The master of suspense details his strategy in Psycho.
Alfred Hitchcock was one of the first directors who could sell a movie just based on his name alone. Movie studios around the town had all turned down the rights to adapt Psycho because the book was so salacious and disturbing. Hitchcock saw that as a challenge and took it on, revolutionizing the way we watch movies today upon its release.
If you've seen the movie recently, you see that it still holds up.
So how did Hitchcock do it? And what was his theory behind it? Check out this video of him being interviewed by Dick Cavett, and let's talk after the jump.
Watch Hitchcock Explain How He Shot the Shower Scene in Psycho
I could listen to Hitchcock talk all day. He's not only the master of suspense, but he's also manipulating and joking with the audience here. Letting us hang on his every word. And his words matter, since he's talking about crafting one of the greatest horror sequences of all time.
The movie Psycho capitalizes on one very specific thing—it makes us terrified of what we think we've seen. Whether that's a murderous old lady who turns out to be a man in drag, or the illusion of someone being stabbed, which is actually 78 shots in 45 seconds, none of which have any blood, penetration, or nudity within it. The fear is from violence in your head.
To make the shower scene so powerful, Hitch utilized some creative close-up shots. He shot parts of the body and the blade and threw them together because he knew we would picture ourselves being stabbed and knew how visceral that would be.
But that tracks in Hitchcock's overall cinematography theory. He hates when directors put the camera somewhere humans cannot be—like in the fireplace, or from a perspective that feels foreign, or out of focus so that the sets don't matter.
His advice to young filmmakers? Always focus on the audience and their perspective. Take into account the human perspective over just a shot you think looks cool. The audience wants to be directed. It's in the director's title after all, and to do that well, you need to see the movie and the world through their eyes. Don't get fancy for fancy's sake.
Put the camera in places that allow the audience to feel part of the story and become absorbed in the world. Then let your plot points pay off as you take them through the wringer.
What was your favorite part of this interview? Let us know in the comments.