Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 thriller Psycho is an excellent example of 'pure cinema' - a plethora of filmic techniques are used to great aplomb to elicit feelings of terror and unease in the audience, creating a film that chills to the bone. According to Wilshire, "The essence of Psycho is the way in which Hitchcock brilliantly uses filmic techniques to manipulate the viewer's emotions and expectations (pp. 131-132). This is most certainly true in the film's most iconic scenes, which include Marion Crane's (Vivian Leigh) murder in the shower and Norman Bates' (Anthony Perkins) contemplation in the final shot, but several other sequences demonstrate Hitchcock's propensity for creating pure cinema - these include the murder of Arbogast (Martin Balsam) and Marion's initial escape in her car.
The scene where Marion drives away after stealing $40,000, trying anxiously to escape, elegantly displays Marion's psychological state and the tension of the situation. The scene itself merely intercuts between a pair of shots - one is the point of view of the car driving down the road, while the other is a medium shot of Marion, driving down the road, while the road stretches behind her. The camera looks straight at Marion, almost accusingly, as Hitchcock allows us to see her face, frozen in fear. We see her hands shift nervously on the steering wheel, while we hear in voiceover (and presumably in Marion's head) the conversation between her boss and his other secretary about where she could possibly be.
As the inner monologue continues, as the camera keeps cutting back to the road (which grows darker), Hitchcock centers some key lighting on Marion's face, obscuring everything else and leaving it in the dark, also pushing the camera even further in on her face as the storm rages and she grows more and more unsure of her driving. Here, the director is simply and effectively placing us inside Marion's head, as we comprehend exactly how paranoid she is of getting caught, and how these actions will affect her day to day life. Bernard Hermann's string-heavy score also screeches imposingly over her face, helping to sell her distress. This scene is a chilling way of showing how the art of pure cinema can help to sell the complexities of a simple setup.
Another scene that shows Hitchcock's ability to chill through cinematic technique is when private detective Arbogast (Martin Balsam) meets his fate at the hands of mother. From the moment he enters the Bates house, it is empty - the camera cuts to all of the areas of the house Arbogast checks. Climbing the stairs, Hitchcock shows a closeup of his feet starting the climb, foreshadowing the danger of falling down them. The mother's true identity as Norman is obscured by never showing the mother's face; first, we see an imposing shot of light shining through the crack in the door Norman opens. Then, we see a chilling top down shot as Norman rushes toward Arbogast and slashes him. The point of contact isn't shown, but the horrific effect is achieved by quick-cutting to a terrified Arbogast's face, which has a red slice in it. The camera lingers on his face as he falls down the stairs in an almost inhuman way, staring at us in terror as we see the floor rush toward us in the background. This scene is absolutely terrifying, as the mixture of stillness and movement creates a disturbingly elegant depiction of Norman Bates' latest murder.
Hitchcock, A. (dir.) (1960). Psycho. Perf. Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin. Paramount Pictures.
Wilshire, P. (2009). The art of pure cinema. Screen Education 54: 131.