The purpose of this blog…

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2009 by staginghitchcock

This site is dedicated to the exploration of visual culture through the films of Alfred Hitchcock; specifically, his blockbuster 1960 film Psycho and the 1927 silent classic The Lodger.

Hitchcock presents...

Hitchcock presents...

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In conclusion…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20, 2009 by staginghitchcock

Post 5

            In summary, although linguistics are important in the study and analysis of film, cinema has a language of its own, a “semiotic system” made up of distinct “articulations” (Chatman 473).  Chatman discusses in detail the “multiplexity” of the cinematic narrator.  He creates a diagram that illustrates the various transformations and channels that are created by both auditory and visual input (Chatman 483).  The logic is that the viewer takes all the information that floods his senses; words, flashes of light and sound, and creates meaning and message with the assistance of directorial command and focalization of the camera lens.  The camera’s “look” creates the narrator and, logically, that would make the spectator the narrator (Chatman 474).  The viewer is not a “passive object ‘positioned’ by what happens on the screen but an active participant who creates the film’s narration” therefore interpreting the story and deciphering the embedded message (Chatman 474).  Although the audience is an active “agent” in film narration, the director manipulates viewer response by “constructing” a “cause-and-effect chain of events” that lead the spectator in a particular direction and pushes him to reach conclusions that typically reinforce, promote and support ideology that is dictated by symbolic order (Chatman 474-75).

             In order to comprehend and decipher the underlying purpose and message of Hitchcock’s cinematic narrator in Psycho and The Lodger, it is important to combine Chatman’s work on cinematic narration with that of another theorist.  Laura Mulvey views her article “Visual Pleasure” as a “political weapon” that incorporates both psychoanalytical and feminist theory in an effort to support her argument that film promotes and reinforces a patriarchal society (Mulvey 6).  She focuses on the “male-gaze” and the obsession with visual pleasure derived from the female form.  She writes that the female is objectified by the male gaze and reduced to little more than a possession that satisfies male desire.  Mulvey focuses on the “image of woman” and the implications that arise due to the extensive range of Hollywood’s influence (Mulvey 7).  Hollywood’s influence extends beyond the borders of the United States and North America.  Movies like those produced by Hitchcock are translated into numerous languages and distributed around the world.  The United States is viewed as the foundation of modern, capitalistic and democratic society and publics around the world fashion their doctrines on the examples presented by them.  Mulvey discusses Freud’s work on scopophilia, translated as “the love of looking,” stating that it is a “perversion” that produces “obsessive voyeurs” and “peeping Toms” and implies that “scopophilia” dominates the production of film (Mulvey 7-8).

            Although Psycho and The Lodger are separated by thirty three years, they present the message that a patriarchal society is still prevalent and that women are merely objects to fulfill male desire.  On the other hand, Hitchcock also displays the plight of those afflicted by mental illness and poverty seeking to raise awareness and social conscience in an effort to improve health care and create a system that cares for and assists the destitute.

Man and Beast…Post 4 continued

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20, 2009 by staginghitchcock
This promotional still depicts Anthony Perkins and a large stuffed owl.  Bestiality was and still is associated with mental illness.

This promotional still depicts Anthony Perkins and a large stuffed owl. Bestiality was and still is associated with mental illness.

            When Marion and the audience first meet Norman Bates, the camera lens immediately focuses on the numerous preserved animals on display.  Marion asks if Norman’s interests include taxidermy and he replies that his hobby is “stuffing things” (Psycho).  During the Classical Age (1650-1800), bestiality was associated with madness and mental illness (Erb 52).  The bestiality theme “surfaces over and over in films about madness, and remains one of the key ways of stigmatizing the insane” (Erb 52).  The character of Norman Bates is associated with a large, stuffed owl that fills the background of a still photograph used for advertising purposes.  Hitchcock, through his camera, leads the audience to the conclusion that some form of mental illness exists within the context of the film, then he proceeds to set the stage that misleads the spectator into believing that Mrs. Bates is afflicted rather than Norman.  It is always about Mother, at least from Freud’s perspective. 

            Unlike Norman, the Lodger is not surrounded by a bevy of preserved animals but his erratic behaviour leads the audience to believe that he too is afflicted with some type of mental disturbance.  The Lodger, like Norman, is youthful in appearance.  At times he is portrayed as intense and eager to please.  He has no facial hair and appears to easily take tantrums.  When he gets into trouble and is handcuffed by the police, he runs away like a little boy to lie down on a park bench where he assumes the fetal position.  The Lodger explains his actions to Daisy and, like Norman, it is always about Mother and the demands that she places on him.  But, in contrast, the Lodger’s ego and personality remain intact.  He is able to circumvent the control and demands of his mother that extend from beyond the grave.  Daisy does not go against the symbolic order, therefore the “cause-and-effect” series of events that take place in Psycho do not exist in The Lodger (Chatman 474).

            Hitchcock explored the issues of mental illness by researching real life situations but he was also interested in “surrealism’s promotion of the irrational” (Erb 52).  By drawing attention to mental illness, he also directed people’s attention to the poor state of institutions and the need for better health care for those afflicted with mental illness.  Both Psycho and The Lodger deal with issues of mental health but on close inspection of The Lodger, there is one instantaneous flash across the screen that leaves the spectator with the image of a poverty stricken woman and her child sleeping in the streets of London and, with this, Hitchcock draws the public’s attention to the plight of the poor and destitute.

The Diagnosis of Norman Bates

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20, 2009 by staginghitchcock

Post 4

            Norman Bates, portrayed by Anthony Perkins, radiates a child-like quality – the simplicity of the language and tone of voice he uses, the way he seeks approval and attempts to please the people he comes in contact with, even the bag of sweets that he always carries, give Norman the appearance of a man who has not grown to full maturity.  These signifiers reinforce the idea that Norman does not have a true sense of “self” and that he suffers from an underdeveloped ego (Lacan 2).  In life, Mrs. Bates controlled her son to such an extent that he was unable to function without her direction.  When Mrs. Bates found a man to share her life, Norman became overwhelmed with jealousy.  During Norman’s conversation with Marion he states that “a son is a poor substitute for a lover,” a line that he probably heard from his mother (Psycho).  As the film progresses, the audience becomes privy to the information that Norman murdered his mother and her lover.  Norman cannot exist without his mother.  She is the voice inside his head that tells him what to do and how to behave.

            During the final scene of the film, Dr. Fred Richmond, played by Simon Oakland, provides an explanation of the mental illness that beleaguers Norman.  Norman is not just a murderer but a “dangerously disturbed” man with a personality disorder (Psycho).  The audience is told that after the death of his father, Norman’s mother became a “clinging, demanding woman” that relied heavily on Norman and as she became completely dependent on him so Norman became equally dependent on her.  The death of Norma Bates, especially at his hands, is too much for his psyche to bear therefore it results in a mental conflict.  As Dr. Richmond puts it, Norman’s “mind housed two personalities and the dominant personality won the conflict.” (Psycho).  Norman steals his mother’s remains and preserves them like the stuffed animals in his rooms.  He begins to think and speak for her, eventually, he completely transforms into his mother by dressing in her clothes and dawning a wig similar to her hairstyle. “Norman was never all Norman but often only Mother” (Psycho).

            Norman’s personality is “fragmented” (Lacan 4).  During the developmental stages of his growth and maturity he fails to achieve the “Ideal –I so he is unable to develop an ego that can withstand the control and demands made by Mother (Lacan 2).  This prevents him from “coming-into-being” (Lacan 2-3).  Norman is incapable of living autonomously away from his mother’s influence and control even after her death.  Norma Bates made Norman completely dependent, even the name signifies that Norman was only an extension of his mother.   In the end, Norman’s personality is completely shattered as the dominant “Mother” half of his personality takes over.  So, how does this all relate back to the murder of Marion?  Dr. Richmond explains at the end of the movie.  Norman concludes that because he is so extremely jealous of his mother, his mother must have the same feelings about him.  Norman is attracted and aroused by Marion and the mother half of his personality cannot deal with Norman’s desire therefore Marion must be eliminated.  It is never about the money; it is “a crime of passion” (Psycho).

Frightening…Re: Post 4

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2009 by staginghitchcock
This final glimpse of Norman's face is the last image that Hitchcock exposes to the audience.  Look closely at the transformation of his face as he appears to assume the same skeletal features of his mother's remains.

This final glimpse of Norman's face is the last image that Hitchcock exposes to the audience. Look closely at the transformation of his face as he appears to assume the same skeletal features of his mother's remains.

Mother…Re: Post 4

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2009 by staginghitchcock
Norman cannot exist without his mother.  She is the voice in his head that regulates and controls his behaviour.

Norman cannot exist without his mother. She is the voice in his head that regulates and controls his behaviour.

It’s always about Mother…Re: Post 4

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2009 by staginghitchcock
A fragment of Norman's shattered ego.

A fragment of Norman's shattered ego.

Child-like…Re: Post 4

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2009 by staginghitchcock
Norman appears child-like as he sits with his bag of candy reading a magazine, possibly a comic book.

Norman appears child-like as he sits with his bag of candy reading a magazine, possibly a comic book.