Director's Influence on Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock was notoriously organized in every arena of his life, especially in his filmmaking. He would plan out all of the details of a film before ever shooting a single frame. Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano remembers that after the director completed the full breakdown of the Psycho screenplay, he said, "The picture's over. Now I have to go put it on film" (Rebello 50).

Because of the pre-determined nature of Hitchcock's filmmaking style and his insistence on total control, Hitchcock's hand is evident every frame of his work. He once said, "I have no interest in pictures that I call 'photographs of people talking.' These have nothing to do with cinema whatsoever. When you stick up a camera and photograph a group of people, and pick up the close-ups and two-shots, well, I think that is a bore." (Sherman 46). Furthermore, Hitchcock was the rare director who was constantly aware of how audiences would perceive his films and designed them specifically to maximize the viewer experience.

Psycho was Hitchcock's 47th film, and the reason he was drawn to Robert Bloch's novel was because the protagonist dies in such a sudden way early in the narrative. He saw the story as an opportunity to experiment with the form of filmmaking and to toy with the audience's expectations. As a director, Hitchcock respected his audience's intelligence; he fully understood that the cinematic experience was just as much - if not more - about the spectator than the filmmaker. Therefore, Hitchcock frequently uses cinematic techniques to implicate the viewer in the actions of the characters they see on screen.

In an essay entitled "Hitch and his Audience," French critic Jean Douchet writes, "Hitch uses the spectator for the internal progression of his film... he plays on [the viewer's] fears and desires." This is absolutely true in Psycho. From the beginning of the film, Hitchcock takes care to align the viewer with Marion Crane and her stolen money, thus implicating us in her theft. Then, when she suddenly dies in a freak circumstance that has absolutely nothing to do with the money around which the first half of the film centers, he strategically shifts the viewer's sympathy to Norman Bates. By purposely leaving Sam, Lila, and Arbogast as thinly-sketched characters whose only purpose in the film is to further its plot, the viewer remains intrigued, even feeling sorry for Norman, until last possible moment when his true nature is revealed.