This is one of my favourite scenes amoung Hitchcock’s films and a big influence on my own work (see ‘Waterloo Sunset’ project). So have written a short study of the scene. This study might be extended to form part of my essay about Split Screen Cinema and screens within screens, in which case I will start to consider the relationship between the windscreen of Marion’s car and the Cinema screen.
The Scene which leads Marion into the Bates motel, uses montage to represent Marion’s passage through time and space, while as viewers we simultaneously travel through Marion’s metal state. Point of view shots depicting Marion driving motorways are intercut with close ups of Marion’s face, while through the sound track we hear an imaginary testimony from several male authority figures, starting with a traffic cop and a used car sales man that Marion has encountered on her travels and finally Marion’s employer and his business associate from which Marion has stolen 40,000 dollars. These voices in Marion’s head expose both Marion’s paranoid mental state and also give us some background information on her position. The sound montage and Marion’s journey concludes with a darker more violent remark from Mr Cassady( the sleazy businessman who’s deposit Marion has stolen) ‘Well I ain’t about to kiss of 40,000 dollars I’ll get it back and if any of it’s missing I’ll replace it with her fine, soft flesh’.
It has turned from day to night, it is pouring with rain and there is little visibility through the windscreen, we just see the lights of oncoming traffic and the poor driving conditions force Marion of the main road, she pulls into the Bates Motel. Thus Marion stops driving and becomes passive and submissive to her environment.
It is important to remember that these voices are presented as Marion’s imagining of the kind of thing these people might be saying about her, rather than as being words actually spoken; the sound montage exists inside Marion’s head, and we as audience are then provided information about a dimension both belonging to and removed and isolated from the overall reality presented by the films narrative.
A kind of alternative reality thus emerges that occupies a privileged space between the occurrences of the film, our engagement with the character of Marion and our unique position as passive spectators.
This last remark differs from the rest of the voices we have heard which were incidental and matter of fact in their tone, the fierce weather and the aggressive rush of oncoming traffic function as a kind of impressionistic landscape communicating Marion’s psychological disquiet while the functional screen of the Cinema and Marion’s car, begin to lose their illustrative qualities and start to take on a more expressionist charechter.
What is interesting about the remark from Mr Cassady is that it makes most explicit the connection between Money, Power, Violence, and Sex, and how these are the real factors which constitute the motivational, ‘driving’ complexes of our Character and are simultaneously the themes which keep us engaged as viewers and are thus fueling the journey upon which we are collectively embarked.
Thus during this scene the being of Marion dissolves into the greater cosmos of our viewing experience, as the entity of Marion becomes forced of the road by the weather, she in turn becomes over- powered by her unconscious; both Marion’s journey and our journey through this narrative suddenly become overpowered; overpowered by elements beyond our control, the forces of the world become explicit and Nature, Money, Sex, Gender all emerge from this scene and force us of the road of civilization into a scary, irrational, nightmare, primordial world, The Bates Motel. The montage illustrating a mechanized, passage of time and movement thus malfunctions, we are then suspended, though time has not stopped, it has in fact caught up with us, we are no longer in transit through time, we are firmly attached to it, ruled or governed by it once again, and so as the forces of nature overpower our mechanical, empirical assertion over it we become suspended, impotent and passive.