with the intelligent use of various techniques of identification and subjective plans, which show to the spectator what the character sees, but also (occasionally) through raids, as we could call them, with the camera. All these are part of his wish to bring the spectator as much closer as possible - literally, psychologically, intellectually - to the world of his own brain, while he see him being materialized through his films.

The slaughter of detective Arbogast at the top of stairs is one from the scenes that reflect Hitchcock brilliantness. Hitchcock places the camera almost vertically opening the plan, achieving in this way not to put the spectator in suspicions for the identity of mother - as it would happen if he had put the camera behind her - and simultaneously he causes the opposition between the general plan of he stairs and the near plan on the face of the victim.


This is a small sample of artistic perspicacity of a man, who composed the films mainly with the attribute of spectator, before undertaking their stories as an author. Hitchcock’s talent was capable to alter the admittedly complicated story of a bifurcate personality with prevailing Oedipus residues from low budget experiments in a first size artistic and commercial success.




Hitchcocks Psycho, Psycho

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author avatar Christina Pomoni
As part of my long journey, I have served as an Equity Research Associate, a Marketing Research Analyst and a Financial & Investment Advisor. Besides, having lived at Chicago, IL, Boca Raton, FL and Paris, France has helped me, not only to be a succe...(more)

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author avatar Denise O
7th Oct 2010 (#)

I could not agree with you more.
I still get a bit of chills every time I watch that movie.
Good work.
Thank you for sharing.

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author avatar Christina Pomoni
7th Oct 2010 (#)

thank you for your comment, much appreciated.

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