Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was an English film director and producer. Often nicknamed “The Master of Suspense”, he pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone, Essex, England. Hitchcock created more than 50 films, including the classics Vertigo and Psycho. Hitchcock received the AFI’s Life Achievement Award in 1979. Family Plot, Hitchcock’s final film, was released in 1976, four years before his death. He died in 1980. The Auteur theory is the theory of filmmaking in which the director is viewed as the major creative force in a motion picture.
It holds that the director, who oversees all audio and visual elements of the motion picture, is more to be considered the “author” of the films than is the writer of the screenplay. Hitchcock believed this, and throughout his career, he liked the phrase pure cinema ‘this is pure cinema. ‘ What he seems to have meant by that was that he wanted to use as often as possible strictly visual means, not dialogue, to get across the emotional impact, the feeling of a shot or a sequence. Hitchcock has shown this from his use of film techniques to show the prominent ideas throughout his films.
I will be studying the ideas and film techniques used in the films, Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960), both films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The film techniques I have chosen to discuss is the idea of “Voyeurism” and the use of camera angles used in conjunction with lighting to enhance the idea of voyeurism. A Quote from Alfred Hitchcock reads “I’ll bet you that nine out of ten people, if they see a woman across the courtyard undressing for bed, or even a man puttering around in his room, will stay and look; no one turns away and says, ‘It’s none of my business.
They could pull down their blinds, but they never do; they stand there and look out. “, this outlines Hitchcock’s view of voyeurism, which heavily featured over Hitchcock’s career. In Psycho when Marion and Norman are talking in his “parlour” before Marion leaves to go to her bedroom, Hitchcock has used lighting to introduce the feeling of the scene. Marion sits near the lamp, her face is well lit, and she, like the lamp, appears to radiate a glowing warmth, even though the previous events that had happened (Stealing thousands of dollars, running away to live with her boyfriend).
Unlike Marion, Norman is harshly lit, which casts shadows across his face, this represents the dual personality that he is battling with. The shadows behind him are also re-emphasise the idea of his dual personality disorder, they also look like it could be his mother behind him, watching him, emphasising the idea of voyeurism. The camera angles Hitchcock has used in this scene are also incredibly important. Hitchcock places the camera at eye level, so Marion is constantly shot how a person would usually be seen when having a conversation.
Hitchcock, however, moves out of the comfort zone to shoot Norman from an unnaturally low perspective, this is uneasy for the viewer to watch, it indicates that there is something unusual about Norman. The way Hitchcock has shot Norman, also makes it look like he is overpowering Marion and looking down on her, like she should be frightened of him. The bird Hitchcock has used in the corner has also emphasised this, the bird is looking down on her, like it is going to swoop down and catch her, like she is it’s prey.
This bird symbolised Norman’s dual personality of his mother and how her personality is going to take over Norman, and murder Marion. In Vertigo, Madelines husband asks Scottie to watch Madeline to make sure she is not in danger. Scottie follows Madaline to a department store, where he finds her buying flowers. In Psycho, I have chosen the scene where Norman is looking at Marion through a hole in the bathroom wall. The camera focuses through a peephole crafted in the wall leading to Norman Bates’ room next door.
This time, seeing Marion in her bra about to enter the shower. Both scenes are similar in the way that the audience is lead to preserve the scene, camera angles and lighting. A similarity between the two films is in Vertigo, Scottie has to walk through a dark storage room to get to the door which he watches Madeline through, in Psycho there is a dark hole in the wall that he has to put his face in, to be able to watch Marion though the smaller hole.
Both of the men have to watch the woman from a dark space, this could symbolise both of the en leaving their ordinary lives to now lead a more dark life, having an obsession with the woman. Both of the rooms that the women are in are bright and they lighten the woman up, so they look angelic and it makes it obvious that they are the object of desire and obsession. The use of these Point of View camera angles gives the audience the place of the place of the protagonist, giving them the protagonists (Norman & Scottie’s) perspective, suddenly the audience is made to feel like voyeur or peeping Tom.
An example of this is in the scene in Psycho, where Norman is looking at Marion through a hole in the bathroom wall, the shot is made to look like the view is the one watching Marion though the wall, in this 1960s, watching a woman undress to her underwear would have been provocative and rarely seen on film. The fact that the point of view camera angle shots made the audience feel like the protagonist, would have provoked a uneasiness and feelings of somewhat guilt.
Another example of this is in Vertigo, in the scene where Scottie’s face was up against the crack in the door and it shows the door opening from his perspective, again Hitchcock uses a zoom in effect to give the effect that the audience is looking at her. In both films, the point of view shots the feeling of suspense that the protagonist (and the audience) are going to get caught watching the woman.
Both of these scenes symbolises the obsession that is prominent later on in the film, as in these scenes, it is the first time that Scottie had watched Madeline and also the first (and last) time that Norman watched Marion. Hitchcock has continued with the use of P. O. V shots, as after Scottie finds Madeline in the department store, scottie continues watching Madeline through his car window, the shot is taken from scott’s perspective. Once again giving the audience the audience the feeling that they are watching Madeline themselves.
As you can see the car bonnet being out of focus and the edges of the car being seen has also contributed to the effect that the audience is watching Madeline themselves. When Scottie finds Madeline at her next destination, Hitchcock has used another P. O. V film shot to make the audience feel like they were watching Madeline. As Hitchcock had used previously, Madeline is lit up, the setting is very bright again, once again, making Madeline look angelic and the object of desire and obsession.