MovieChat Forums > Psycho (1960) Discussion > With the psychiatrist's explanation and ...

With the psychiatrist's explanation and Norman shown to be...

a weirdo, i.e. having what we call today as dissociative identity disorder (DID), at the end, did you interpret his being his mother as follows?

"Another movie that doesn’t break the fourth wall until the very end. I assume most people have seen Psycho and remember the moment Norman Bates as “Mother” looks up into the camera with a sinister smile saying “I wouldn’t even hurt a fly.” Norman Bates lives alone in a motel on an empty highway and when a young woman rents a room, she winds up murdered. The whole movie has the audience thinking Norman’s mother is the killer but it’s actually Norman suffering from D.I.D. His mother is his other personality created because he couldn’t move on after her death.

This is again a ruse. Norman wants the police to think that “Mother” is the killer and he has no control over her. However, in the final moments, Norman smiles at the camera as “Mother” admits that she is the only thing keeping Norman from killing. He’s the real monster."

I thought Norman's dominant alternate personality took control of his mind and wanted Norman to be found guilty of her crimes.


A dazzling, dizzying analysis of that scene in the cell.

I'm getting all mixed up about this movie. I used to think I understood the ending pretty well.

I stand in my hatred of the "unresolved" ending of The Sopranos....and I can't believe it could happen to Psycho, too.

Here's hoping I can hold on to the last vestige of my own interpretation of that cell scene.

PS. The much derided psychiatrist scene seems more and more like it has to exist(among its other well documented reasons) to directly TIE IN with the cell scene.


I think you did understand the ending pretty well. The writer of that review didn't and threw in his own interpretation which doesn't follow what the psychiatrist said.

At least my interpretation follows what the psychiatrist said, but isn't mainstream which I'll admit now. In my interpretation, Mother killed the two girls and follows the duality theme. It could also be what most people think (and maybe Hitch intended it that way) in that Norman made up the mother personality in order to cover his matricide. What bothers me about that is if he's capable of savagery, then why didn't he kill his mother and lover the same way? Was he incapable until she was gone and his guilt settled in? I'll assume he killed the two girls with the knife once his mother was gone.

I had to laugh hard with you bringing up the Sopranos. I don't think you want to discuss that, do you haha? Tony is still alive.


I had to laugh hard with you bringing up the Sopranos. I don't think you want to discuss that, do you haha?


Oh Sweet , likely not.


Tony is still alive.


I thought The Sopranos was, overall with some flaws along the way, the best written long form cable series of all time. A lot of "bad guy anti hero" shows flowed from it, but I've been watching some of the newer ones(Animal Kingdom, Ozark)...and they just don't seem to get what The Sopranos got right. Humor, mainly, nicely mixed in with murder(ala Hitchcock) and then...the whole suburban family thing with all that angst. (I always felt that The Sopranos was rather a simile for all the smiling husbands and wives who go out to REGULAR jobs of conflict and misery and competition - and then have to go home and maintain "niceness" in the family setting.)

I think Sopranos creator David Chase was a smart enough guy and showrunner -- from broadcast TV(Rockford Files, Northern Exposure) but he actually brought in better writers to craft the best episodes(Terrence Winter, Matthew Weiner.)

Which meant, when it was time to finally end The Sopranos and the job fell back to David Chase -- a fairly limited guy, really on the creative side(he brought his Mother and Dr. Melfi into the show, but never really got beyond them himself)...he blew it.

Maybe Tony's alive. Maybe Tony's dead. But the famous(infamous?) ending refused to conclusively say. And though I know that allowed for analysis to go wild..this very important fictional world ended without ending.

Whenever I think of the outrageous Sopranos ending, I think of two things:

ONE: The screenwriter's credo(also espoused by Paul Newman in terms of scripts he committed to): "The ending is the most important part of your story. That goes for a two hour film or an 80 hour film like The Sopranos.


TWO: I think of all the great movies -- classics -- that had GREAT ENDINGS:

The Wizard of Oz
Gone with the Wind
Citizen Kane
Sunset Boulevard
Rear Window
Some Like It Hot
The Apartment
The Manchurian Candidate
Mary Poppins
The Professionals
The Wild Bunch
The Sting
Animal House
The Untouchables
LA Confidential
Love Actually

...and I could go on and on.

They have endings. The story concludes successfully ...whether happy or sad, tragic or comic. They have an ENDING of meaning and the audience leaves satisfied.

This did not happen with The Sopranos. One Hollywood gossip columnist named Nikki Finke(later bought off by the studios, they bought her gossip rag, she doesn't write anymore, I don't think) wrote "with the ending of The Sopranos, David Chase took a cr..p on his own faithful audience."

I tend to agree. Great series up til then though. My favorite.

Lousy ending. NOT an ending.


Oh, I got some more to say:

The Sopranos ending also rather violated a pretty big rule that Hitchcock laid out to Truffaut(having violated it himself): you can't build up the audience in suspense and not RELIEVE that suspense. And in the right way.

Hitchcock said he blew it when he created a long, tense suspense sequence about the boy carrying the bomb(that he doesn't know IS a bomb) in Sabotage. Every delay in the trip is suspenseful -- and then the bomb blows up and the boy dies. "I never should have killed that boy," Hitchcock said -- particularly after buliding up a suspense sequence that could/should end with the boy spared.

Well, Chase expertly builds up the suspense of Tony's Last Supper -- particularly with Meadow out there unable to get her car parallel parked.

I watched The Sopranos finale with a group of people at a party and they were yelling as Meadow tried to get that car parked, in top suspense about an ending that had to be only minutes away and then --


Yes, viewers at the party thought at first that "the cable went out." Then somebody said, "no..that IS the ending." And there was some angry yelling and booing.

Nationwide, there was impact. A lot of folks cancelled HBO that very night(maybe they would have cancelled it anyway once The Sopranos was done...but I hear it was pretty heavy.) Other showrunners(Lost, first up) made public commitments that their series would have endings (so as to avoid people tuning out.)

And David Chase -- superrich from The Sopranos but wanting to work -- didn't work much after that.

Chase does finally have a "Sopranos prequel" shooting right now, with Tony as a kid in the 60's and the storyline about his dad young Livia, and young Uncle Junior. So he is going to the well one more time.

But that doesn't erase the stench of what he done...


SPOILERS for Vertigo, The Birds, Family Plot:

Meanwhile, back at Hitchcock.

A great number of his endings, right down to the last seconds, are great and conclusive:

Rear Window
The Man Who Knew Too Much '56

But he made a few "ambiguous" ones, yet still conclusive enough:

Vertigo: Judy falls to her death from the bell tower. Scottie walks out to the edge of the roof to look down at her body. Ambiguous: will Scottie now jump to HIS death?

Who knows, but what's conclusive is this: Judy is dead. It is Scottie's fault. And his vertigo is "cured" -- he can stand on the edge of the roof and look straight down.

The Birds: They've taken over Bodega Bay, at least. But our lead family members and Melanie escape via car. To what? A bird takeover of the entire world? The end of human civilization? Maybe, maybe not, but Hitchcock likely felt that he could not take on that sizeable existential issue. Its enough to know the birds took over Bodega Bay, and the heroes escaped. For now.

Family Plot: Madame Blanche finds the diamond in the chandelier. "Blanche, you really ARE psychic!" cries out her boyfriend George. Then Blanche gets a close-up and winks at us. The end. Well, is she psychic, or not?

Not. "You must see this twice," said the print ads for Family Plot. If you DID, you'd hear villain Arthur Adamson say to his accomplice/lover Fran, "let's go get another diamond for our chandelier" while carrying an "unconscious" Blanche. Well, let's figure Blanche was faking it, heard the information, "found" the diamond in the chandelier later. But if you don't go back for the double-check...the ending IS ambiguous(Is Blanche really psychic or not?)

I don't think that any of those "ambiguous" Hitchcock endings betray the audience in the way that David Chase betrayed the audience with his Sopranos ending...


One more thing about The Sopranos ending:

There's a fairly new book out(this year?) called "The Sopranos Sessions," in which David Chase gives detailed interviews to two writers on TV for whom he has the greatest respect: Math Zoller Seitz(IMHO, the best film critic out there right now, usually writing on the Roger Ebert page, but also a TV and Sopranos buff), and Alan Sepinwall, whose bona fides are evidently writing TV criticism for New Jersey newspaper.

The interviews with David Chase come at the end of the book, after "re-caps" of each and every episode of each and every season of the show.

Its a feast but..boy, dammit...they go into the ending.

First of all, MZS and Alan have their own colloquy about the ending -- and come up thinking its great in its ambiguity(I'm so sad to disagree with MZS.)

But in the interviews with Chase, they finally get him to agree to something I find ridiculous. Here it is:

Alan Sepinwall: You (talked) about how the feeling of the scene is "death could be coming for any of us at any moment."
David Chase: That's the truth. That's all I ever wanted to say.
AS: So the point of the scene isn't "they whacked him in the diner," its that he COULD have been whacked?
DC: Yes, that he COULD have been whacked in the diner. We ALL could be whacked in the diner. That was the point of the scene. He could have been whacked.

Ridiculous, says I. That's it? He could have been whacked..WE could have been whacked? We're all going to die some day.

I mean, Marion Crane could die, but so could Roger Thornhill. Or Melanie Daniels. Or any of us, at any time. But that's not drama. That's not conclusive.

Its a good thing that "The Sopranos Sessions" is such a great read everywhere else(like the show being great everywhere else)...because that discussion of ending is...anti-climactic.


By the way: I think Tony died.

Bobby's line "you don't hear it when it gets you." The killing of the one mobster at dinner with Silvio -- who reacts in slow motion, unable at first to process the murder taking place in front of him(blood hits Silvio's face, that's a clue.)

But most of all: how Phil Leotardo dies. He's at a gas station , standing outside his SUV , talking to his wife who is inside the SUV, through the open window. Suddenly a gun enters the frame next to his head(as he's telling the wife to pick up his Lipitor prescription ) and..

bang...he's dead. Never saw it coming. Never heard it coming.

Anyway, that's what I think happened to Tony, too. But since Chase had no interest in confirming that... anger continues to this day.


Nice review and comments. If it all came out from my, "Tony is still alive," then bravo because it is spot on and incisive. It's impressive how you came to all that. Even if you had thought this through and have posted it before, then it's still riveting and direct. It hits the nail on the head.

"The Sopranos ending also rather violated a pretty big rule that Hitchcock laid out to Truffaut(having violated it himself): you can't build up the audience in suspense and not RELIEVE that suspense. And in the right way."

I thought Tony lived because nothing in the last show leads to him being killed. It was one of those, what the fark happened and if this is the ending, then it isn't satisfactory. David Chase should eat feces and die.

Now, I thought the build up to the finale should lead to him being killed. Thus, I changed my mind and agree with you that Tony should have been killed in the most gawd awful way imaginable. His entire family gets it and he's left alive. It would be okay if he's killed, too. It would be fine if he's the only one killed, but Chase should have resolved the ending. Chase should have showed us who is the killer and how Tony dies. If Tony lives, then he doesn't have to explain why as we can fill out the ending, but at least show us that he lived. There has to be some moral retribution as he's getting off scot free. Something must've happened in the diner besides our imagination.

I can't blame you for being angry. Am I angry? I realize now that Chase should've showed us what happened or if it was going to be open ended, then lead us to it and have some explanations of what happened instead of just cutting the show off in mid-sentence. It was a great series with an unsatisfactory open ending. That's what I thought after the finale. It appears that I let the "unsatisfactory" slide because it was a great series. That said, I agree with you now and that Chase blew it and took the easy way out. He needs to eat feces and die!!!


Nice review and comments. If it all came out from my, "Tony is still alive," then bravo because it is spot on and incisive. It's impressive how you came to all that. Even if you had thought this through and have posted it before, then it's still riveting and direct. It hits the nail on the head.


Well, I have thought it out and written it before and yes, so it WAS ready to go.

I think the ending of The Sopranos is a pretty important event BEYOND the greatness of the series itself.

Because it was so...divisive. It was as if all the horrible unresolved conflict of the real-world was suddenly brought into the one place where it would have been nice to have a "clear cut answer."

People waited a LONG time to find out if Tony Soprano would end the series dead or alive. Shot? In prison?(Likely not with any death penalty applied.) And people waited a LONG time to see how Carmela would react, and the kids, and the crew.

And David Chase took it all away.

I'm angry about that ending for two reasons. One is that it was a bad ending. TONS of seventies movies ended that way in an "unresolved freeze frame or fade out." Its an easy way out, a chicken way out -- as if telling the audience "I dunno-- YOU make the ending."

And the more David Chase has had to explain his reasons for the non-ending...the worse he looks.

But the other reason I'm angry about that ending is that I know it has FANS. One is forced to "take a side" against people who say "No, it was a GREAT ending." That's why I cite all those REALLY great endings(Casablanca, Citizen Kane...Psycho) where "the artist did the work." Its the best argument against how bad the Sopranos ending was. Movies with good endings.

Some guy who loved Chase's ending called those like me who wanted a "real ending": "Blood crazed closure junkies." Say what?



And one more thing: David Chase(as Hitchcock before him did) had a different view of his own series than I think some of his fans did. He felt that we "loved" Tony Soprano and were hypocrites in wanting to see him dead.

I didn't love Tony Soprano. One of the reasons I went through the whole series was to see things finally go bad for him. Killed. Prison. Broke. I was WAITING for it. Didn't happen.

A less famous series from recent years was pretty bad in a different way, but for the same reasons: The Americans, about a truly psychotic Russian undercover spy in America(Keri Russell), who had scene after scene of her brutally killing nice people, innocent people, OLD people. But at series end -- she came out alive, OK, chastened but hardly defeated. (She had to give up her "American" children, but we had no sense this psycho really cared about them.) The Americans HAD an ending, but I found it to be a big disappointment, a cheat of satisfaction.

I guess I am a blood-crazed closure junkie.


Me, too.



Interesting: I keep reading "The Sopranos Sessions" and David Chase in an interview with the authors notes that HBO REJECTED a number of his pitches for shows after The Sopranos...even a Sopranos prequel was rejected.

Chase was able to make one theatrical movie after The Sopranos(starring James Gandolfini, about a Jersey teenage garage rock band), but it failed.

In short...I think maybe David Chase, rich as he is and successful as The Sopranos was...WAS punished for his inconclusive ending. HBO didn't want to do anymore business with Chase and he couldn't get a movie deal beyond that one small feature that flopped.

However, one of the things that Chase says HBO rejected was the idea for the 60's story about Young Tony, his parents, and Uncle Junior against the backdrop of the Newark riots.

That story IS now being made, I believe as a theatrical movie. I assume HBO has some rights to it.

So perhaps the punishment was lifted....


I'm not sure if I can get back into a prequel of Tony today, but have to hear more about it. Certainly, could not get into it after that ending. He and his family were interesting. Instead of the Godfather, we got into it because he was everyman. He wasn't the shadowy underworld.

Another series that turned out successful like this was Breaking Bad. Did you watch that and watching its sequel Better Call Saul?

I think if Chase came out and was contrite and admitted his mistake, then he would have been able to continue his career. AH did ;).


Another series that turned out successful like this was Breaking Bad. Did you watch that and watching its sequel Better Call Saul?


I am aware of both but I didn't commit to watching either.

However, I went ahead and watched the final episode of Breaking Bad and I was pleased to see that it definitely went for "closure."

This was the "unheralded impact" of the Sopranos "non-ending ending," I believe. Other showrunners were told that this would never be allowed again. The ending is the most important part of the story.

As for watching that final episode of Breaking Bad...I've been watching final episodes(ONLY) of EVERYTHING, for years. I'll read a TV Guide notice: "Tonight, the final episode of..." and I watch. Even if I never watched an episode of the series. Its fun to see: so how will they end THIS one?

Breaking Bad clearly emerged early on as a Sopranos offshoot(criminal anti-hero), but I can't say that I got into the episodes I saw intermittently. Something about how the character started one way(with terminal cancer) but went another way(no terminal cancer) struck me as "playing with the concept." I like Bryan Cranston as an actor(he made for quite a good gangster villain on the later "Sneaky Pete"), but I didn't much like his look on Breaking Bad...hard to follow the adventures of a scrawny bald guy with a goatee. Also, I don't recall the series having the great humor of The Sopranos(key, key, KEY to The Sopranos.)

Better Call Saul sounds fun because -- as with the Bates Motel TV series -- the idea is of a "prequel" that will slowly lead into the beginning of the original story(Breaking Bad) is interesting to me.

I have time to still watch both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. They are on my list.


One more thing -- the suspense on Breaking Bad of the one in-law being a DEA guy with Walter White so "close" - hard to take. They repeated this on The Americans with an FBI guy being friend and neighbors with the evil Russian spies next door. Its another Hitchcock rule -- "give the audience information the characters don't have" ("Your in-law/neighbor is a CROOK/RUSSIAN SPY?) but I went nuts on both shows watching that, and the outcome was just plain infuriating on The Americans.


I think if Chase came out and was contrite and admitted his mistake, then he would have been able to continue his career.


But he just couldn't do it. He kept digging the hole bigger and bigger.

I think the issue is this: the artist commits his ending to film, or to the page -- or he doesn't. Chase had one chance, in 2007, to select the ending that would become history.

After that mistake, Chase could never simply TELL people if Tony lived or died, because it was too late. He chose an ending that gave us neither outcome. NO outcome.

AH did ;).


Yes, he did. He gave enough interviews "half-heartedly" defending the psychiatrist scene("I think we are just skimming over, there") to know he seemed to have bothered people with it.


The psychiatrist scene is perennially dismissed as flat footed, linear and superfluous etc.

This ignores the juxtaposition of styles between it and the final scene of Norman in his cell. And the added contradiction of the shrink revealing that "I got the whole story.....from his mother..... MOTHER killed the girls." preceding "...the words that condem her own son... I couldn't let them think that I killed those girls."

People like to point out that a modern movie for a sophisticated audience would not include this scene. I guess their right. Instead, we'd get Sam or Lyla exclaiming "What the fuck?! She's a guy!" or similar during the climax.

I know which I'd prefer.


Well said. All we needed was Sheriff Chambers to explain the two girls being missing. The rest could have been together by the audience and that final scene we see of Norman juxtaposed as his mother would be one of the creepiest scenes in history.


I don't agree we only needed Chambers to explain that other girls were missing. The juxtaposition I'm talking about is the shrink and "Mother"'s versions of what happened.

The purpose of the shrink scene is for the Norman's appearance to be spun as a seemingly unambiguous case study. But then the final shots demonstrate how inadequate the shrink's description is at defining Norman's madness. The scene gives Sam and Lyla, and the audience, closure. But then the next shots pull the rug out again.

Supposedly "sophisticated" audiences would still have required an "OMG!" or "WTF!" line, making "Norman wore a dress and killed Marion for some reason" the exclamation point. But the movie makes "Mother"'s little soliloquy and final close up the exclamation point of the movie.

It would be a simple enough thing to edit the shrink scene out. You could dub the lines about missing girls and searching the swamp over the establishing shot of the sheriff's office and the shot of the deputy taking Norman his blanket. It would not make the movie better.


Oh, my bad. Your take sucked then.


How do you get any insight into the dominant side of Norman's psyche at the end if all the final scene has is the sheriff revealing there are other missing girls and "Norma"'s interior monologue about condemning her son?

We learn about the confession from the shrink. But then we're confronted by it.

The shrink speech and Norma's are two contrasting sides of a coin.


What is confetonted?

I'm not sure if the shrink's speech and Norma are two sides of the same coin.

The Sheriff bringing up the two girls could lessen the long psychiatrist scene where he explains everything.

I suppose the psychiatrist has to be brought in because we know that it was Norman all along and we have been led into the twist ending. However, the shrink didn't have to go on so long and explain everything. What good is a mystery if we do not have a chance to ask questions and figure it out for ourselves? That kinda ruined it for me.

Basing it on just Norman which most people do, then the question is why has Norman's made up alter ego become the dominant one? The Sheriff bringing in the two girls would tell us they were missing when Norman was fifteen. We don't know how the two were killed. This leads into the question of when Norman was screwed up? We know Norman's personality isn't the stabbing, violent type. He's the poisoning type. Everything else is attributed to his made up mother personality. The shrink tries to explain it due to Norman becoming jealous and committing matricide. That's such a pat answer. There has to be more than that.


This leads into the question of when Norman was screwed up? We know Norman's personality isn't the stabbing, violent type. He's the poisoning type.


That's worth thinking about . Which "type" he is. Or "she" is, when Mother takes over.

Seems to me the different murders required different weaponry.

Norman couldn't POISON Marion in the shower, or Arbogast on the stairs. He had to physically attack them to get the job done.

Conversely, it would have been hard for Norman to physically attack(with a knife) both Mother and her boyfriend. The poison allowed him to kill them both without confrontation.

I suppose there is also this: well before stabbing Marion in the shower, Norman had her into the parlor for dinner. Sandwiches and milk. Milk -- milk to drink. So Norman COULD have poisoned that milk. But his mind was in different places(Mother wasn't activated yet, to kill.)


>>Seems to me the different murders required different weaponry.<<

That's what made me think Mother was psycho and bad. I thought she killed the two girls when Norman was fifteen.

If it was just Norman, then the assumption is he killed them at fifteen and he had committed matricide already. Or he had the twisted mother personality even back when his mother was alive.


I really like to know when Norman killed the two girls (assuming it was him). I think he was fifteen then. What do you think?

Next, when did Norman kill his mother?

Which came first?

Can you answer these questions for me? What is your source for these?


I really like to know when Norman killed the two girls (assuming it was him). I think he was fifteen then. What do you think?


Well, we are told that the "murder-suicide" of Mrs. Bates and her lover took place "ten years ago"(1950.) We shouldn't always give the age of an actor to a character(Cary Grant's Roger Thornhill was meant to likely be 10 years younger than his real age), but Anthony Perkins made Psycho when he was 27 years old. So: Norman killed Mother and her boyfriend when he was 17.


Next, when did Norman kill his mother?

Which came first?

Can you answer these questions for me? What is your source for these?


We reach an impasse. All we have is the psychiatrist's speech to suggest that the women were killed AFTER Norman killed Mrs. Bates and the boyfriend...that, somewhere in the ten years between 1950 and 1960, his split personality kicked in and "jealous mother" started to kill young women who might come between her and her son. And recall that we are told it was the incredible pressure of having killed his own mother that drove him to "split" and bring her back to life.

But your idea...Mother killed the girls first? I dunno, maybe...