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How Psycho manipulates audiences’ sympathies and expectations


Alfred Hitchcock was a master of suspense and storytelling. But what many casual fans may overlook is his ability to toy with audiences simply using shot composition and mise en scène to engender sympathy, wariness, and ultimately shock when the reversal comes and audiences are enthralled by the turn. The master filmmaker brilliantly used body language and screen space to subliminally tell audiences who they should be rooting for and who is the real threat.

In the latest video from Julian Palmer, a.k.a. YouTube channel The Discarded Image, uses Psycho to display Hitchcock’s panache at building tension and allegiances between audiences and characters on the screen. Palmer uses several examples of how the pacing and blocking in the film brings in viewers and tricks them into trusting one character before revealing that to be misguided when things start to go awry at the Bates Motel. Of course, there are lots of other elements at play, since even going shot-for-shot doesn’t result in the same effectiveness of a film.

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