Assignment 2: Formal Analysis

In Hollywood, male’s role as a controlling protagonist has not been changing a lot until present-day. With the uses of formal film techniques, filmmakers influenced on people’s perceptions of male/female character. Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze explicates the tendency of reinforcing the male perspective in those cinema works. Elements of cinema such as light, camera placement and costume supports the idea that men play the roles as spectators who are dominant in situations and women are there to be spectacles.

Out of all film directors who demonstrated the male gaze in their pieces, director Alfred Hitchcock’s use of voyeurism as a theme in his piece, “Pshycho”(1960) is absolutely exotic to everyone. His outstanding uses of the camera angle, soundtrack, and very sophisticated editing process, they all contribute to complete his masterpieces. However, the scene that is most captivating as the part of studying the male gaze is in Psycho, where the host of the motel, Norman watches Marion through the peephole on the wall.

After saying goodnight to each other, Norman comes into his room where all the bird figures are hanging on the top of the room. As soon as he shuts the door, it seems like the room is the world that makes him strong when he is there by himself. Norman comes close and stands right next to the wall that is between his room and Marion’s room and looks down on the floor for few seconds and looks around him as if he is checking if anything is wrong. Norman and a bird figure with its wings spread are shot in the low angle, and low-key lighting. In next shot, the audiences see something odd. As he takes away a picture frame from the wall, there is a peephole that he could see Marion’s room. With the light comes from the other room, Norman gets his eyes closer to the peephole and the camera alternates between what he sees on the other room and his very closed-up one eye with the hole. Unaware of being watched, Marion takes off her cloths and gets ready to take a shower. Few seconds later, Norman puts back the picture frame and looks towards where his house (his mom) is, and then goes outside with fast paces. He stops for a moment in front of the office, but after looking towards his house again, he starts to walk fast with determined expression on his face.

Marion is more independent female character than Norman who is rather timid. However, as the one who looks, Norman is gazing Marion at somewhere she cannot see him. According to Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema”, as a passive spectacle, Marion has not given any options for this situation but just to be looked-at. Yes, she is depicted as someone who is troublesome and needs to be watched. Her costume perhaps helps to emphasize her as an erotic object, too. She is not wearing an office-look outfit and organizing her stuff, but wearing her underwear, getting ready to take a shower in a bright room when Norman is gazing her through the peephole in a dark room. Norman has been a voyeur, but he also acts as a dominant power at the same time.

This idea of the male gaze has been in the deep side of the most of film works. This scene from Psycho is one of the well-made scenes in director Hitchcock’s pieces that presented the literal voyeurism. The closed up technique that allows the audiences to observe Norman’s little movement of his eye, the camera placement and light that shows clear position of prominence between the spectator and spectacle, and even the costume that Marion wears, these formal techniques and elements of cinema influenced people’s perceptions about gender on screen.

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One thought on “Assignment 2: Formal Analysis

  1. I’ve seen such a dramatic improvement in your work this semester– while there are still some hiccups with grammar and language usage, it’s clear how much work you put into your writing here. Your argument is well organized, and really engages with the central question. What I especially like, and what I haven’t seen in any of the other analyses of this scene, is the transformation you observe in Norman when he is alone in his room, seeming suddenly much darker and more confident. And Marion becomes far weaker, by sheer virtue of being watched in secret. Fantastic!

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