The shuttered “PSYCHO” logo at the beginning may seem unimportant to an untrained eye, but it could be a symbol for Norman Bates, who suffers from split personality disorder.
Taking place in Phoenix, Arizona, it is the only shot out of California. The camera, while randomly shooting buildings, coincidentally focuses on a specific window. The director is aiming to show us what is happening in that room. Also, prior to that, we see the exact time and date, which proves the director wants us to understand this is a story picked at random, which means it can happen to anybody.
The director satisfies our instinct to see what and who is in that room using some type of voyeur technique instead of a direct shot putting us inside it. The topic of voyeurism will involve in the story a lot.
Early Glimpse of Oedipus Complex
Marion wants to put an end to the secret meetings and to be together with Sam under her mother’s picture in her house. Norman’s Oedipus Complex which will show itself later in the story is not only one involving a mother figure.
The Past and Its Influence
Sam talks about his late father and his divorced wife, and how they are still an influence in his life even though they belong to the past. The influence of the past will often show itself in the story, which the director points out for the first time.
In the first 6 minutes of the film, we get to know Marion and Sam. We see Marion in these shots with white colored underwear, which the director uses as the symbol of innocence and purity. Marion even accepts licking Sam’s alimony money envelopes which further proves her lack of prejudice.
Even though the colors in this shot is not that interesting, we will see them used more later in the film.
Alfred Hitchcock Cameo
One of Hitchcock’s habits in his films is his cameos. Unlike his older movies, we see him appear earlier than usual, which he uses as a way to lock the audience to the screen and stay so.
Another Mother Issue
Marion’s Colleague complains about her mother limiting her, which is another mother issue.
Mr. Cassidy and The Initial Thought of Theft
At work, Mr. Cassidy tries to flirt with her saying things like how he could buy the root of a problem causing unhappiness and destroy it.
This inserts the idea that money can solve problems into Marion’s mind, which she will later turn into action by stealing the money that she should have banked.
The Dark Colors and Poisonous Ideas
The money that now Marion has is poisoning her and she is thinking about running away. Her underwear is now dark colored, which symbolizes it.
The money is in a white envelope showing that her innocence under the influence of money.
She is hoping to pay Sam’s debts with that money.
Foreshadowing using Bathroom
While she is preparing to leave, the director shows us her bathroom as if he wants to tell us where she will be killed.
Her white bag is now dark colored.
While leaving the city, she starts thinking of Sam’s reaction as she knows he will not approve of this. However, it doesn’t take too long before she becomes overwhelmed and stops thinking.
Her anxiety becomes visible on her eyes, which she reflects on the audience.
We are Too
As Marion is too tired, she falls asleep in the car. In the morning, a police officer wakes her up asking what she is doing there sleeping. She lies, of course, making her look suspicious. While questioning her, the police officer directly stares at the camera and we are not able to tell where he is looking at, which can lead us to assume that he is looking us, the audience because we may also be guilty as we are siding with Marion since it is generous of her to spend Spoiled Cassidy’s money to pay Sam’s debts.
Getting Rid of Guilt and Being on the Brink of Giving Up
Marion goes to a car gallery to exchange his black colored car with a white colored one. This shows that she now regrets and may give up.
First Arrival at Madhouse
She goes on her way to Sam, but it is raining. She is too tired and frustrated with dialogues she envisions in her mind. This leads her to Bates Motel thus to Norman Bates.
We have now met Norman and his personality for the first time. He calls the rainy night dirty, showing us signs of his mental problems.
Setting up the Scene
She books the room and Norman shows her the place. But he is unable to spell bath. Why? Maybe it is because that is where his mother is going to kill her or maybe he is overwhelmed that, if she have bath, he will be watching her from the hole that he specifically drilled to watch guests.
Voice of the Dead
Norman offers dinner to Marion. She accepts but there is someone objecting, his mother. This is the first time we hear her voice and we can now believe Norman lives with his mother, who blames him for deceiving women to be him. He doesn’t like this idea but also Marion hears all the conversation.
Marion apologizes for causing trouble. He retreats by saying that his mother is mentally ill. Marion suggests he put her in a hospital, but he becomes outraged even to the thought of it. He says that he hates his mother and later that he loves her. APA says both love and hatred can live together as they are parallel to each other (they can co-exist).
Eating like a Bird
Norman mentions how Marion eats like a bird. He killed his mother and step-father (we will later find out) as he was jealous of him, but, after killing her, he steals the corpse and taxidermizes it, just like he did to the birds he has all around the office. The relation here is that he will going to kill her and his comparison to birds helps us foreshadow it.
Oedipus Complex on Display
Norman says the best friend to a man is his mother. The best explanation to his neurotic case again comes from him.
Is It Okay to Be Not Okay?
“We all go crazy sometimes,” a word belongs to Norman, explains the core value of the film.
That night, Marion decides to return to the money as what she thinks, just like Norman say, it is just phase that will pass and going mad every once in a while is okay.
Norman’s mother becomes jealous of Marion and takes over Norman’s body and kills her. Later, Norman gets rid of the body.
Even though I could go on until the end, we have understood the plot and what the director intended when shooting the film.
Apart from all these, we can mention that Norman’s house represents the unconscious side of the brain. The basement is the id, the first floor is the ego, and the second floor is the superego, which are all part of Freud’s Psychoanalysis.
We also see the signified and signifier methods in use. The use of colors is one of them.
MacGuffin is another technique we see in the film. The director uses it to distract us so that the main plot doesn’t surface until we understand the plot was never what we thought of. In the case of Psycho, money was never the plot. We later understand how unimportant it was after characters stop mentioning it.