Instead of taking the usual biography film approach and trying to cram a person’s personality, relationships and life into a 2 hour film – which let’s face it, isn’t possible – this film focuses instead on an important and emotionally intense slice of Alfred Hitchcock’s life. The part during which he wrote and directed Psycho. It’s a great idea, because really you get to know a person best from what they do and how they react in a situation, especially a stressful one. Aside from that, there is also the more conventional movie narrative to add interest and tension.
This was a time of Hitchcock’s career when he had been criticised for playing it safe and for not being as bold or inventive as he was in his early films. Psycho was Hitchcock’s response and was a shocking film for the time. You know this when the censor vetoes a scene of a flushing toilet, reasoning that: “No film shown in the United States has or will ever show a toilet”. You can only imagine then what the response might be to a transvestite killer with mother issues who attacks women in the shower with a machete…
The Hitchcock of this film (played ably by Anthony Hopkins) is a complicated character, one who fantasises about and becomes overly attached to his blonde heroines (he cast a string of them in his films). His relationship with his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) is close and essential, since she is also a vital part of his writing team. However this marriage is on shaky ground as Alma is becoming closer to her friend and writer – Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). To add to his woes no film studios have any faith in Psycho, and Alfred can only get it made by mortgaging his home to raise the funds.
Overall Hitchcock is a very good film, it’s engaging with emotionally complex characters. Even though most people will already know that Psycho was a success, it’s still interesting to find out about the story behind it, and how the actors were cast. For example Anthony Perkins was apparently cast as the killer Norman Bates because he was secretly gay, and therefore was always hiding (in his mind at least) what was a deep dark secret.
Interesting, engaging and well worth watching 7/10