We all go a little mad sometimes…
Five months in now and suddenly I'm very behind. The last month has been a real struggle to find any time for these films. I now need to somehow watch around ten films in one month to keep on track! That probably wont happen but in general there will be quite a few weeks over the next seven months where I'll need to watch a couple of movies a week.
I managed to squeeze Psycho in by taking the movie book on holiday with me. I thought I could speed read the whole thing for ease but even where pages covered large sections of the film with no dialogue I did find that I still had to follow and digest the images at a natural pace similar to that of the film in order to really appreciate what was going on, so it still took around the same amount of time to flip through as it would have to watch the film again.
I picked up the book from one of those outdoors book stalls along the Southbank in London last year and I'm glad I did because reading it in isolation of the film, in a way, allowed me to experience the shower scene how Hitchcock had originally intended (sans soundtrack) and also it was a lot easier to pick up on some other themes and interesting parallels between the characters that's not immediately evident on one viewing of the film alone…
Firstly, kudos to Freddie Highmore for his interpretation of Norman Bates in Bates Motel. After watching (and reading!) the film you can really tell hes' got Bates' mannerisms and posture nailed down. To the extent where you really believe that it is in fact Anthony Perkins who has come from him, not the other way round.
Now on to the main feature…
I felt this is very much a story about opportunity. How we patiently wait for it, eventually spot it and how we take it. Whether it's Norman and/or his mother (well I'm trying to minimalise the spoilers but you probably all know this one by now!), waiting for their moment of opportunity to strike, or Marion (Vera Miles) taking the questionable but very relatable chance at a new start in life. It's like they both carry a facade of the people they are, but as soon as nobody is looking the 'default state person' appears and in both cases is suprisingly automated and thorough.
In some ways it's genuinly suprising that this film was one of Hitchcock's biggest successes also, baring in mind the plot completely departs from his usual way of working beyond "do the opposite of what they expect". You've got your heroine being killed half way in to the film (oh come on that's not a spoiler!), she's not necessarily even a heroine, the detective doesn't meet the kindest of fates either, the stolen money becomes completely inconsequential and nobody get's any girl! But it works of course.
Reading the story of course gave me the effect of the shower scene without any music which is as Hitchcok originally intended, so I have to admire him for doubling Hermann's fee upon being convinced to add in this little bit of music that he'd secretly created for the scene. It is the cherry on the top of the whole film and completely synonymous with it now. He could have just paid him as normal or rejected the music but he recognised it's merit and resigned his own idea for the greater good, which takes a brave and confident director.
As a closing note, if you are watching this film, pay attention to the birds, the use of them, the presence of them, the dialogue about them. There is definately a lot of foreshadowing towards what his next film (released 3 years later) would be in there!