Textual Analysis 2: ‘Psycho’ Opening Title Sequence

Introduction and Background

The 1960’s film ‘Psycho’ is an american psychological horror  film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, and written by Joseph Stefano. It was based on the 1959 novel ‘Psycho’ by Robert Bloch. The film is about a secretary called Leigh (Marion Crane), who steals money from her employer and ends up at a secluded motel which is owned by a disturbed Perkins (Norman Bates) , and its aftermath.

Textual Analysis

In the mise-en-scene of the opening sequence the audience sees the first shot  to be a shot of a city. This is a very generic location for the thriller genre. Without being introduced to any of the characters yet, the audience can infer that the characters maybe quite wealthy and have good jobs as the audience are told that it is set in Arizona and living in an established city connotes this idea of wealth and a higher social class.

The camera work plays a pivotal role in this opening sequence to make it effective. Firstly, the film is shot in black and white, even though colour was available in the time the film was made. This was done to give a spooky and unconventional feel to the film, and also resemble the mind of a ‘Psycho’. Secondly, the first shot the audience sees is an extreme long shot and pans slowly and gradually across the setting, revealing more of the city and landscape to the audience. By using this establishing shot it sets both the scene and the mood of the film early on. The use of this technique also makes it seem as if the audience is searching or scanning the city for someone or something. Also, this helps the audience to identify that a character my be introduced and the movement keeps the audience’s attention. Likewise with the mise-en-scene, although no characters have yet been introduced, using an establishing shot helps the viewer to identify aspects of their lives; where and how they live. The scene is cut to a shot of a slightly jarred open window and the camera is made to zoom into a close up shot of the window, and eventually leads into a bedroom. This makes the audience feel uneasy and uncomfortable as this action connotes an invasion of privacy and leads the reader to feel as if they are spying on someone and their life.

At the beginging of the sequence the audience see editing techniques being used as the oping credits transition onto screen, and the text appears randomly, being split and taken by horizontal and vertical bars. During the opening sequence, the most identifiable use of editing and argueable the main concept of editing in the sequence are the titles. This is because it gives the audience knowledge of the setting and the date of hich the film is set in. An example of this is when titles appear saying “Phoenix, Arizona” and “Friday, December the Eleventh”. However, the audience is not provided with the year in which the film is set, which could connote that it is set when the film was made or that the concept of the film could happen at anytime, it is not era-specific. Furthermore, the date and time is written in text as opposed to numbers which is quite unconventional and creates curiousty in the audience. The font and style of the text is very genric to a Psychological Thriller, due to the dark background and the bold white text. The text is disruupted and distorted whenever it transtions onto the screen, which gives the audience a sense of uncomfort, and helps thm tho start to become aware of the concept of the story.

The non-diegetic sound used in the opening sequence is very conventional of the genre as it is fast paced and gives a feeling of unease to the audience. As well as the feeling of unease it gives off, it also comes across unstable, as the volume constantly changes, as if someone is turning it up and down. The non-diegetic sound also is representive of time running out, as it is a sound the viewer culturally links to perhaps a chase scene in a movie, where a character is racing againsdt time to escape. This cultural link may lead the viewer to think that the protagonist, even though they have not yet been introduced, maybe against time at some point in the film. This non-diegetic sound is used also to give a dramatic atmosphere full of suspense and tension to the sequence, and helps to set a tone for the audience and gives them an insight into what to expect from the film.


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