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Friday, 17 December 2010

Definition of Suspense

The famous Psycho scene - in a whole new light.
Suspense is what is created when an audience is uncertain of what is going to happen next, creating a feeling of tension. This can be conveyed through various ways in a film, for example, use of tense music, dramatic irony (when the audience knows more than the characters themselves), and so on. This all together provides a thrilling experience for the viewer, keeping them on the edge of their seat, but more importantly, wanting to watch the rest of the film to see the outcome.

A prime example is the bathroom scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, where the whole film is built around this pivotal scene. We see the main character, Marion, taking a shower. Everything is normal until we see the movements of a shadow beyond the shower curtain. Instantly we are unsettled by what we see, but even more so when the curtain is pulled back and the slashing begins against the distinctive string soundtrack. The use of 77 different camera angles featuring a majority of close-up shots leaves little to the imagination. The tension was built towards this scene through the character's stealing of money, leading the audience to question what's next and if she'll get away with it. The audience at the time would have had no idea of the slaughter that was to come right until the very moment (of course most of us already knew of Marion's untimely demise because of how iconic the scene has become in cinema), throwing the audience off-guard by the sudden events, and leading to new questions - who killed Marion, and will they find the money?

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