Analysis Project # 2

Filed under: Analysis Project — emodjsteph at 1:50 am on Friday, December 9, 2011

In thinking of “the male gaze” and representations of gender, I decided to analyze the infamous shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. From the moment we first see Marion in the shower, the camera is the male gaze, objectifying and nearly raping her. She is naked in the shower, vulnerable and weak meanwhile still remaining sexualized. Marion is blissfully unaware of the camera’s, our and the male gaze on her, putting her in an even more vulnerable position. Marion doesn’t consent to being looked at, but the camera doesn’t care, like the unforgiving male gaze can be. More than just having the camera and the audience’s eyes on her, the killer can see Marion but she cannot see him.

In one shot, you can see both Marion and the killer in frame at the same time. They start out roughly the same size but as the camera zooms in on the silhouette of the killer, Marion becomes smaller and the killer becomes larger. This change of scale represents the killer’s physical presence over Marion, who becomes no more than prey to be slaughtered by a predator. Hitchcock uses zooming in here as well as a way to physically guide the audience’s attention where he wants it, taking advantage of the power he has as a director that means we see the story as he chooses to show it to us. The camera is aggressively guiding the audience’s eyes, asserting dominance as if it were a man controlling a woman.

The blurry silhouette of the killer through the shower curtain is a good visual representative of the fact that the audience doesn’t know who it is. As the killer approaches and gets closer, the figure becomes less blurred and when they draw the curtain back, it’s expected that their identity will be discovered. Hitchcock throws the audience for a loop by still concealing the killer’s identity after falsely promising to expose it, seeing as the killer is in shadows and is still just a silhouette. It does hint at the identity, suggesting it is the mother but it continues to remain uncertain. This is a reminder that we only see what Hitchcock allows us to see and we are passive to him, the way Marion is passive to the killer and to everyone’s eyes.

The sudden high pitched dramatic music startles and throws off the audience, just like the killer does to Marion. The controlling relationships between the killer and Marion, the camera and Marion, man and woman, and Hitchcock and the audience are all mirrored in the cluster of techniques in this one scene. The sudden cut to a close up of Marion’s mouth as she is screaming in terror is showing the male’s view on the connection between sex and violence.

When the camera is at a low angle and looking up at the killer, it puts the audience back in Marion’s position – the weak woman looking up at the powerful implied man. This low angle makes the killer seem physically imposing to the audience, making them seem more frightening. The quick jump cuts mimic the stabbing motions of the knife as well as create a frenzied feeling to the scene. The techniques Hitchcock uses all tend to effect the senses, drawing us in physically to the movie.

Shots flash across the screen almost faster than you can really make them out and amongst the shots are some from a high angle, looking down at the whole scene. Marion’s naked body is very briefly visible in quick flashes, seamlessly weaving in a sexual tone to the murder scene. There is one shot of a close up of her stomach and the knife placed awkwardly by her hip. The knife in the shot, as well as metaphorically throughout the whole scene, is a phallic symbol. Like the way a man rapes a woman, the killer is repeatedly thrusting the knife into Marion’s body against her will. Sex and violence is directly paralleled in these rapid jump cuts.

The diagonal direction the water is flowing constantly flips from shot to shot, creating visual tension – another sensual sense Hitchcock uses as a story telling technique. There is so much going on in this scene that it physically feels more tense and frightening than it may look. The way the camera looks at Marion is constantly sexualized, creating a cognitive dissonance over comparing sex to murder.

The scene ends with Marion dying in a terribly unrealistic and dramatic way – slowly, drawn out, frozen and looking beautiful even after having just been stabbed to death. The way Marion slides down the wall slowly, her face looking blank yet beautiful is a very strange way to portray a victim of a violent murder. It is this male gaze that is unable to view the female without sexualizing her that inspires this bizarre death scene.

Scene Analysis: from Umberto D

Filed under: Analysis Project — emodjsteph at 6:50 pm on Thursday, October 13, 2011

Scene analysis: from Umberto D (dir. Vittorio de Sica, 1952)

16 shots from the scene on the street when Umberto attempts to overcome his pride by begging for money before running into his friend

Shot 1

–       MS

–       Camera is straight on and pans to follow Umberto walking Flike, stopping when they reach the end of the short, curved wall

–       People are walking down the street, all in the opposite direction of Umberto. When Umberto stops, he is in front of strong, vertical columns that run along an angled line to a vanishing point off to the right, in frame. There are no more people in frame at this point

–       Natural lighting makes it look about mid-day

–       Non diegetic music (plays throughout the scene) emphasizes his internal conflict over resorting to begging for money

–       Long take

–       Strong, large column overpower Umberto’s figure

–       Camera slowly zooms in for a tighter shot of Umberto

–       We see Umberto’s dilemma about begging in the actor’s face and hand motions

–       Straight cut to a reverse shot


Shot 2

–       CU

–       Camera is straight on

–       Short take

–       Street visible in background – store fronts, people walking

–       Umberto’s figure takes up almost the whole right half of the shot

–       A man walks along the same short wall towards the camera. At the last second, Umberto extends his hand to him. The man walks around him, crossing between Umberto and the camera, leading into the transition

–       Straight cut to reverse shot

Shot 3

–       MS

–       Camera straight on – similar to the end of shot 1 with columns and vanishing point

–       Man pulls out money and hands it to Umberto, but he turns his hand over at the last second to reject it. Umberto looks away, up at the left hand top corner of the frame, diagonally away from the man’s face

–       The man walks away along the line, towards the vanishing point until he walks out of frame, leaving Umberto alone again in front of the columns

–       Shot take

–       Straight cut

Shot 4

–       Same camera work as shot 2

–       People still walking down the street behind Umberto as he continues to struggle with himself

–       Short take

–       Straight cut

Shot 5

–       Same as shot 3

–       Camera pans down as Umberto bends down to give Flike his hat

–       Short take

–       Straight cut

Shot 6

–       LS

–       Row of columns no longer in the back. Now the columns take up more than half of the frame and the rushed perspective makes the closest column much larger than the furthest

–       Umberto bending down to put the hat in Flike’s mouth makes him even smaller in front of the large columns

–       More people in the street in the background – the world moving on around him

–       Deep depth of field emphasizes how small Umberto looks hiding behind a column

–       Everything in this shot is moving except for the columns and Flike (people, cars, Umberto are all moving)

–       A man walks across frame from left to right, cutting in front of the camera

–       The depth of field makes all the people in the shot look very small

–       Straight cut

Shot 7

–       CU

–       Strong, vertical lines, both columns and Umberto standing upright

–       Umberto is hiding and looking out onto the street to watch Flike and the people walking down the street

–       Umberto is just left of center of the frame – asymmetrical

–       Camera is straight on

–       The concrete and chipping texture of the column is clearly visible

–       Straight cut

Shot 8

–       CU

–       Camera – low angle

–       Close up on Flike begging and looking back at Umberto

–       Wall is taller than Flike and the man walking across the background is the same size as Flike’s figure

–       More shallow depth of field – Flike and the wall are in focus whereas the street and people in the background are not

–       Straight cut

Shot 9

–       Same as shot 7

–       Umberto tells Flike to be still – first diegetic sound of the scene and the non diegetic music is still playing

–       Straight cut

Shot 10

–       Same as shot 8

–       Film quality doesn’t look as high as in shot 8

–       Flike is still begging

–       Straight cut

Shot 11

–       Same as shots 7 & 9

–       Umberto pretends to be reading, presumably having spotted someone off screen that is looking at him and/or Flike

–       Film quality is similar to shot 10

–       Straight cut

Shot 12

–       Same as shot 6

–       3 men walk up the street, along the right edge of the frame and across, in front of the camera again like the man in shot 6 except they go from right to left

–       None of the men give Flike money

–       Straight cut

Shot 13

–       Same as shots 7, 9 & 11

–       Straight cut

Shot 14

–       MS

–       Camera above the curved wall – wall takes up the bottom of the frame

–       View of further up along the same street

–       Cars are driving down the street, people walking, shops in the background

–       Umberto’s friend walks along the curved wall, towards the camera

–       Straight cut

Shot 15

–       Same as shots 7, 9, 11 & 13

–       Umberto recognizes his friend, puts away his handkerchief and comes out from behind the column, ending his attempt at begging for money

–       Straight cut

Shot 16

–       Same as shots 6 & 12

–       Commendatore stops to ask Flike what he’s doing there and Umberto rushes over to greet him, ready to pretend he hadn’t put Flike up to his begging

–       Umberto goes from being very small next to the column to being a normal size again next to the other man

The main stylistic decision that stands out the most to me is the long shot following a character’s movements with no dialogue, much like the first shot in this analysis that was nearly 45 seconds long. This neorealist technique is an effective way to connect the viewer to the character in more than one way. A long, continuous shot feels more like observing life in real time and with the lack of dialogue, the viewer is then left with little to focus on other than the character themselves.

The disconnection between Umberto and everyone else shown in this scene is also reoccurring throughout the film in similar ways. People walking around the street quicker, in different directions than Umberto and riding in vehicles are all used repeatedly to reinforce the idea that Umberto is disjointed from everyone. Similarly, height differences are used in this scene and at other times in the movie to show the difference in power between Umberto (who has no money and thus no power) and others, such as right after this scene when Umberto is standing on the street and the Commendatore in on the bus, leaning out of the window to look and reach down to Umberto. Texture is also used in this scene as well as other places in the movie to show the various stages of decay and deterioration that both Umberto’s life and the country of Italy is going through at the time. The columns are very textured, especially in the close up shots when he is hiding behind one, you can really see the texture. The columns are in good shape but in the beginning stages of chipping away and fading, whereas the landlady’s renovations of the building is a clearer and ongoing symbolism.

Some of these are techniques are subtle, but in scenes like this – which there are plenty of – it makes sense that the filmmakers would make this choice. It forces the viewer to look harder and analyze more of what’s in the frame to put together more pieces of the puzzle, like one does in real life. This connection between film and real life, trying to have film emulate real life rather than fantasize it, is what makes these technique choices make sense.



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