Hitchcock’s Psycho: In Defence of Exposition

Psycho - Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the best-known directors in the film industry and has helped shift the perception of cinema for the numerous decades that he was working. Out of his entire filmography, the film that is perhaps his most famous work is Psycho. Known for revolutionising filmmaking both in front of and behind the cameras, Hitchcock took risks with this film and made something that is still beloved to this day.

Despite that, there are people who critique Psycho’s use of exposition in the final scene of the film. The final scene takes place at the police station, in which a psychiatrist explains that Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins) recreated his dead mother in his own mind as an alternate personality, and it was that personality that became jealous and murdered Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) at the Bates Motel. Whilst many people deem this exposition scene to be unnecessary, I am going to make a case that not only is it necessary, but is a satisfactory ending to this film.

In terms of Psycho’s structure, it is easy to be wrapped up in the shocking twist that occurs in the first third of the film. As audience members, we are led to believe that Marion is the leading character of this story. That is until she is killed early on by Norman. From there, it becomes a crime story and one that is primarily told from the perspective of the killer, even if we don’t know that from a first-time watch. However, this still follows the structure of a standard crime film.

After the crime is committed in the first act of the film, the second act follows the police as they investigate the suspects. This is clearly structured as Marion’s sister, Lila (played by Vera Miles) becomes worried about her sister’s disappearance and calls a private investigator to find out where she is.

The final act of most crime films is about the resolution, finding out the result and getting justice for it. Many times, an explanation from the professional to the stressed family is part of the process of getting justice for the family, and that is what happens here.

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