Narrative Report & segmentation on an Alfred Hitchcock film

Narrative Report and Segmentation of Hitchcock Film Psycho



Story and Plot

A narrative is a sequence of events occurring in space and time in a cause-effect relationship. To analyze a film’s narrative, one needs to first differentiate between the story of the film and the plot of the film. The word “plot” refers to all the aspects of a film that are audibly and visibly presented to the viewer. The plot’s description includes the events of the story and both non-diegetic and diegetic elements of a film. The plot can also be termed as the activities which take place to achieve some sort of artistic or emotional goal relating to what the story is centered on such as the conflicts or characters that occur in the story. Some stories use a plot device which is something that has only a single purpose of advancing the plot.

The story of a film Psycho originates from a partnership of both the information which is directly presented to the viewer by way of what is heard or seen in the film and the suggestions made by the audience after they have viewed of listened to the information that has been given. Even though not all parts of the story are inferred. One can use story interchangeably with narrative however the main dissimilarity is that story is the structure of events that are used to describe the narrative. An attempt to keep the plot and the story exclusive makes the distinction between them to be quite confusing since they overlap in one sense but are different in others.

The overlap is as a result of the plot encompassing the events of the story. The plot of a film is different from the story of a film in that the non-diegetic traits of the film have an influence on the plot. The elements of the story of a film narrative includes the inferences made by the viewer though not directly viewed in the film. Therefore, the plot of something is the manner in which and through what the events of a narrative are being told and the story is the central base or theme of what the film is communicating

In the film Psycho, Hitchcock lets the audience to turn into a subjective character within the plot so as to enhance the film’s psychological effects for an audience that is compelled to identify its own psychological inadequacies and neurosis as it is forced to identify, for varying duration of time, with the main character’s personalities that is contrasting. Hitchcock delivers an intensifying theme in Psycho, which bases itself on the unending subconscious fight between good and evil that is present in everyone through the subjective participation of the audience. Psycho starts with a view of a certain city that is arbitrarily identified along with an exact time and date. The camera, apparently at random, chooses one of the many buildings and then proceeds to one of the many windows so as to explore before the audience is introduced to Sam and Marion.

Hitchcock random selection use creates a sense of normalcy to the audience. The mere fact that the city and the room are arbitrarily recognized gives an impression to the audiences that their own lives could be applied to the events that are to follow. In the opening series of Psycho, Hitchcock prospers in catching the audience’s initial senses of suspicion and awareness while allowing it to identify with the helpless situation of Marion. The sympathy of the audience towards Marion is amplified with the introduction of Cassidy whose boasting encourages the audience to dislike his character. Cassidy’s transparent statement that all sadness can be bought by money, incites the audience to justify Marion’s theft of his forty thousand dollars.

AS Marion’s starts her journey, the audience are further drawn back into the depth of what is abnormal behavior though they are forced to identify and sympathize with Marion’s actions. It is with the character of Marion that Hitchcock first introduces the concept of a split personality to the audience. All through the first part of the film, the reflections of Marion are frequently noted in a number of mirrors and windows. Hitchcock is thus able to create a voyeuristic sensation within the audience as it can bring to vision the effects of any situation through Marion’s conscious mind. In the car dealership for instance, Marion enters the secluded bathroom so as to have privacy when counting her money. Hitchcock on the other hand with upper camera angles and appropriate placement of mirror is in a position to bring forth the sense of a conscious mind that makes privacy not possible.

Hitchcock lets audiences into the bathroom with Marion and allows them to struggle with their own beliefs and values while Marion makes her personal decisions and continues with her journey. The split personality theme reaches the height of its power of foreshadowing as Marion fights both sides of her conscience while driving on a likely endless road towards Bates Motel. Marion battles with the voices of the people who her crime and disappearance has affected while the audience on the other hand is compelled to recognize the reason why they can easily identify with Marion despite the wrongful actions she has done.

As the journey of Marion comes to an end at Bates Motel, Hitchcock has succeeded in making the audience be direct participants within the plot. The animosity and suspicion felt by Marion while she is at the Motel is equally felt by the audience. As Marion shakes while hearing Norma yell at Norman, the suspicions of the audience are heightened since Hitchcock at this point made Marion to be the key link between the plot and the audience. The first confrontation between Norman Bates and Marion is used by Hitchcock to slowly sway the sympathy of the audience for Norman and Marion. Hitchcock forces the audience to identify with the shy and quite character whose commitment to his invalid mother has cost him his identity.                                     After Norman and Marion finish dining, Hitchcock has safeguarded the empathy of the audience for Norman and the audience is now made to question the relationship they had with Marion whose criminal behavior cannot be compared to Norman’s respectable and honest lifestyle. The audience is however reassured when Marion upon returning to her room, comes to a decision to return the money and face the consequences of her actions. Upon Norman’s introduction, Hitchcock introduces the 1st of many characters parallel with Psycho. The clash between Norman and Marion, although is not seeming to the audience until the end of the film, is one of psychosis versus neurosis. The obsessive and compulsive actions that led Marion to steal the money is recognizable, even though the unusual behavior, embraced by the audience as their sympathy is primarily directed to her character.

The terror being conveyed by Hitchcock to the audience shows itself once the audience realize that they showed empathy to a psychotic person to a greater level than they did to a rational person when their sympathy is shifted to Norman. The shift from the normal to the abnormal is not clear to the audience in the parlor scene but the audience is later compelled to reexamine their own character and conscience judgment abilities so as to discover why Norman’s difficulty appeared more worthy of their sympathy than Marion’s situation. At the time of the infamous shower case, Hitchcock expresses a sense of cleansing to the audience. Hitchcock reassures the audience that Marion is still credible and introduces Norman as a wholesome character.                                                                                                                                        The new security discovered by the audience is destroyed when Marion is murdered. More disturbing to the audience is the fact that the scene is shot not through Marion’s eyes but through the eyes of the killer. The audience being in a vulnerable state now, looks to Norman to replace Marion as the main focus in it’s subjective role. After the murder of Marion, the role of the audience in the film takes a different approach. Hitchcock provokes the audience to make use of the film’s other characters so as to solve the mystery of Marion’s death at the same time he still successfully maintains the sympathetic bond that was between Norman and the audience.   Interestingly, Hitchcock manages to play on the obsession of the audience with the stolen money since the audience clearly knows that it had been sunk yet they cling to the fact that Marion’s death may have been as a result of her crime with the introduction of Lila, Sam and Arbogast. Hitchcock makes use of Arbogast’s character to arouse suspicion in the audience. Arbogast’s murder is not so intense as the murder of Marion since the audience had not developed any kind of subjective bond with him. Arbogast primary motivation, nonetheless, was to recover the money that had been stolen which makes the audience to be interested in his quest. In spite of the fact that Arbogast interrupts Norman’s innocent existence the audience do not perceive him as an annoyance as they had viewed them interrogative policemen who had slowed down Marion’s journey.

At the time when Lila and Sam risk to go to the Bates Motel to find about the disappearances of both Marion and Arbogast, Hitchcock continues to present the audience with even more character parallels. As Lila begins to search Norman’s home, Hitchcock conveniently


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