Psycho is my favorite film that Alfred Hitchcock directed. It was the first film of his I ever saw. It’s pretty much his most well known feature. It’s one of a few masterpieces that he had during his career alongside Rebecca, Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest. I have always been of the mind that Psycho is the film that Hitchcock’s whole career was building to. Everything that he did in the past, all the tricks he learned, all the sly elements to get past the censors all made it to this film in particular.
One thing that separates this film from others in Hitchcock’s filmography is that it’s about the average person. Most of the time Hitchcock’s characters can be sort or upper class, high society types who get caught up in these thrilling events. With Psycho, every character is someone you would meet in day to day life. We are first introduced to Marion and Sam. She’s a secretary, he works in a store. Finances are the barrier to them being together. Norman is man who runs a motel off the main highway. From Lila Crane, to the sherif to the psychiatrist each character is really just the average person. This makes the events of the film more palatable to the audience because this isn’t an adventure like North by Northwest, this is life.
Psycho is a film of passion. Marion’s whole story is driven by her impulse to steal the money. Her tragic demise is due to passion as well. I’ve talked about Psycho with others before and that’s something that gets lost in discussion. Some try to make every action be justified by what came before it, but these events are impulsive. It would be difficult to lock it down logically. In Psycho, people aren’t planning things. They are reactive.
There’s a theme of duality present as well in combination with their passion. Norman and Marion really mirror each other. Both feel trapped. Both see something that can get them out of their traps, for Marion it’s the money and for Norman it’s Marion. Both also show the trouble they have when questioned by authority figures. In both of their cases, especially Norman’s, they aren’t bad people, rather just distressed people.
Psycho remains a masterpiece for me. A tense, and even gothic horror film that still unsettles me even today.