Lizzi Von DooLittle (vondoolittle) wrote,
Lizzi Von DooLittle

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We all go a little mad sometimes...

Work last night - te deum. (Tedium har har)

Got into a bit of a fight with a manager - though I was in the right and he was being a cranky arse on account of stats... My own boss gave me chocolate afterward hehe...

Apart from that bit of light relief, was thoroughly bored. Yes, I was ruling the nation's post bwahahaha doing Duty Obs again last night. Finally got out at 6am, got a lift home, went to bed.

Woke up at 1pm... Now I'm off out to watch 'A Hard Day's Night' at college - we are comparing it with Kes (yawn) and A Clockwork Orange. I'm guessing the next bit of coursework is on portrayal of youth culture in the 50's/60's or summat lol!!

Ho hum. Twelve hours of brainless typage from 6pm onwards, and I have a very raw sore throat - my mother is doing the 'I'm DYING!' act and has been to the doctor for antibiotics for tonsillitis - I'm just going to have to chomp strepsils, take nurofen cold'n'flu and brave it out...

Oh, for those interested parties (if you can be arsed) here's my essay below sans illustrative vidcaps:

How does the mise-en-scene convey the narrative in the Parlour scene in Psycho?

Marions initial meeting with Norman Bates at the motel in Psycho could be viewed as a classic vampire movie situation; a lost and weary traveller, on the run from some recent difficulty (in Marion's case, the money she has stolen from Cassidy) arrives at a deserted-looking building in the rain looking for safety and shelter. Audiences are generally familiar with this premise - they know that the individual is destined to die. The usage of the mise-en-scene in the Parlour Scene in Psycho serves to develop this idea in the back of the audience's minds - but also provides hope that this is a 'turning point' for Marion and that she will escape the trap.

The meeting on the walkway of the cabins between Marion and Norman also represent elements of the vampire/victim scenario - beginning with simple door/threshold indications - and developing further with usage of mise-en-scene to emphasise the dual nature of Norman and the angelic victim potentiality of Marion. From the outset of the scene, Norman is cast in half-shadow and mise-en-scene shows some aspects of his duality. He refuses the invitation into Marion's room (like a vampire crossing the threshold) and we see his reflection cast in the window beside him, mirror-like - another usage of symbolism throughout the film. Marion appears to have been 'chosen' as his victim - the lip of the milk jug is pointing toward her, indicating his intent - and she is lit by the lamp on the wall of the cabins - halo-like in contrast to Norman’s shadowy appearance.

Again, thresholds are a factor here. Marion is lured into Norman's 'web' - the office is neutral space, and she accepts the invitation into his parlour - his own personal space almost willingly. Perhaps it is his allure and charm that gives her confidence to do this. The devil is, indeed, a charmer - the vampire is an attractive and handsome man - what would there be to doubt about his character from external appearances alone?

Once Marion is seated in the Parlour itself, we are made much more aware of the differences between them. This is through exceptional usage of mise-en-scene. Marion is much more well-lit - she appears like an angel or a victim to Norman as she is lit with a key-light - the large tiffany lamp to her right. Norman, on the other hand, is portrayed as a rather more 'Jekyll and Hyde' character - again he is perceived in half-light causing the audience to feel that he has a darker side to his personality that has not yet shown through.

The mise-en-scene here is fundamentally a simple premise – at basic level it is round and smooth backgrounds coupled with warm lighting for Marion contrasted strongly throughout the scene with dark, jagged and stark lines and shadows cast around Norman.

Norman is surrounded by harsh lines of picture frames - there are unpleasant-looking stuffed birds, long shadows and hard furniture edges around him - rather like Murnau’s Nosferatu and other such techniques of German Expressionism. There is a peculiar starkness to his lighting, and he sits with pictures depicting rape of women on the wall behind him - this in itself is frightening and serves to make Marion appear vulnerable. He is a character which could be a bit spiky and dangerous; he is nervous in anticipation of what may follow and sits twiddling his fingers and stumbling over words - in particular the word 'falsity' which perhaps belies his inner nature thus suggesting hidden depths to the audience.

In contrast to this, the mise-en-scene surrounding Marion is set up to portray her as warm, motherly and angelic - but most certainly the victim. There is a warmth to the lighting which fills around her - there are no harsh edges. Instead, everything is curved, softened and womanly. She sits by the key-light with a rounded milk jug in front of her and on a comfortable couch - again in contrast to the way that Norman is sat perched on a hard dining chair opposite. Everything about her suggests womanliness - and despite her recent criminal activity she appears redeemable; the light casts such a warm glow about her that she could almost be an angel. The white milk jug suggests to the audience that, like milk, she is wholesome and essentially a good character - we all go a little mad sometimes - and through performance and the usage of mise-en-scene in her portrayal here we are set up to view her as warm, innocent - and ultimately unknowing of her possible fate.

Camera angles and actor positioning are also used as part of mise-en-scene to convey narrative. The placement of the camera on Marion is from Norman's viewpoint. She is looking up to him - facing front on - she doesn't have full control of the situation and therefore appears vulnerable. This camera viewpoint on Marion is set up to cast Norman as the predator. This is emphasised by the stuffed birds which are positioned looking down on the scene - dispassionate and judgemental - representing Norman's mother. The birds themselves are heavily shadowed and contribute an edgy, brooding quality by the way they appear to be ready to attack at any moment - swooping in on the scene, and on Marion herself.

Birds are a recurring theme throughout Psycho - and were perhaps a favourite theme with Hitchcock at the time, since the film which followed this was, in fact 'The Birds'. In Psycho, the opening shot is of Phoenix, Arizona, and the camera swoops in, bird-like, to alight on a seemingly random window to view what is happening within. Marion's surname is Crane - and Norman tells her that she 'eats like a bird'. Birds seem to represent women (Norman's mother in particular) and general disapproval – “cluck their thick tongues”. Birds are wild, dangerous and unpredictable - like women - a force of nature, retribution and overall something to be feared. This could be indicative of Hitchcock's personal experience with women - but is also relevant to Norman's relationship with his 'mother' throughout Psycho itself.

In terms of editing, this scene is largely shot-rev-shot until Marion's conversation becomes more personal - asking Norman about his mother. What has been a comfortable conversational style of filming up until now becomes more intent. The characters are leaning in toward each other, and the camera is closer focussed on faces - this, combined with changes to the musical score (played entirely on strings to mimic bird screech in places and lull us into a relaxed state in others) deliberately increases tension for the audience as they are drawn in to more worrying dialogue than the pleasantries previously exchanged.

It is here that camera angles also begin to change - denoting changes in status as Norman becomes more nervous whilst Marion, having him in a corner, seems to take control of the conversation - making decisions over what she is to do next as this progresses.

Change of status here is illustrated in two ways. In basic form; the angle that the camera is positioned at for POV shots in conversation, but also in the performance of the actor him/herself. For example, Norman looks up on the following line 'You mean an institution? A madhouse?'. People often look skyward - or into the backs of their heads - when recalling personal information. This gives the audience notice that Norman might have actually been in a madhouse himself, and increases their sense of foreboding. He is still looking up on the 'she needs me' line. As an actor, he chooses to emphasise the word 'me'. In terms of audience interpretation, this might be seen as being indicative of something not being quite right - or even as a cry for help - he has a desperate tone and a pleading expression.

Perhaps he is attempting to find someone he can confide in, but his internal conflict with the personality of his mother is preventing this - causing him to destroy any hope he might have, and resulting in the death of Marion in the scene which follows.

Either way, there is a definite shift in status at the end of the scene. Marion has stood up and has made her decision - to return to Phoenix and attempt to resolve the situation she had gotten herself into. Norman is shot looking up at her - he appears to be almost begging her to stay - like a child looking up at a mother. There is however, a further sense of foreboding conveyed to the audience here - the shadow of the raven pecking at her shoulder as she stands looking down on him. Perhaps a premonition of the vicious attack that follows by Norman's 'mother'.

The end of the Parlour scene leaves the audience comfortable in the hope that Marion will pull herself out of the trap with regards to the money she has stolen - and also with the hope that she has evaded a difficult moment in the parlour with Norman, when the conversation got a little uncomfortable. But there is a false sense of safety in this status reversal. The audience are left uneasy with regards to the slightly dangerous, twitchy character of Norman, but they feel reassured that Marion has, at this point, got herself out of the web she was tangled up in earlier.

The usage of mise-en-scene here is, therefore, used primarily to convey depth of character and motivation between Marion and Norman. The audience are invited into the parlour to pull all these elements together in their minds. They may have an uneasy inkling of what is to come, but for the moment they are reassured with false hope for her redemption. This is a key scene in Psycho - a turning point - and almost a false denouement - and the audience are therefore unprepared for the way the action will turn in the scene to follow.



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