Psycho Summary and Analysis of Hiding in the Fruit Cellar - Speaking to Mrs. Bates

Summary:

Norman hangs up the phone after his conversation with Chambers. He turns off the light in his parlor before going back to his house. Once inside, he climbs the stairs and we hear him go into his mother's room. The camera stays on the staircase while Norman tries to convince Mrs. Bates to hide in the fruit cellar. Mrs. Bates responds with her usual harsh criticism and refuses to do so. The camera slowly moves up the stairs towards their voices - Norman remains calm, trying to reason with Mrs. Bates, but she becomes increasingly incensed. She chides her son for trying to tell her what to do and screams at him to get out of her room. The camera returns to the overhead shot above the stairwell as Norman carries his mother down the stairs, despite her continuing protests.

The next morning, Lila and Sam meet Sheriff Chambers and Mrs. Chambers outside the Fairvale Church. Chambers says that he went out to the Bates Motel early that morning and that Norman gave him the same story he gave Arbogast. Chambers also says that Norman was alone; as he suspected, there is no old woman in the Bates house. He suggests that Sam was seeing illusions. Sam and Lila, however, are not satisfied with Chambers's response, so they decide to drive out to the Bates Motel themselves.

From the window of his mother's room, Norman watches Sam and Lila pull up in front of the motel. They have decided to pose as man and wife so as not to arouse Norman's suspicion. While checking in, Sam insists on signing into the guest registry even though Norman claims not to use it anymore. Norman assigns them to stay in Cabin 10, and is surprised to learn that they don't have any bags. Inside their cabin, Lila shares with Sam her theory that Norman Bates took the $40,000 from Marion to save his failing business. She also thinks that Arbogast must have found out something about Marion's whereabouts and then someone stopped him from coming back to town and revealing the truth. Eager to start sleuthing, Sam and Lila leave their cabin under the pretenses of "taking the air". Norman Bates is nowhere to be found, so they slip into Cabin 1 to investigate. Inside, Sam and Lila check the drawers, but find nothing. Then, they go into the bathroom, where Sam observes that there is no shower curtain. On the floor, Lila finds a piece of the ripped-up paper Marion had tried to flush down the toilet after subtracting what she'd spent from the stolen$40,000. Riled up, Lila insists on speaking to Mrs. Bates about Marion. She convinces Sam to keep Norman occupied while she questions the old woman.

Sam finds Norman in the office and claims that he wants company while Lila takes a nap, which is his way of distracting Norman so that Lila can sneak into the house. The camera alternates between Lila's point-of-view and a medium tracking shot of her ascending the stone staircase leading up to the Bates abode. Back in the office, Sam engages Norman in conversation. Meanwhile, Lila enters Mrs. Bates's room, but nobody is there. She can tell that someone lives in this room, though - one side of the bed is deeply indented with the shape of a body, and the closet is full of an old woman's dresses.

Analysis:

At this point in the film, Hitchcock must work harder than ever to keep the secret of Mrs. Bates's true identity under wraps. He carefully orchestrates the argument between Norman and his mother in order to maintain the illusion that they are two different people. For one, the camera remains outside the door while Norman tries to convince Mrs. Bates to hide in the fruit cellar. Then, as Norman carries his mother down the stairs, Mrs. Bates continues to berate him while the camera returns to the extreme high-angle shot from which Hitchcock filmed Arbogast's murder. Hitchcock told Truffaut that he continued the argument between Norman and his mother during the high-angle shot to "distract the audience and take their minds off what the camera was doing" and chuckled about how it was "rather exciting to use the camera to deceive the audience."

As a pattern, tracking shots in Psycho serve to "carry us always further inside or into darkness" (Kolker 81). The tracking shot in which Lila approaches the Bates home is similar to Hitchcock's treatment of Arbogast's coming up the stairs towards Mrs. Bates's room. Donald Spoto calls the alternating point-of-view shots and tracking shots of Lila "subjective-objective cross tracking", which further serve to place the audience in Lila's shoes as well as allowing us to see from the perspective of the Bates house, luring its prey closer and closer. Like Lila, we are curious about what lurks behind the dusty lace curtains, but we are also aware that this is a house in which we have already seen one person die. Furthermore, Psycho does not follow the traditional rules of a horror film - we have already witnessed the slaughter of both our heroine and the intuitive detective who was investigating her disappearance. We are in unfamiliar territory, and while we don't want to see anything bad happen to Lila, we are also desperate to know what Norman Bates and his mother are hiding. In this way, Hitchcock continues to implicate the viewer in Norman's crimes.

Hitchcock further explores the theme of duplicity in this section of the film. He cast Vera Miles as Lila, who bears a startling resemblance to Janet Leigh, while John Gavin and Anthony Perkins also have similar features. In doing this, Hitchcock draws the viewer's attention to the fact that darkness lies within all of us - Lila and Sam are like the alternate, uncaged versions of Marion and Norman. To fully explore this visual motif, it is important to note that Marion never regards her reflection in the mirrors at the Bates Motel, either in the office when she first checks in or during her brief yet doomed stay in Cabin 1. However, when Lila is investigating Mrs. Bates's room, she not only sees her reflection in the mirror, but she is frightened of it. Lesley Brill writes, "this moment constitutes Hitchcock's most explicit suggestion that his characters are experiencing - and we are watching - not something weirdly outside ordinary experience, but the expression of a potential for personal distortion and violence that is on the other side, the mirror image, of human normality" (Brill 227). Marion is unaware of the trouble lurking beneath Norman's charming exterior, while Lila immediately knows that something is off about the Bates Motel.

Robin Wood points out that Lila's investigation of the Bates home is akin to an "exploration of Norman's psychotic personality" (Kolker 80). Lila is the agent who allows us to see inside Mrs. Bates's room - a privilege that has, until now, been unavailable to us due to Norman's protective nature. Because of Lila, we see the bronze sculpture of Mrs. Bates's folded hands - a piece of her that has been preserved, just like Norman has attempted to keep her alive in his mind. Then, the deeply indented mattress represents stagnation and a long-standing habit. Like Norman said upon first meeting Marion, "we just keep on lighting the lights and following the formalities." Even though the customers are gone, Norman keeps acting as though they will come; and even though his mother is gone, Norman pretends that she is still alive.

Wood also mentions that the interior of the Bates home physically embodies the "Freudian overtones" and "sexual repression" that drive Norman's insanity. "My mother and I were more than happy [in that house]", Norman insists when Sam starts to prod him. While Norman is saying this, however, Marion is poking around in his childhood bedroom, which is still filled with relics of his boyhood - a stuffed rabbit, a handmade quilt - mixed with some more risqué items, like a record player with Beethoven's "EROICA" on its turntable and a title-less book that causes Lila to raise her eyebrows (a hint that it contains pornography). Therefore, the house itself does embody Norman's psyche; his mother's room shows her power over him, his own room represents his stunted development as well as his attempts to explore the sexual urges about which his mother has made him feel so guilty.