By Claudia Siefen
Who exactly is looking back at you when you stand in front of a mirror? And could this be the same kind of look when an actor is directed to look straight into the camera?
Psycho (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock is full of those mirroring scenes and is packed with that sort of communication between the actor and the camera. The audience is kept busy to seperate these two ways of looking at … yourself. Robert Bloch, the author of the original novel “Psycho“ (1959), nourished the rumour that he found inspiration for the character Norman Bates in a mutual acquaintance: Calvin Beck was a magazine publisher and editor whose mother rarely left his side and even monitored classes at college with him. His mom continued to check on him, and Beck also beared a passing resemblance to the original Norman Bates Bloch describes in his novel: fat, greasy, with a soft, hesitant voice, “unhealthy looking.”
– “I make you sick, eh? Well, I think not. No, boy. I don’t make you sick. You make yourself sick”.-
So Mary Crane has a lover. And a job. And a headache but also a mission: to take her boss’ 40.000 Dollars to the bank on a friday afternoon… All her family stories running through her head, right into her fingers to grab the wheel of her car real tight. Packing a few things together in a suitcase, thinking of the money and how well their business would run then, their never ending love, living a quiet and normal life then, no money problems of course. Little earthquakes like the policeman, asking her to go for a hotel (talking directly into the camera, wearing sunglasses). Mary Crane keeps thinking and talking to herself (directly into the camera). Leaving town is easy and the road is leading into the night, into the rain and to the “Bates Motel –vacancy.“ Joseph Stefano (The Black Orchid; The Naked Edge) wrote the script and he created a scene of extremely delicate beauty and fear: On her way out of the city, Crane has to stop at a traffic light, she keeps thinking and starring out of the front window, watching people running by, and for a few seconds she is looking directly into her boss’ eyes. He is shocked, too but keeps going, maybe even wondering if that was really her whom he saw in that car (didn’t she claim to suffer from a bad headache and didn’t she want to go to the bank and then nothing but home for some rest?).
-“In the mirror after Mom died, when you went to pieces…”.
Bates Motel: all those people coming here after it all happened. Norman Bates and his mom, she is not easy to handle, you know. What are you supposed to do when you know that your Mom is a killer? You have to protect her. You have to drink from time to time, you will listen to some music (“Bartok’s Concerto for Orchstra“) and you have to bear all those people jumping around in your house, asking you silly questions and not understanding even one thing! It is a pure cineastic heartbeat that Hitchcock casted the dark, handsome and nervous Anthony Perkins to be his Norman Bates. Perkins was known well in the New York gay scene, also for having relationships with much elder women, only to take care of him, his household, and of his cats. He loved that game of allowing them to love him, but not loving them back. Perkins look and smile right into the camera at the end oft he film gives a taste of that possible spell he took those ladies under.
– “If I didn’t love you, do you know where you’d be today?”.