Today while sorting through my movie collection, I came across an old favorite, Psycho. Although Alfred Hitchcock’s chilling thriller first graced the big screen in 1960, Psycho has managed to remain relevant to movie buffs and professional critics alike. While the film contains many groundbreaking theatrical features, the most subtly impactful can be found in the symbolism that Hitchcock eloquently weaves into the plotline. From frightening fowl to the Bates’ residence itself, Hitchcock proves that the most poignant details are sometimes the smallest ones.
Birds: Hitchcock has proven, once again, that birds are more than happy feathered friends. While the fowl in his feature film The Birds were alive and utterly terrifying, Psycho takes the symbolism of birds to an entirely different form. The stuffed birds that sit in Norman’s office are meant to represent Norman’s mother. This fact, while terrifyingly unbelievable, proves to be true in one short line, “My hobby is stuffing things. You know-taxidermy.” Little does the audience know at this time, but birds are not the only thing that Norman has put his eerie pastime to work for- his most impressive work is his mother.
Birds are mentioned in other forms as well. Norman tells Marion that she eats like a bird and Anthony Perkins’ acting is meant to mimic their mannerisms. Once you put all of this information together, all of the major characters in Psycho tie back to birds.
Inner Voices: While Psycho is famous for one character struggling with his inner voices, Norman is not the only person in the film to tackle this problem. In fact, the first person the audience views grappling with this is Marion. While she doesn’t possess this issue to the same caliber as Norman, Hitchcock uses Marion’s inner voices to show the actions of other characters, while never leaving Marion’s perspective. Marion also seems to find a twisted satisfaction in her crimes, as her inner voices do not cause her anguish, but rather a sense of self-gratification.
Norman’s inner voices prove to be much more horrific, as the voice he grapples with is his deceased mother. His struggle with multiple personality disorder is shown to be highly distressful to him during the course of the film, yet, Norman still seems to find a certain satisfaction with it. Marion and Norman are similar in this way; they both have committed unspeakable crimes yet they find their deeds to be sickeningly pleasurable.
The Bates’ House: Throughout the film, the viewer sees what they think to be Mrs. Bates sitting in her rocking chair, observing the outside world from her bedroom window. However, this is not the case, as the figure perched in the window is just a corpse. This very image symbolizes the Bates residence as Norman’s twisted brain. At different point in the movie, we can hear the voice of Norman’s mother barking orders at him from her fixed spot at her window, similar to the way the voice of Norman’s mother haunts his mind. The house itself is meant to represent Norman’s skull, while the corpse of his mother symbolizes his twisted mind.
The Knife: The murder weapon has become an icon in itself over the years, yet it forces us to wonder, if Norman had committed these crimes more than once, then why would he not invest in a less gruesome weapon, such as a gun? The answer lies within Norman’s relationship with his mother. It is clear to everyone that Norman is attracted to the women who check into his motel, yet he never acts on these feelings because he refuses to “upset mother.” The act of thrusting the knife is supposed to represent Norman’s lust for these women, a desire that he can never fulfill while his mother continues to dominate his mind.
Well, those are my thoughts for the day, be sure to like and subscribe!