How does Hitchcock defy expectations in Psycho?

In his 1960 film, Psycho, Hitchcock embraces his title as the “master of suspense.” Psycho is widely recognized as one of the greatest films of all time and because of this, it is hard to find a contemporary audience that is not aware of its plot twists. However, the viewer had very little previous knowledge of the film and was thus able to relate similarly to the reactions of the original audience of 1960. These reactions are due to Hitchcock expertly defying the expectations of both the audience’s thoughts of their own conscious as well as the Classic Hollywood film style prevalent at the time.

The introduction of Marion Crane as the film’s protagonist immediately invites the audience to sympathize with her character. Between her secret affair with Sam and what seems to be a monotonous, cyclical job, it is not surprising that she runs away with the money she sees can help improve her life. The audience is connected to Marion and the viewer’s feel what she feels while the plot seemingly revolves around her story. When Norman Bates’ character is introduced he appears as a timid man whose life revolves around taking care of his debilitated mother. By characterizing Norman this way, Hitchcock subtly, almost against the viewer’s knowledge, shifts the sympathy from Marion to Norman. Norman’s character is where Hitchcock begins to utilize his technique of defying expectations.

Think about these two descriptions: “a person who steals money, from a crude man, to escape her tedious life and help pay off the debts of the man she loves” vs “a person with multiple personality disorder who has murderous tendencies.” When presented with the following two descriptions of a person, not a character, it seems obvious who has more a realistic and relatable problem many could sympathize with. While one might read the second description and recognize the unfortunate situation, it is uncommon that people sympathize with real life murderers with mental illness. However, Hitchcock manages to defy this conscious expectation in the film. This viewer felt more sympathy for Norman, who was revealed to have, potentially, killed four people as opposed to Marion who only stole $40,000 which she intended to give back before she was brutally murdered.

In previous paragraphs it was mentioned that Marion is the audience’s link to the films plot. When she meets Norman and they have a conversation the audience expects that the plot will now revolve around both of them together as protagonists. That expectation is shattered with the first chilling chord strung before the plunge of the knife. The audience is left jarred; the protagonist of the film was just killed after only 40 minutes. The fact that the heroine died so suddenly and abruptly is vastly different than conventional Hollywood films.

Marion’s death introduces the detective Arbogast, Sam, and Marion’s sister Lila, all vying for information about Marion’s disappearance and the stolen money. Previously, Hitchcock gave the audience some omniscient knowledge because it is known that the money is gone; sunk with Marion’s body. To modern audiences the repeated obsession with the stolen money may seem a bit redundant, but it makes sense within the confines of the Hollywood era. Typically in those films characters who do wrong are meant to be punished. Marion did steal the money after all, even if she intended to give it back. By continually mentioning the crime the audience almost forgets her plan to return it. This makes the audience question if Marion “deserved” to die for her actions, like Hollywood style expects, or if she atoned for her crime, either way she did not get the ending many anticipated for her. This brings up the final expectation for Hollywood cinema that Hitchcock defied. Typically there was a happily ever after- all things solved and everyone smiling in these films. It is ironic that at the end of the film someone is smiling; Norman Bates as “Mother” is shown with a ghastly superimposed grin of a skeleton after speaking to the police. This final image leaves the audience feeling disturbed rather than comforted as they leave the cinema

There are certain tropes that films are expected to have, especially in the Classic Hollywood era. Hitchcock throws these expectations out the window and presents a new film style that will pave the way for years to come. Do the unexpected; make a film where the protagonist doesn’t necessarily win and the audience cares more for the “bad guy.” Additionally, make an ending imperfect where nothing turns out right for the characters. The point, Hitchcock’s Psycho taught Hollywood, was to defy expectations.


How do “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “You Were Meant For Me” contribute to the narrative in Singin’ in the Rain?

                Singin’ in the Rain is widely considered the greatest musical of Hollywood cinema and was even named fifth out of the 100 greatest movies of all time by the American Film Institute. The film falls in the musical genre, with over half the film consisting of singing and dancing, and yet the narrative of the plot is still very strong. In fact, the musical numbers in the film serve not only as entertainment but also as techniques to advance the plot narration as well as character development.

The audience’s first introduction to Don Lockwood’s character is through his recollections during an interview. While his audible recollections contrast with the images displayed, these flashbacks allow the audience to see Don’s experience and talent in singing and dancing. The first musical number that advances the narrative plot is “Make ‘Em Laugh” sung by Cosmo Brown. This song is performed after a discussion about Don’s new film The Dueling Cavalier where Don questions the quality of his acting. Cosmo sings the song “Make ‘Em Laugh” in response. While an entertaining number, this performance is used as a communication device to not only Don but also to the audience. In the exposition given through Don’s background story the audience is aware that these two are men of music-and that’s how they communicate with each other. The transition from dialogue to dance does not seem forced or unusual to the audience and because of this the viewer is able to focus on what is being sung rather than questioning the reason behind it. Cosmo’s primary goal for the performance is to cheer up Don and encourage him to continue his acting career. After all, if Cosmo can continue to get up and perform after falling to the ground and crashing into a wall then Don can still act. This routine enlightens the audience’s understanding of the close friendship between Don and Cosmo as well as establishes a theme of communicating through areas other than dialogue.

The next performance that advances the plot, and sets the tone for most of the film, is Don’s and Kathy’s “You Were Meant For Me.” This musical number follows directly after Cosmo’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” thus emphasizing the contrast between the two. Whereas “Make ‘Em Laugh” is very boisterous and advanced in style, technique, and talent, “You Were Meant For Me” is simple, yet just as important to the narrative. This routine works as a communication technique as well- to express the relationship development between Don and Kathy. Initially their dance together is slow, almost like they are simply walking, however as the song continues it becomes apparent that they are interested in each other. What begins as a shy dance turns into a routine where Don appears to be sweeping Kathy off her feet and the audience is able to see a nonverbal communication between the two- an interpersonal reciprocation of feelings for each other. This performance not only contributes to the romantic narrative but also to the narrative plot as a whole, for Kathy and Don become partners, and together they help create the remodeled film The Dancing Cavalier. Without this song and dance no relationship between the two would have been created, which would have vastly altered the plot and story.

While it is important to mention the film’s title song “Singin’ in the Rain” it is in this viewer’s opinion that the two songs already discussed are the most integral to not only advancing the narrative but also establishing it. “Singin’ in the Rain” is a performance full of emotion and character development for Don Lockwood that also acts as a turning point in the movie. However, without the musical numbers “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “You Were Meant For Me” there would not be a reason for Don to feel such elation that he forgets about the downpour he is in, and instead chooses to sing in the rain.

Is the film Metropolis a reflection of the German culture during the 1920’s?

The silent film Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang was written in 1924 and started screening in 1927. Metropolis was highly influenced by the culture that was present in the Weimar Republic at that period of time. Not only was the film influenced by government ideologies, such as fascism and communism, but it was also influenced by the views of women of the time. Through the themes of corruption and the characterization of two individuals, the film is able to portray the culture of Germany in the 1920’s.

One of the ideas that had become popular during World War I in Germany was known as volkgemeinschaft which was an expression that aimed to remove class tensions and create a “people’s community.” This reflected one of the ideals for both fascism and communism which were beginning to take shape in Europe at the time of the film’s airing. These ideologies were portrayed through the film’s theme of the struggle between the working class and the rulers. Interestingly, the working men are portrayed as desolate; with heads hung they walked in an almost zombie-like fashion with little to no emotion until they begin to rebel, meanwhile the ruler of the city Metropolis, Joh Fredersen, appears emotionally deficient as well. While the workers are powerless to change their fates on their own, Fredersen should not be so devoid of emotion for he is one of the elite. This characterization portrays the common fascist belief that intelligence cannot be trusted; instead emotions should be the elevated area of human existence. Thus the film portrays Freder and Maria as the two heroes’ because they are ruled by their emotions while Fredersen and Rotwang are considered villainous and their intellect is their downfall. Finally, as a continuation to the theme of eliminating class divides, the character Rotwang is depicted with a metallic prosthetic after losing his right hand in the building of the Machine Man. This is an illusion to Rotwang’s left handed belief that class distinctions need to be eliminated in the Metropolis.

In addition to Fascist beliefs, the Weimar Republic had strict views on women. The view on women is portrayed through the film’s characterization of Maria and the Machine Maria. The audience is first introduced to Maria, just as Freder is, in the Eternal Gardens. Freder is accompanied by scantily clad women, yet when Maria appears in her simple work attire, he is mesmerized. She is plainly attractive without any makeup or elaborate clothing to help her. Lang chooses to utilize a type of camera filter that creates an almost halo like glow around Maria, both when she is first introduced in the Gardens and when she is in the catacombs. By characterizing Maria as plainly attractive and by applying the filtered effect the audience doubtlessly likens Maria to the biblical Mary. Meanwhile, the Machine Maria is characterized as a much more suggestive woman. She adorns dark makeup and performs gestures meant to appear erotic. She is also openly compared to the Whore of Babylon while dancing in front of the elite and brings to life the seven deadly sins. Also, to further these illusions Lang creates two scenes in which each woman is at a higher altitude with a group of people reaching for her. Machine Maria has men grasping at her in lust after she dances for them, while the real Maria has children grasping at her when they are in peril. These two vastly different characters portray how women were viewed in the Weimar Republic; either as very virtuous or promiscuous with little in between.

Between the film’s main theme and the depiction of the two characters, Maria and Machine Maria, the audience can clearly see the influence that the German culture of the 1920’s had on the film Metropolis.