Study Guide

Psycho Point of View

Point of View

No More Marion

Psycho's narrative is famously shocking. Hitchcock uses the typical point of view conventions of classic Hollywood to make you scream and shout and throw up both your hands

Like Marion… but with less blood, hopefully.

The film follows the story, and the perspective, of the main character, Marion Crane, played by big Hollywood star Janet Leigh.

You start off with her during her afternoon tryst with her boyfriend Sam. Then you follow her as she steals from her employer and skips town. You watch her uncertainty and guilt. You meet new people when she meets them. When she moves on, those other people (like the highway cop) drop away.

And then, halfway through, Norman Bates… murders her. No more Marion point of view. You get a last close-up of her dead eye, a kind of unblinking wink, letting you know you won't see Marion's perspective any more.

Norman? Arbogast? Help?

So who becomes the point of view character after Marion dies? At first Norman does; you see him clean up the body and sink Marion in the swamp. But then you switch again, to the detective Arbogast. For a bit it seems like Arbogast will be the heroic point of view character who solves the case—but then, whoops, he gets killed too.

Then you switch to Lila and Sam investigating. They manage to make it to the end of the film alive—but not really as the main characters. The final bit of the movie is the psychiatrist taking center stage, ordering all the events. And then his logical, rational point of view is replaced by the last sequence of Norman, thinking in his mother's voice, and his chilling smile.

Marion's point of view is never exactly replaced by another controlling point of view. Instead, her death results in a contending garble of perspectives, none of which manage to dominate. As in Norman's head, no one person is in control.

Psycho is unsettling in part because it upends the Hollywood conventions. The hero doesn't control the narrative. No one takes Marion's place—which is perhaps why the last image is of her car, with her corpse, being pulled from the swamp.

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