Its Influences and How to Address them


A collegiate Study Seminar

Organised by Reel Minds

At BFI Number 3, on 6& 15 April 2010

11.00 am- 4.00 pm

An Appraisal by Sasha Dee


After initial introduction by Ivan Riches Art-Work, the renowned lecturer on the films from City Lit and BFI John Wischmeyer who has been a scholar of the Hitchcock films and specialised in the analysis of the film “Psycho” gave analysis of the beginning of “Psycho” with illustrations of the beginning of the film and collages made from first and second 1998 version of the same film,

His analysis was erudite. His point was that Hitchcock was setting scenes of the coming events in the film in subtle way. The camera hovered on the Felix City on Friday afternoon.  Eventually it concentrated on one high window in a tower block of flats and entered through it. We see a woman lying on the bed in her white brassier, her twin peaks of breast stiff and then the camera moves to a man standing up by the bed only in his trousers. They talk as the woman gets dressed up and wanted to return to her work keeping her extended lunchtime erotic activity as her lunch.

The scholar lecturer John Wischmeyer explained that the scene though erotic gives the audience that the girl is fated to be doomed.  (We have to take his words for this analysis.  There is no overt suggestion either in words or visual expressions.)

Then camera comes to the place of her work and outside the office Hitchcock standing with his back in his Midwest American hat (this is an established “spot Hitchcock” – a side entertainment for the audience of the Hitchcock films) but according to John Wischmeyer, the wily old Sheriff with sex in his eyes enters into the office exactly a look like Hitchcock.  This shows that Hitchcock’s own unsatisfied sex comes out briefly in this shot.  And the purpose of this shot is just about that little window in the inside of Hitchcock. Question is why?

I wonder if Hitchcock would deliberately use a shot like that to show his inside that could be controversial and departure from his iron-cast script.

Then we are shown the getaway of the heroin driving in her car. The lecturer John Wischmeyer sadly did not mention that the heroin fleeced the safe at the end of her workday of the weekend and ran away, that she was going to be chased by a detective for that act. And this either could be Hitchcock’s laying of red herrings in his crime storytelling.  But audience certainly lose sympathy for her and come to the conclusion that she is a cheap tart and opportunist.

But the lecturer John Wischmeyer concentrates on the scene of her driving in the heavy run and tells us that this is a coming scene of shower scene in which she was going to be killed by the Psycho.

But John Wischmeyer does not know that in many “Noir” films and the crime stories rain is always used to intensify the odds. it is also strange to have rain in the Midwest of America which is a very dry and flat land.  But Hitch might have put it there for intensifying the “noir” side of the story. The heroine is running away with the money.

Further on the lecture insists that Hitchcock wants to tell us that when the film was being made so, was a general culture among the middleclass young American men that they had“Mommified Fixation” about their mothers and “Psycho” is the evil end of it.

This was a low budget film produced by Hitchcock himself, as his proposal for the film was rejected by the big studios because they expected from Hitchcock smooth crime films like his early films.

It is very difficult to accept this point as Hitchcock made his later films in similar tune of his previous films and they did not cause huge stir as “Psycho” did.  All his later films were as successful as his previous films. And often in the trailer films of those films typically Hitchcock appeared and promoted his new adventure in his typical presentation.

In reality there was no big stirring debate  done about Hitchcock’s Socio-Psycho undercurrents or any other currents in his films at all.  Hitchcock made good suspense films and Hitchcock was famous about suspense in the films and certain shocks he gave to keep his audience to sit on the edge of their seats. “Expect the unexpected from Hitchcock” was famous idiom when Hitchcock was alive.

There were never deep debatable points about his films as people often talk about plays of Shakespeare or Bertold Brecht or even the films of Roman Polansky etc or Hitchcock influenced French directors. During this period many serious films were made in Hollywood, In England, In France in Germany in Switzerland and in Japan.

Hitchcock was happy about creating suspense and thriller films. His efforts of making films in few films without suspense and thrill were failures. Before Hitchcock entered into films, he used to write crime and thriller stories. Crime, detectives, thriller, scary stories was a genre started during Victorian times and many writers for fame and money churned out what is called Pulp literature became famous.

Hitchcock’s films were just super thrillers in visual format.

Why look for something that is not there?

What really happened is because of the huge success of  “Psycho” the word “Psycho” went into people’s dictionary that it means a person who is mentally deranged and likely to commit serial slaughtering of innocent people.

In the “Questions & Answers” session John Wischmeyer failed to answer that in his making thriller films though Hitchcock used Freudian material he had no envision and intension of making a film that would create a debate that the “Mommified” American men would become anti-social or danger to the society; that the word “Psycho” would create problems in mental health healing and deepen the ”Stigma” about psychotic disorder in human beings.

John Wischmeyer was too much in love of his erudite analysis of Hitchcock that would go far easy with filmmakers and film study of collegiate and academic classes.

The lecturer showed the collection of shots of films from silent time to present time used as tribute presented Hitchcock’s Psycho in the last Academy Award ceremony.  This collection was enhanced how Hollywood used horror to create horror than discoursing the mental health issues.

Further the theatrical posture the actor “Steven Berek” showing that a person has mother fixation to the extremity that he wanted to fuck her.  The excerpt of the script writer of Psycho telling that he had told Hitchcock that he had strong feelings of killing his father.  However we really cannot pinpoint that these psychotic disorders in people were used by Hitchcock to highlight the mental health issues. Hitchcock was interested in telling the story using many cinematic devices that he mastered over years.

As mention here the name of Actor Steven Berek or Berekoff.  He is a great actor and his aproaches to his acting  are important.  He has written a diary of his acting of Hamlet. Reel Mind should take a note that he is the right person to ask as aguest speaker for their next seminar.

As mentioned before Hitchcock was interested in making a smooth technically and artistically perfect film.  Hitchcock was not interested in making films  for doctors to help deal with mental health persons.

There was mention of Hitchcock’s own problem that he was too ugly and had problem to present himself in the company of women or to women individually or in a group. If so it did not come out much in his films.  He kept his private life aloof from his making films. Like many other people he had problem about his being fatness..  But he as the producer, director and scriptwriter enjoyed fame surpassing to any another director of his time.

All these points do not further the talk about mental health issues in his films.

The short films by amateur groups concerned on mental health were very good to expound the mental health issues.

The film called Anti-stigma made by Clarendon Centre how the stigma dehumanises human life.  This film was marred by stupid inclusion of a cartoon about President Bush unrelated to the subject matter and its seriousness.  But it needed some good discussion.

But many wanted to concentrate morbid points of the famous film “Psycho”.  This often ruined the concentration on the mental health issues.

The seminar continued on 15th April the seminar continued.

The morning started with recapitulations what happened on the 6th April.  Participants were asked to feed back.  Naomi James read the feedbacks. She was from Mind who organised the programme. Main gist of the feedbacks was that the participants felt that there was a need for a creation of an Institute to create short films around thethems of Mental Illness and force to media to create a space toshow them to general people to educate and inform about the state of mental Illness and about stigma and handling of the treatments.

After this discussion some short films were shown.  Various groups made these films.  Some were the sufferers of the various illnesses of mental health.

Comments were asked from the participants on these shorts.  It was pointed that some films were needed to be made for the audiences who could be general people and also those involved in the issues of mental health.

Some films were needed to be made by the patients as the creative therapy.  Some were needed to be made by those people who run the mental health institutes for themselves as well as for the patients and for general people as well.

Towards the end participants were divided into three groups with a brief to discuss the stigma of the mental health and its treatment how film and creative arts could be used to inform, understand and hep to establish normality for the well being of the sufferers of the mental health issues.

In the plenary session each group asked to make the presentation.

Two messages came strongly form these presentations.

There are many horror stories about the way mental well being service treats the patients who are in dire need of help.  On the other side of the coin the servers too have equal stories about the way patients and media have created myths about them. Both views needed to be created in creative films.

Then there was philosophical view about the issues of mental health ethos.

Towards the end participants viewed that so much energy and thoughts have come out of the two days seminar and this should not be shelved or forgotten.  Creative force should be used to further cause of wellbeing and so a group should be formed and meet regularly to create something for on going.

Ivan Riches, Director of 14U DVD and Art-Work conducted the itinerary agenda for both days with great skills and maturity on both days.

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