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how does hitchcock use cinematography to manipulate the emotions of his audience

how does hitchcock use cinematography to manipulate the emotions of his audience



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Published by: singingman on Oct 08, 2008
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Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, born August 13, 1899 in Leytonstone, England, was a film technician who deftly blended sex, suspense and humour, and who justly became known as "The Master of Suspense". His brilliance in film-making was envied as well as loved and his influence continues to be felt over many afilmmaker. He used intelligent plots and captivating and memorable scenes to enable his movies, still, tosurprise and enchant silver screen lovers worldwide; and in doing so, inspired a new generation of film-making - revolutionising the thriller genre.Hitchcock's most famous films include 'Vertigo' (1959), 'The Birds' and 'Psycho' (1960). 'Psycho', firstscreened in New York on the 16th June 1960, was an immediate box office hit, producing $15 million in itsfirst year after being completed with an expenditure of only $800,000. Famed for its shower murder sequence and exceptional shot selection and editing, it is an exceedingly influential and impenetrable psychological thriller with a nightmarish recipe of disturbing corruptibility, confused identity andvoyeurism. Produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it shocked and amazed audiences all over theworld and created a basis for such films as 'Deranged' (1974), 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (1974) and'Silence of the Lambs' (1991). In 'Psycho', Hitchcock manipulates his audience by leading them on atwisting and turning tale creating many contrasting emotions and responses as the film plays with differentthemes events and techniques.Based on a novel by Robert Bloch, 'Psycho' was Hitchcock's 42nd film and followed his Technicolor hit'North by North-West' (1959). Robert Bloch's Novel told of a legendary, real-life killer - Edward Gein - andafter Hitchcock had anonymously bought the rights to the novel, he bought as many copies of the novel ashe could 'lay his hands on', so the secret of the shifting storyline would be kept undisclosed.With films and shows such as 'The Swiss Family Robinson', 'My Fair Lady' and 'Mary Poppins' present inthe period of the 'Psycho' release, it is clear that 'Psycho' is very disparate to the expected content of cinemashowings at the time. In fact, 'Psycho' broke all but one of the film regulations of the American 1960's FilmCensorship, which all screen plays had to gain approval of. According to the code, the following provisionsapplied:1.The sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrong doing or evil - (thiswas broken once Marion became the criminal - stealing money - but still was shown to appear naïve andguiltless, and still the audience is pressed into identifying with her.)2.Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embracing, suggestive gestures and postures were unacceptable -(this was broken in the very first scene when Sam and Marion execute a seedy lunchtime affair)3.Explicit nudity was unacceptable - (this was also broken in the first scene and also during the celebratedshower scene)4.Swearing such as 'Damn', 'God' and 'Hell' was unacceptable - (this was the only regulation not to bedefied.)5.Brutality and gruesomeness has to be treated with the careful limits of good taste - (this was broken onthe occasions when a toilet was flushed for the first time ever on screen, the two murders and when'Mother's' corpse is revealed.)Several individuals went as far as to claim that Psycho ruptured many cherished American ethics, chiefly'motherly love' when matricide was introduced to the 'increasingly scandalous' plot. This created outragewithin the 1960's American public when something as sanctified as the devotion existing between mother and child was tainted with the permanent stain of these inimitable, never-before witnessed andunpardonable (for the era) scenes. It was also blamed for causing murders with its apparent horrifically brutal scenes being an influence to the unhinged serial killers of the time; therefore motivating an ongoingdebate, still in impassioned question in the present day, about the relationship connecting the screen andstreet bloodshed.Today, countless film spectators sit undeterred and impervious through the atrocious and daunting scenesof the re-released and restructured 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (2003) and such nerve-jangling and etherealscenes of 'The Blair Witch Project' (2000); making the once 'scandalous' and 'terrifying beyond reason'shots from 'Psycho' more like a scene from the latest 'Winnie the Pooh' release. In all fairness, perhapscomparing the complete timid-ness of 'Psycho's' scenes to 'Winnie' is exaggerating a little, but I have to say,when shown to my English class of twenty or so 14 and 15 year olds, the chilling resonance of the humanscream did not bounce off the walls, but the happy sound of cackling teenagers seemed to air at various
stages of viewing. Yes, today's audiences can swallow huge amounts of gore and ghastliness before even aflinch is spotted. At present, filmmakers must break down a great barricade of fearlessness to jolt presentday spectators, contrastingly, in the 1960's this barricade was more of a small hedge, but still, Hitchcock obliterated this with a 10 tonne bulldozer.Hitchcock specifically requested that no people could enter the cinema to witness 'Psycho' once it hadstarted, which at a time of cinema-goers thinking it natural to enter a film half-way through, was anabnormal request; an abnormal request that transformed the way we see films at cinemas today. Onemotivation for this demand was for one, that Janet Leigh - already a 1960's star and the only 'known'individual in the film - was 'killed off' in the first third of the film. This would have disappointed late-comers as I'm sure - just like today some (teenage girls in particular) would set out to see a film just because Brad Pitt, for instance, was starring - people of the time would go to see 'Psycho' for the reason thatone of the biggest sex icons of the time - Janet Leigh - was in it. Another reason would be that late arrivalswouldn't feel the immense, nerve-tingling effect of the opening credits. Accompanied with high, A-tonalmusic without direction, it crafts anxiety and edginess among the emotions of the audience and forewarnsviewers as to what the film will contain.The opening credits are in cold black and white which stresses the gothic darkness of the film, and addsemphasis to the contrast of the stark white lettering against the pitch black background. Rapid, slicingwipe-editing is added to the credits to generate a 'slashing' motion; this may well replicate a knife gashingskin (a main ingredient of the storyline). The music is very high-pitched short, dramatic and jarring tocreate anxiety and it engages interest - mimicking a nervous heart beating hurriedly. The split-screen effectsuggests themes of the following movie are below the obvious and superficial. These effects and the non-directional music give the credits a swift pace which captures the attention of the audience and intriguesthem using 'edge of your seat' techniques.'Psycho' consists of many effective and dominant scenes using various 'on edge' atmospheres, non-diatonicor non-directional resonances and shots using darkening shadows to conceal or emphasise facial emotions,clever props to cunningly develop the storyline and subliminal messages.Personally, I feel that the two most powerful scenes are the opening scene - of Marion and Sam's shamefuland sordid lunchtime affair - and the ending scene - the unforgettable eeriness of the zoom in on Normanwhen 'Mother's' voice is heard. I think these two scenes are the most memorable because they seem to be prominent to other scenes and their impact on the plot and audiences' emotions is immense.The opening scene begins with a panning shot of the city of Phoenix which then homes in on an 'unplanned'window where voyeurism is apparent as "you never did eat your lunch" is kinkily asked and we become'Peeping Tom' on a fervent lunchtime 'quickie' in a low-priced hotel room. A feeling of awkwardness andof that we really shouldn't be viewing this couple's 'quality time' is noticeable as the viewers are deludedinto thinking that the build up to a terrifying thriller in the opening credits is all a façade and the validtheme of the film is of cheap sexual thrills; a disgrace of the time which, in many peoples' eyes, should bekept well behind closed doors and not paraded on a large screen. However, the theme of a thriller is stillsecretly apparent in the scene as the parallel blinds are shown to be 'slashing' the screen horizontally, mucha replica of the editing from the opening credits.Today, this scene is the type that would be accepted for the 7 o'clock slot on BBC, as sex is quite frequenton today's screens. Today, outcries of shock aren't heard if two people are seen to be just that bit too close,in fact, from music videos on 'MTV' to adverts and even the odd 'Disney' movie, we cannot escape sexualexperimentation and it has become a huge part of our lives and 'big cats'' incomes as scenes get more andmore 'risqué' every year.In the opening scene, Hitchcock uses 'close-ups' on the uneaten lunch to emphasise the reason why shehasn't consumed it, and also he applies the same technique to accentuate Marion and Sam kissing and thefact that they are lying half unclothed on a bed together. This stresses the ploy to render the audience towrongly think the movie's theme is of sexual ecstasy and not of a chilling thriller. Other camera shotsHitchcock employs are showing Marion's facial expressions when her back is turned to Sam, this way theaudience can better connect with her as they can associate her facial appearance with what she is feelingand are therefore able to feel the same.As well as clever camera shots, Hitchcock also makes the best of the advantages of shooting a movie in black and white by laying emphasis on the way Sam is feeling by using the concealing shadows to faintly block what his facial expression are when he is talking of his ex-wife. This symbolises that Sam is upset
about his past and wants to hide away from it.The lighting is quite dull to suggest that there is something taking place in this inexpensive setting thatshouldn't be brought into full daylight and should be veiled. However, the shot isn't in complete darkness or anywhere near it which suggests that Hitchcock wanted the audience to know exactly what was happeningand there were no doubts about what was happening, it was very 'in-your-face'. Also the daylight and clear weather suggest that Marion and Sam are not ashamed of what they are doing and although it is hidden, inthis case, behind horizontal blinds, it is still something that ensues. This reality was in the process of beingan acceptance in the community; Hitchcock was just giving the truth a helping hand to emerge.In the scene the audience is imposed into sympathising with the character of Marion, learning that she isindependent in her thoughts as she informs Sam that 'it's over'. Furthermore that she is calm and sensiblyoutgoing but still has sudden illogical outbursts that make her less of a character and more of human -something that the audience can relate to. This is the foundation of an ingenious plan to coerce the audienceto believe that when Marion steals the money she's innocent and pure, when in actual fact Marion's law- breaking character is unmistakably culpable - thieving a huge amount of money for the time period.Hitchcock, however, appreciates that Marion is on the wrong side of the law subsequent to stealing themoney, so separates the guilty and the guiltless personalities of the character by nothing other than theunderwear worn. To elaborate on this point - Hitchcock dressed Marion in white (representing purity andvirtuousness) underwear prior to her committing a felony, then in black (representative of guilt anddarkness). Very clever, Mr. Hitchcock!Once the mystifying storyline has been solved, Norman (or 'Mother' should I say) has been imprisoned andcountless questions are answered, 'Psycho' is ended with a disturbing and unsettling scene of Norman alonein a shadowy cell when 'Mother' has entirely taken over Norman's mentality. Norman's guilty conscience pushes him to punish himself for what he has done and the attraction he felt towards Marion.In this scene it is silent which creates a more apprehensive atmosphere and an element of suspense. Also,the lack of music enables the audience to think more for themselves as to what the theme of the scene isand what will occur to conclude it. Norman's facial expression is very still and calm; his eyes meet with thecamera to create a feeling of discomfort and uneasiness, the stare also makes him look very ill-omened andcreates suspense. He is sporting a blanket which symbolises that he is burying himself behind it and he hasa guilty conscience that he is trying to hide from others. This blanket could also symbolise that theinsignificant element of Norman left is using the blanket as a barrier to attempt to confine his 'Mother' andnot let her expand any further than she already has.The scene hears 'Mother' condemning her son and commenting that she would 'never hurt a fly'. Thisremark is in reality the truth as 'Mother' is dead and so her killing someone is fairly impossible, however,what Norman remembered of his Mother lived on inside of him, nagging away at his already derangedmind, and this memory is the real killer, using Norman's body as a puppet to do the physical work. Thestatement is very effective as it forces the audience to think about the situation which makes the scene morememorable, and creates a sinister atmosphere and a feeling of an unwelcome presence attending the scene.The camera stays focused on Norman's face, generating a nervous feeling among the audience, and thenzooms in very slowly towards Norman. This dawdling zoom-in creates suspense and is very creepilyeffective. The lighting is very dull and gloomy to suggest a dark and sinister presence and theme. Thedimness establishes an element of fear as the audience gets a feeling that anything could lurk in theshadows, or Norman could do anything at any minute. This lack of light is also symbolic of Norman'sguilty conscience as, along with the blanket, creates a shade for him to hide behind.The room contains nothing but Norman, so, when the audience puts themselves in the room, they get thefeeling that there is no-where to hide. Also, the lack of objects symbolises that finally the truth hasmaterialized as the room is clear of items for the reality to disappear behind.In the closing stages of the scene, a faint image of a skeleton creeps over Norman's face. This is especiallydisturbing as, as soon as the audience thinks they understand Norman's mental condition, the skeletonmakes an appearance and we are abruptly thrown back off course as a supernatural element is added to therunning of explanations. This is effective because it creates a great debate for the public to argue about of whether the skeleton visage was significant to the film or not. This way would enable more people to go tosee the movie to discover the truth, and even if people were arguing about the movie, as they say 'bad publicity is still publicity', which may be a reason why the film did so well.The audience has recently been shaken with the true storyline - Norman's mental state, not revolvingaround the money - so they have no inspiration as to what will happen in the subsequent scene. Therefore,

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