In "the shower scene" in the movie Psycho, what style of editing, shots, and visual transitions are used?

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The murder scene of Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) in the shower in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is a sequence of storytelling that changed modern cinema. It took an entire week to film, 78 camera set ups were used, and, in the end, 52 cuts between shots.

Hitchcock makes extensive...

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The murder scene of Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) in the shower in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is a sequence of storytelling that changed modern cinema. It took an entire week to film, 78 camera set ups were used, and, in the end, 52 cuts between shots.

Hitchcock makes extensive use of jump cuts and 180 degree shifts in viewpoint from shot to shot. This creates a dizzying effect as we watch. The editors actually remove 4 or 5 frames of film in the middle of shots to disorient us even further, to create a sense of disconnection as we watch. There is a shot of Janet Leigh's hand reaching out, followed by a jump cut to her up against the shower wall. Several frames were removed in the middle of this shot to create a visual transition that makes it feel as though Leigh just slammed up against the tile shower wall.

Most the scene's shots are close-ups of very short duration. This creates an aura of subjective menace and terror. As Hitchcock stated:

As you know, you could not take the camera and just show a nude woman, it had to be done impressionistically. So, it was done with little pieces of film, the head, the feet, the hand, etc.

As the scene begins, we see several different shots of the shower head as it emits water. We see it from the side, like an insect, we see it from below, like an enormous eye looking down on us, and we see it from its own point of view, spraying water downward. For Marion, who has just decided to return the money she has stolen and get out of a bad situation, this shower begins as a tranquil and cleansing moment; but these multiple shots of the shower head, and of her washing herself, create exactly the opposite feeling—we sense dread, as something very bad is about to happen.

There was a censor code at the time that forbade certain visuals. The image of a knife point entering a body was forbidden, yet it appears this happens for a moment in the scene as Leigh is stabbed. This is cinematic sleight of hand, an illusion -- in this shot, a bit of fake blood is put on the tip of the knife, the knife is placed near the belly button, and the scene is shot—in reverse. When quickly played forward, there is an illusion of a cut happening. We see what we expect to see, given the scene's horrific context, and this is exactly what Hitchcock has intended.

The blood that we see going down the drain is watered down chocolate syrup (the film is, of course, originally shot in black and white). The final unsettling bridging shot in the scene is done slowly and hypnotically. We watch the bloody water washing down the drain. Janet Leigh's open dead eye appears, in the middle of the swirling drain water, the camera spiraling out until we see her face on the tile floor. There is a tiny tear in the corner of one of her eyes. It is a shocking visual image, heartbreaking and terrifying.

Hitchcock used storyboards to plan virtually every shot in every scene in every movie he made. As he famously stated, by the time they began shooting, the actual production of a film was relatively boring because, in his mind, the movie had already been made in the storyboards. The shower sequence was certainly storyboarded before it was shot, but the editing and the complexity, in style and content, made it one of the most taxing scenes Hitchcock would ever create or present to audiences.

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One of the most famous scenes in cinematic history, the shower scene is a work of cinematic art, which in some ways symbolizes the previous thoughts and activities of Janet Leigh's character in Psycho, Marion Crane.   For instance, prior to getting into the shower, Marion has decided that like Norman Bates, she, too, is trapped by her criminal act of embezzlement.  So, she makes notes on how she can repay what she has already spent and resolves to return the money the next day.  With this resolve, she flushes her notes in the toilet and goes to the bathroom to shower and cleanse herself.  The shower scene, of course, is pivotal to the horror of the film.  The scene was shot from 77 different angles, and the staccato close-ups are unnerving and considered more "subjective" than if they had been images presented separately or with a wider angled shot.

At the beginning of the scene and at the end, the shower head is shot from a long lens camera.  With the first shot, the water rushing from the shower head seems to connote Marion's fresh resolve to return the money and cleanse her life of crime.  After she is slain, the shot of the pouring shower head suggests the literal pouring of her blood down the drain and the washing away of her plans. The close up shot of her eye suggests her realization of this end.

Regarding the film editing, framed shots are used and are assembled in a staccato pattern to make the death scene.  Sound and shadows act as transitions between the montage of visual scenes. 

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