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Devbir Dhaliwal

The different depictions of Norman Bates

Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho is a paradigm into the human mind and how it can establish
different roles within itself. Psycho as a film excites, surprises, enthralls and compels
you. It makes sure that you only use the front 10% of your seat to sit. With fast cuts, low
shots and a stirring score, this film is a tablet in visual literacy. Robert Blochs Psycho is
a violent portal into the minds of people who arent as innocent as they look. Its a
rousing novel, which sees you empathize with a thief and then a murderer. With chilling
italic sentences and sudden plot changes, this novel grips and holds on to you through the
various twists and turns that is Psycho.

How Norman Bates transforms from a pudgy 40 year old to a preppy 25 year old is really
a very critical point. Robert Blochs Norman Bates seems completely shut off from
reality, with a penchant for novels and great love for stuffing all kinds of animals, he
gives off a friendly giant vibe to the outside world, via Mary Crane we notice that hes
afraid to touch her.

From the beginning of Hitchcocks Psycho, the relationship between Marion and Sam, as
the camera is entering the hotel room, seems sordid and meaningless but as we start to get
to know the characters better we get to know the actual helpless situation occurring with
Marion and the cash strapped Sam. This is an example of the way Hitchcock tricks the
audience and grips us. While in the book, our sympathy for Mary starts from the
beginning of chapter 2, with her doubting her actions and continuing through the point till
we realize her actual reasons for the theft. We see a woman filling in the shoes of a man,
symbolizing the 1960s, and the modern woman.

Robert Blochs version of Norman Bates is more vile, indecent and ugly. We see him as
an alcoholic, who needs a bottle to ease the pain of his many shortcomings, like his
impotence. Hes a character who is always in immediate dialogue with himself and his
mother. Always in a constant battle between what will his mother think and the
repercussions of his decisions and then on the aftermath theres guilt, which causes the

killer Bates to come out. This is seen enroute to Marys death, when he repents calling
her over for dinner and then repents screaming at her and then becomes utterly fixated
with her, right before Mother comes to keep him in check. Blochs Norman is different
largely in this aspect, as he must me inebriated to bring out the Mrs. Bates characteristic.

Bloch wanted to create a character which was very 3 dimensional but also similar to Ed
Geins. Bloch may have written a darker novel than the Stefano screenplay but in terms of
his main character, he put far lighter shades. His Norman is highly stimulated by
spiritualism, the supernatural and porn but Geins was more stimulated by human bones,
fingernails, nipples, etc. to make objects such as belts, leggings, lampshades, etc. Bloch
knew the reader would anyways be captivated because what the reader would be reading
would be somewhat true, cue the horror.

Bloch also increases the intensity of Norman and Mothers relationship. He drops subtle
hints of an incestuous relationship between them. This is exemplified when Mother
criticizes Norman for bringing up the Oedipus complex, which in turn leads to her
criticizing him for being obscene and then criticizing his interests in Psychology

Hitchcocks Norman Bates on the other hand seems like a normal guy to look at. He
appears to be harmless and very well mannered. I believe Hitchcock changed the
characters physical identity for the reason that film is a mixture of empathy and idealism
and for the audience to connect with Norman Bates, he wanted to break the mold by
putting a young neat and tidy man and show the audience that there can be a Norman
anywhere around them. With appetizing looks and a slight offbeatness Anthony Perkins
carries us through the darkness in Psycho. He has a certain awkwardness in his demeanor
and displays a false naivet. We see this in full form, when Arbogast comes to Bates
Motel to ask Norman a couple of questions; here as the conversation goes on we can see
in the medium two shot. Here we see Perkins start to become a little undone. The impulse
of this scene compels us and tells us that Arbogast is on to something because theres a
very strange shot where Arbogast points up a name in the register and Perkins has to lean
over to see the name and Hitchcock doesnt cut over the shoulder down nor does he cut to
angle looking up at Perkins but he angles the camera in such a way that we look at
Perkins trying to move his neck and the camera becomes fixated with his chin, bringing
about a real sense of unease and tension
Hitchcocks Norman Bates differs mainly because of Hitchcock himself, through visual
and aural patterns; we see subtle hints Hitchcock leaves behind for the viewer which if
interpreted gives rise to Hitchcocks Norman Bates.

This first one is seen after Marion has checked into the motel and has been invited to dine
with Norman. In this perfectly crafted I level medium shot, subtle foreshadowing is
present where Norman Bates reflection is seen from the window. This ties into the plot
twist at the end, where it is revealed Norman has dissociative identity disorder. This is
also where the character undergoes a mental metamorphosis in which he is himself and
his deceased mother creating an imaginary alter ego in contrast to this fragile and
innocent hotel manager. This reflection foreshadows the split personality of Norman
Bates, we can also apply the four quadrants if we divide the top half with Norman and
Marion conversing, as well as Normans reflection in the bottom half which shows
Norman offering a tray filled with milk and sandwiches he made for her. This embraces a
sign of his caring and kindness as a first impression, which allows the audience to relax.
Also in this sequence instead of using the formulaic reverse shot we can only see half of
Norman Bates again this represents the one side of Norman we are familiar with, the
sweet and innocent motel manager

The second one is seen when Norman has just invited Marion into his office, this medium
shot of Norman is on a slightly lower angle to give the character a menacing distance,
which ultimately gives him that sense of power this is reinforced by the Owl in the top
left corner, in a predatory stand staring directly into the camera, as well as the gloomy
shadow cast across Norman's face. The lighting is focused on the Owl and covers half of
Normans face, this creates a sense of uncertainty and mystery. This makes him, as a
character, rather difficult to read and his intentions and motivation remain unknown. This
strictly follows the rule of thirds, so we know what objects are to be focused on
(Normans face and the stuffed owl), again if we apply the four quadrants each little
quadrant tells a story. In the top left we have the Owl, which helps portray the character
of Norman. In the top right, we obviously have our character and another stuffed bird
hiding in the shadows in the background. In the bottom left we have a painting of a naked
woman with voyeurism as a reoccurring theme in the film. This painting mirrors
Normans sexual conflict, he dresses up as his mother as well as spys through a peephole
when Marion is getting changed for a shower. In this last quadrant we have Normans
abdomen and a little bit of the second painting which again is a famous artwork of a
naked woman getting burned to death, another edition that emphasizes voyeurism
through symbol codes

The third one is seen in an iconic shot that takes place around the 30-minute mark, which
divides the first act from the falling action, essentially the climatic point in which we see
Norman murdering his first victim dressed as his mother. This medium close up provides
by the rule of thirds, a technique or guideline that helps make the shot feel neater and
visually appealing. Keeping the knife and head in one line and shoulder line in the bottom
half, Norman's identity is kept hidden and shown as a silhouette to avoid the viewer from
discovering the twist at the end too soon. This is executed with an iridescent light in the
background, if the light was to be behind us like a normal set Norman's face would be
revealed. This shadow effect creates some ambiguity and as an audience we are curious
to see what we do not see. Imagination is far stronger and more powerful than any image
we are exposed to, so we automatically associate this character as Norman's mother hence
the look and dress, but we still remain unsure. This silhouette action is also a common
sign used various horror films. The door in the background is a device used to create the
illusion of a three-dimensional scene our subject seems closer to the camera in contrast to
the door which is wide open in the background. The closer he looks and feels to the
audience, the more frightening he appears. He also menacingly holds a knife in an
attacking position, which suggests an obvious act of violence. We feel a sense of danger
and assume conflict for our presumed protagonist, who we expect to be murdered; this is
all translated through visual codes

The fourth one is seen in the shot directly after Norman discovers Mary's dead body. Hes
shocked and not aware of his actions. At this point he has returned to his normal self and
believes the murder is an action of a third party, in this case his mother. In the
background a small bird is framed in the center right of this shot, which tries to illustrate
a symbol of innocence. I know this because the birds are used as a motif throughout the
film as a metaphor for how the characters feel it should be viewed, for example, as I
previously mentioned the bigger and larger birds such as the Owl which were present
usually when Norman was portrayed as the potential antagonist and while Marion sat on
the opposite end there were smaller more vulnerable birds which represents Marion's
position of innocence and vulnerability. Hes the predator and she's the prey but from
what we've gathered Norman was the character in fear in this shot. The birds sign has
changed; this helps the audience to adjust to the fact that Norman is no longer a suspect,
which puts us at ease. It also helps make the twist that much more powerful and
shocking. We are now introduced to a potential new antagonist Mrs. Bates this adds
mystery to the narrative and keeps us invested in the story. With the protagonist killed so
early during the film we're curious as to what will happen next.
The last image is the transition between the second last and final shot of Norman in the
prison cell and to the car being dragged out of the swamp. A very clever transition which
is accomplished through a three layered shot all faded into one, except the second-closest

shot from us is Normans mother's corpse in perfect alignment with Norman's face. This
symbolizes his complete transformation into his mother and also gives a daunting and
impacting last impression on Norman as a character. This shot is subtle, horrifying and a
disturbing image, therefore an effective tool that supports the horror general convention.
The close-up of Norman staring into the camera breaking the fourth wall deeply unsettles
us with his unknown intentions and thus we see the psychopath.

Psycho and Norman Bates will always be an important work in literature and cinema and
an important character in literature and cinema respectively. The Norman who wore black
cardigans and lived humbly will always be adjacent to the Norman who loved the Incas
and had a deep desire for metaphysics. For in the end, any Norman Bates will always be
one of the prime candidates for the zaniest villain of all time