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viewing cinema

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 3 months ago

Stage Craft--Thinking about the Movie You're Watching


With Psycho


Point of view: 3rd-person Limited

     How is the story told without a narrator?



     Why this particular scenery?

     How would different scenery change things?

          Roadside motel vs. luxury hotel



     Fashion, era: effect on character



     Projecting interior life



Position of characters

     within setting

     in relation to other characters

     what is in background/foreground



     Camera’s position in relation to the characters

     what is in focus/out of focus

     what camera leaves out

     zoom in/zoom out

     angle of camera/position of camera



     What does it communicate? Soft? Harsh?



     Background noise/conspicuous absence of noise

          In private bedroom, hear loud noises from street

          On street, hear nothing




     Why start film like this?


Download document: Stage Craft.rtf

A student's Psycho Notes (followed by her synthesized narrative)


beginning: loud intense music


on bed, soft music, little clothing, relaxed atmosphere, Sam urgent for marriage (possess Marion)

Scenery: indoors (reflects Marion’s life), city

Formal clothing at work

Tom is wealthy – sitting at a higher position – a lot of money, pompous.

Tom shot from the bottom – tall – a lot of money, pompous, high social status

Marion in center of camera for most of the time – aware?

No music

“it will pass. Headaches are like resolutions, you forget them as long as they stop hurting” “not aspirin, my mother’s daughter gave them to me the day I had my wedding” “teddy called me, my mother called to see if teddy called…” – complicated.

“as hot as milk” – meal in motel (milk)

“I buy it (unhappiness) off, are you unhappy?” “Not buying happiness, that’s buying off unhappiness.” –Marion steal money related?

Boss trusts Marion – lets her handle forty thousand dollars of cash.

“I’m going to spend this weekend in bed, thank you.” “cant buy off unhappiness with pills, I guess I’ll go put this money in the bank, and go home and sleep it off.” 

Focus on money in envelope – brought it home – focus on luggage

Music sinister-like.

Marian changed clothes – black underwear --- evil? Another side of herself?

Focus on Marion’s face – psychological turmoil.

Voice in her head – what is it Marion?

Sees boss – boss stops and thinks…Marion feels guilty – dries out of town

Out of town, dark screen – spotlights only…fade black. 

Policeman with sunglasses? “There are plenty of motels around here” – is the policeman the murderer (Bates)? - foreshadow

Police looks around in car in the background (foreground: Marion looking into bag) – police might have seen something

Strong music (intense) starts when Marion drives again

More intense when she founds that police is trailing behind.  California, Arizona 59

Police may foreshadow trouble in near future.

Focus – license plate.

Police is always watching.

Takes money is ladies room. – isolated environment – in front of mirror but does not look into mirror.

“cant we just settle this?”

Controversies about her “first time I see a customer high pressure a sale-an.”  “acts weird”. “$700 in cash!!!”

Marion could not see what’s in front – raining, desperate, blinking, face half white half black – suddenly mysteriously meets Bates’ Motel - …? 

Bates Motel

Camera: in front of car so that Marion cannot be seen easily. (shot from opposite motel) Raining does not cease.

12 cabins, 12 vacancies – they moved away the highway. Cabin 1

Camera focus: Bates in center

Camera focus: Marion – ponders where to put money. (Los Angeles papers)

“Shut up, shut up” – sudden silence.

Invites stranger into room?

Bates lures Marion into his territory – the office parlor.

Focus – birds (owl, etc)

“You eat like a bird” Birds eat a lot. Stuffing things – Bates’ hobby

“Birds look well-stuffed because they are passive to begin with.”

“It’s more than a hobby, a hobby’s supposed to pass the time, not fill it”.

“tend the grounds…” “a boy’s best friend is his mother”.

“we are all in our private traps”

Shoot bates from below – scary/high position

Bates’ childhood – no father, no friends?

The way Bates’ stepfather died ---

“I don’t hate her, I hate what she become, I hate the illness”

“she’s as harmless as one of the stuffed birds”

“thank you, Norman” - ?

Peephole – possessive heart 

Face half drak half white – evil, in a hurry. Dark out side (dark clouds) – evil?

Shoot Bates’ back – imply?

Murderer face not shown – black

Focus – toilet bowl – Bates might have gotten it since he saw blood

Focus – drain

Focus – eyes of Marion – lifeless, zooms out.

Focus – zoom in Los Angeles papers

Bates shouts – blood – comes and investigate.

Bates was never shot from the front – mysterious character

Bates does not seem to be very shocked – calmed down very quickly – strange

Camera: Bates’ back / side when cleaning up – don’t know his emotions

Looks at bloody hands, washes bloody hands.

Why does Bates clean up everything instead of leaving for police investigation?

Soft music while cleaning sounds mysterious

Camera: back of Bates when he collects all of Marion’s stuff.

NFB418 – sinks the car into river or swamp. Ford.

Camera: front of Bates for the first time, but half of his face is dark.


Guaranteed to kill all insects, but does not say whether it is painless or not – relate to Marion’s death.

Bates trying to stop investigator from looking at book.

Bates didn’t dare to look into investigator’s eyes, and blinks a lot…

“Did you spend the night with her?” – Bates’ face changes.

Bates tries to abruptly end the conversation by preventing investigator to see his mom. 

Investigator at telephone booth. Reports to Marion’s sister.

Went to Bates’ parlor.  Focus: birds, spooky music.

Sees a safe. Investigates at will. Goes up stairs to mother.  Looks around

Camera: shoots investigator from the top

Door opens by itself. – scary music.

Mother stabs investigator. 

Sam comforts Marion’s sister.

Sister very worried – Sam goes to investigate.

See deputy sheriff.

Deputy sheriff does not seem happy.

Reveals: Norman’s mother died ten years ago after poisoning person and committing suicide – two died in bed together.

Sam confirms he saw an old woman (Norman bates’ mother)  If Norman bates’ mother is alive, who is buried in Greenlong cemetery? suspension

Music: intense, mysterious

Norman focus, in parlor, stands up, switches light off and goes out.

Dark street.

“Hide”. “I’m staying right here”.

Norman hides mother – camera from top.

Sam and sister register at cabin as husband and wife. When they go for their room, they do not act normally – over active.  Bates looks at them while they go to room.

Sister seems determined.

Dark – when they searched cabin 1

Turns on light and found numbers written by Marian – ah hah.

Camera: shoots house from bottom – mysterious (where old woman lives).

Sister – sleeves rolled up – determined

Zooms into house gradually. 

Focus: fireplace “Fire dies out”

Mirror in front and behind – scary.

Dent in bed.

Grotesque objects in rooms.

Bates worried, murder – intense music.

Camera: sister in lower corner, Bates in upper corner – sister trapped?

Camera; back of Bates: - real Mrs. Bates

Bates pretends to be mother – Sam stops him.

Psychiatrist – Norman’s mother dominates. Norman only half exists.

Bates – evil smile

Her Synthesized Narrative


“Psycho” is filmed from the third person’s point of view. 


“Psycho” takes place in a small motel by the road.  The isolated environment of the motel forms a possibility of murders without detection.  However if “Psycho” takes place in a luxurious hotel in a big city, the possibility of murders like those Norman Bates had committed is minimal. 

The characters’ clothes may indicate the character’s emotions.  This feature is particularly noticeable at the beginning and the ending of “Psycho”.  In the beginning of the film, Marion and Sam wore little clothes, thus showing their willingness to expose him or herself to the other.  At the end of the film, Norman Bates dressed up as his mother when he attempted to kill Lila.  This reveals his mind being dominated by the persona of his mother.  The characters’ clothes may also signal a shift in the character’s decision or emotion.  Before Marion drives out of town with the stolen money, her clothes have darker colours than those she wore before.  This may suggest her unwillingness to reveal her plans to Sam because she was trying to use the stolen money to relieve Sam of his debts. 


The position at which the characters place themselves in the screen may suggest a certain relationship between them.  For example, near the end of the film, Lila hides herself by the stairs at the bottom left corner of the screen while Norman Bates stands by the door of the Bates mansion near the top right corner.  The striking contrasts in the two characters’ positions parallel how Lila was trying to escape from Bates. 

Zooming effects of the camera tend to help the audience identify certain objects which may serve a crucial role later in the movie.  For example, the camera zooms into the toilet after Marion attempted to flush the paper on which she did her calculations.  Later in the film, Lila found the papers while investigating the bathroom in Cabin 1 with Sam.  This led to their deduction that Norman Bates might have robbed Marion of the money.  Zooming effects of the camera builds tension effectively.  As Lila approaches the Bates mansion, the camera slowly zooms into the house, thus giving the illusion that the house seemed very distant. 


Lighting may be used as a means of foreshadowing and revealing a character’s nature.  For example, Lila and Sam switched on the lights in Cabin 1 bathroom while they did not do so while investigating the bedroom.  The sudden change in lighting foreshadows their discovery of the papers on which Marion wrote her calculations.  Also, for part of the film, at least half of Bates’ face appears to be dark.  This special lighting effect increases the mysteriousness of Bates’ character since the audience would not see his facial expressions easily. 


Camera angles appear to communicate Marion’s view of the other characters before her death.  The camera shoots Norman Bates from below while he talks to Marion.  This may show Marion’s admiration for Norman.  Camera angles may also pique the audience’s curiosity of finding about the character.  For example, Norman Bates was rarely filmed from the front, but rather from the side or the back, so that his entire face was rarely revealed.  This technique prevents the audience from seeing his facial expression, thus increasing mysteriousness to his character. 

Background noises and music help to build tension throughout the movie.  For example, when Lila approaches the mysterious Bates mansion, loud music with a fast tempo was played.  Tension is built effectively together with the slow zoom in of the camera because it arouses the audiences’ interest in finding out what fate is anticipating Lila.  Background noises and music also convey the characters’ emotions.  In the beginning of the movie, Marion felt relaxed with Sam and thus soft music was played.  Loud music with a fast tempo was played when Marion was trying to escape from the trailing police car after she aroused the policeman’s suspicion.  This reveals her nervousness and desperate need to escape from the policeman. 


The film is started like it did in order to establish the logical reason for Marion to steal the money.  The love and passion between the two lovers intensifies Marion’s hope to relieve Sam of his debts.  This also forms a foundation for Sam’s unceasing attempts to find Marion together with Lila. 

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