THAT Shower Scene – Yes, Hitchcock’s Psycho
First off: yes, there are plot spoilers contained herein, but if you have not seen Psycho, arguably Hitchcock’s finest work, and are not aware of the plot and story behind it, you really got here by accident, and I would suggest you watch the entire film first. THEN come back and read this! )
How did this all happen, anyway?
I happened to be listening to one of many podcasts that I tend to listen to while sitting in LA traffic, but this particular podcast was none other than No Film School (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-no-film-school-podcast/id1078804724?mt=2&i=1000394169236), and the episode was titled Hitchcock 101: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Psycho.
Turns out that a filmmaker, Alexandre Phillipe, is coming out with a documentary called 78/52, which is examining in excruciating detail this one scene in this one movie – just the shower scene and nothing more. The title refers to the 78 camera setups and 52 cuts that were involved in making this one scene. Not only that, but this one three minute scene took seven days to shoot! I got curious – this is the ‘Advanced Primitive’ blog, after all, and so I went through the scene myself, not having seen Alexandre’s doc first, and tried to break it down for myself. Here is more info on the doc:
Let’s See the Breakdown
Here are the screenshots and my commentary.
We are voyeurs, spying on our lead actress. She is in the midst of a common activity – taking a shower after a long day, after finally having gotten to a safe place where she can relax.
The door is locked, and she feels safe and secure.
She undresses, and this is where the viewer starts to feel a bit uncomfortable for spying on this woman in a private setting. This is what the killer is doing as well, and this fact is important later on.
Disrobing and entering shower.
The shower feels great and the lead relaxes and is enjoying it. She and the audience suspect nothing at this point. The audience is still a voyeur and is feeling a bit of tension for this reason.
Lead’s POV at the shower.
More of the same – a very common situation. A SNAFU? )
She is really enjoying the shower. This is where the viewer is most relaxed, having gotten used to the role of the fly on her shower wall.
But Something is Terribly Wrong
Suddenly she is in the lower third and the left third grabs our attention. What is that dark shape? Is that the door opening? What could it be? The title clearly said ‘Psycho’, so its not her lover coming to lead her to rapture? Right?
Who is that shape?
A woman is about to attack her? What woman? Norman’s mother is the only character mentioned. This is her??
Finally the lead is aware of the danger.
Her fear is magnified.
And its magnified some more.
The attacker prepares to strike.
There is a struggle – the first strike is blocked.
Her terror grows more still.
The next strike is successful – the killer stabs the lead. Does the location have any significance? I don’t know. What do you think?
First evidence of blood in shower.
Lead almost tries to turn and flee, but there is a wall in her way.
The killer leaves without making sure the lead is dead. This is almost as if the killer’s thirst is satisfied and there is no need to finish off the victim.
The aftermath – we pull out, shot by shot, to see the lead in the final moments of her life, but that is contrasted with a normalcy in the shower itself.
She reaches out, as if for help and support, but only a flimsy shower curtain is there for her.
The support of the shower curtain proves dubious and she falls out of the shower, but the shower keeps running…
…the shower that continues to happily pour down, in the same shot where she was so happy last time we saw it….
…but now the horror and realization of what happened has finally sunk in and it shows in her final facial expression.
But the shower happily keeps running, as if to remind the viewer that human drama is temporary and subjective, while reality keeps on rolling, without a care in the world for any of us, individuals. This is a reminder that from the evolutionary standpoint, the individual matters very little, if anything, and like the bee hive and ant hill, it is only the aggregate human race that matters.
Enough screenshots already!
The new documentary is critically acclaimed, and you can see the trailer released by the producers here:
And now, here is the full shower scene for your viewing ‘enjoyment’. One has to be impressed at how human this is, and how inhumane and impersonal at the same time. Hitchcock is called the master for good reason! Now, look at the video…..