Psycho 0:00-12:40

Analysis by McKinnon Sowell and Davis Kelly

Sound (0:00-1:54)

The opening two minutes of the movie Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock uses non-diegetic sound that presents a fast-paced, ominous score that foreshadows the movies suspense. "Music induces a continuous, dynamic—and to some extent predictable—change in the cardiovascular system," said Luciano Bernardi, a professor of medicine at the University of Pavia in Italy. The sharp, dramatic music causes a physical change in the viewer, by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, causing the viewer to feel more anxious or stressed than usual.

The score for the film, composed by Bernard Herrmann, creates shifts in tone, tension, and a sense of foreshadowing for events to come.

"Alfred Hitchcock once said that Bernard Herrmann’s music should add to the tension on screen, and nothing more than that." -

In an interview with Bernard Herrmann on film scores, which can be found with this link, Herrmann states that in some of the films in which he has composed the score for, including Psycho, that "... the films dealt with people's characters and their attitudes, and therefore the music for such films all have an entirely different nature. In Hitchcock one has to create a landscape for each film, whether it be the rainy night of Psycho or the turbulence of a picture such as Vertigo...". By this, Herrmann suggests that the score does more than just intensify the intended emotions, but characterizes the film as a whole.

The split lines of black and grey represent the split personality of the "Psycho", Norman Bates.

Cinematography (1:55-2:46)

The opening scene starts out with an establishing shot. The camera then pans and zooms in to one specific building. There next is a transition into a shot that intentionally looks like it is being shot from another building from above. The camera zooms in on one window where the blinds are almost full pulled down. There is a quick transition of shots to a shot that puts the window opening at eye level and the camera slowly moves in to the opening in the window so that the audience can see what is going on inside. This is done from the point of view of someone who is spying on the two characters. The shot of the window from up above also adds to this by putting the audience from a viewpoint of someone in a neighboring building.


The above shot lets the audience know that Sam is considering his actions. This is also shown when Sam says, "I sweat to pay my ex-wife's alimony and she's living on the other side of the world somewhere", and when Marion says, "meeting you in secret so we can be secretive". These two quotes let the audience know that the couple are meeting in hotels in secret. Also, Sam pulls up the blinds when he is about to leave. The blinds were shut and pulled almost all of the way down to signify that the two are secret. Sam pulling up the blinds shows that Sam does not care if their relationship is public.


From 6:36 to 10:42, we see the interaction between Marion, Tom Cassidy, and George Lowery. Tom Cassidy is characterized indirectly as a proud wealthy man through his actions of showing off his beautiful 18-year old baby to Marion, and through the unreasonable amount of money he carries in his coat pocket. Tom Cassidy's unreasonable amount of money creates foreshadowing for the events to come, remembering that Marion, who just conversed with her lover Sam, discovered that what was keeping Sam and Marion from living together was the large financial debt Sam is in for his ex-wife's alimony. The close up shots of Marion and Tom Cassidy while Tom attempts to flirt with Marion show the intenseness of their conversation, and Marion's disinterest in Tom's attempts to 'woo' her, while possibly giving Marion more of a reason to not feel guilty for taking Tom's money. This is shown through Marion's facial expressions, in which while Tom is attempting to 'woo' her, Marion maintains a straight face and only gives a slight smile when Tom heads in to Mr. Lowery's office, however even after Tom leaves, Marion's face returns to a blank look of carelessness.

In the shot above, Marion is shown asking Mr. Lowery, the real estate's manager, if she can go home after taking Mr. Cassidy's money to the bank due to a headache. Foreshadowing is also created here by Marion's desire to head directly home after dropping the money off at the bank, revealing to the audience that a significant is soon to occur. This scene also indirectly characterizes Marion. Through Mr. Lowery's trust in Marion to safely deliver the money to the bank, and his belief that Marion actually does have a headache, both show the audience that Marion is seen as trustworthy and honest, making it more of a 'jaw-dropper' when the audience discovers that Marion is actually planning on stealing the money.


The above shot shows Marion in a different view. She is not smiling and the shadows above her eyes signify her knew role in the movie as someone who steals money. Also, Marion looking into the mirror can be seen as her reflecting on her potential actions. The mirror is used to represent Marion deciding if she should deposit the money or take the money. She looks in the mirror right before she leaves as well. This is done after many cuts to the full envelope of money, as shown below. This shows the money's importance to the scene. After many cuts to the envelope and cuts of Marion looking at the envelope, Marion walks over to the Mirror to look at herself in the mirror as a way of her deciding that she should steal the money. The dark shadows and straight face almost show Marion as an antagonist.

The envelope that holds the $40,000 is cut to quickly and often as Marion packs her things in preparation to leave town. The cinematography quickly reveals to the audience that the envelope is indeed the envelope carrying Mr. Cassidy's money in it by the close up shot in which the camera zooms in to, to reveal the bills that can be seen through the slot of the envelope. Through this scene, a sudden transition to the envelope, and the shots of Marion's uncertain facial expressions show the guilt she feels for taking the money and leaving town. The transitions to the envelope also seem to be capturing a closer image of the envelope each time the transition occurs, emphasizing the anticipation of Marion's choices and the events to occur later. The envelope is also shown to be very white, contrasting the darker colors of the bed and walls in Marion's room. This contrast in color emphasizes the importance of the envelope, also making the specific envelope very recognizable when shown in Marion's purse


Alon48. "Bernard Hermann on Film Scores.m4v." YouTube. YouTube, 27 Mar. 2012. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

Hartog, Bob Den. "BERNARD HERRMANN." IFMCA International Film Music Critics Association. International Film Music Critics Association, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

Peeples, Lynne. "Heart Beat: Music May Help Keep Your Cardiovascular System in Tune." Scientific American. Nature America, Inc., 24 June 2009. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

Created By
McKinnon Kelly

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