Madeleine: Oh Scottie. I’m not mad. I’m not mad. I don’t want to die. There’s someone within me and she says I must die. Oh Scottie, don’t let me go.
Scottie: I’m here. I’ve got you; Madeleine: I’m so afraid.[they kiss]; Madeleine: Don’t leave me. Stay with me.; Scottie: All the time……… Vertigo
Being a fan of Alfred Hitchcock is not an easy thing and picking his fourty sixth film ‘Vertigo’ has lots to share about and here it gives me such a chilling effect, a lull, and a mood that is hard to shake off once told and I’ve watched this so many times and each time this movie mesmerizes me of the crafty knack of Hitchcock’s interpretation as its protagonist’s drama resonates the spiral of madness and influence of ones code of manipulated theories and beliefs……quiet a complex trellis
Vertigo was made in 1958, a psychological thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock. The story was based on the 1954 novel D’entre les morts by Boileau-Narcejac. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor. Vertigo was nominated for two Oscar awards, including Best Art Direction.
The film stars James Stewart as former police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson. Scottie is forced into early retirement because an incident in the line of duty has caused him to develop acrophobia (an extreme fear of heights) and vertigo (a sensation of false, rotational movement). Scottie is hired by an acquaintance, Gavin Elster, as a private investigator to follow Gavin’s wife Madeleine (Kim Novak), who is behaving strangely.
The film was shot on location in San Francisco, California, and at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. It popularized the dolly zoom, an in-camera effect that distorts perspective to create disorientation, to convey Scottie’s acrophobia. As a result of its use in this film, the effect is often referred to as “the Vertigo effect”.
Looking at films made in mid of 1950’s, there were key changes of how films were written about. Being influenced by the politique des auteurs’ promoted by the French critics of Cahiers du Cinéma- The British film critics of Sight and Sound focused more on the role of the director and the director’s responsibility for the film as a whole, then they ever had before. The combination of this shift in film criticism and the strong Hitchcock brand meant that Hitchcock’s role as an auteur was indisputable- the precise visual style of his films submit to the viewer that he knew what he wanted and achieved it. The controlled movement and pacing of his visuals suggest control behind the camera.
At first glance when this movie released in 1958, it was clearly seen as another ‘Hitchcock film’; typically richest and glossier from his earlier movies from the same era (The Wrong Man (1956); The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956); The Trouble with Harry (1955); To Catch a Thief (1955); Rear Window (1954); Dial M for Murder (1954); I Confess (1953); Strangers on a Train (1951) and Stage fright in 1950) which had the feel of film noir and neo-realism in his earlier ones. So much that Hitchcock went on to make Vertigo’ was clearly aligned with his bigger releases- vivid color, Vistavision, and a star name in James Stewart. But again Hitchcock seems to smuggle dark themes into these studio movies, with Vertigo being a particularly bleak emotional journey concerned with loss and obsession.
During then, this film received mixed reviews upon its initial release, but is now often cited as a classic Hitchcock film and one of the defining works of his career. Attracting significant scholarly criticism and as well as being named the 40th greatest movie of all time by Empire magazine in its issue of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
The film story begins with a rooftop chase, where his acrophobia and vertigo result in the death of a policeman, San Francisco detective John “Scottie” Ferguson retires. Scottie tries to conquer his fear, but his ex-fiancée Midge Wood suggests another severe emotional shock may be the only cure. An acquaintance from college, Gavin Elster, asks Scottie to follow his wife, Madeleine, claiming she has been possessed. Scottie reluctantly agrees, and follows Madeleine: to a florist where she buys a bouquet of flowers; to the grave of Carlotta Valdes; to an art museum where she gazes at Portrait of Carlotta, which resembles her. Lastly, she enters the McKittrick Hotel, but when Scottie investigates, she is not there.
A local historian explains that Carlotta Valdes tragically committed suicide. Gavin reveals that Carlotta (who Gavin fears is possessing Madeleine) is Madeleine’s great-grandmother, although Madeleine has no knowledge of this, and does not remember where she has visited. Scottie tails Madeleine to Fort Point, and she leaps into San Francisco Bay. Scottie rescues her.
The next day Scottie follows Madeleine; they meet and spend the day together. They travel to Muir Woods and Cypress Point on 17-Mile Drive, where Madeleine runs down towards the ocean. Scottie grabs her and they embrace. Scottie identifies the setting of Madeleine’s nightmare as Mission San Juan Bautista. He drives her there and they express their love for each other. Madeleine suddenly runs into the church and up the bell tower. Scottie, halted on the steps by his vertigo, sees Madeleine plunge to her death.
The death is declared a suicide. Gavin does not fault Scottie, but Scottie breaks down, becomes clinically depressed and is in a sanatorium, almost catatonic. After release, Scottie frequents the places that Madeleine visited; often imagining that he sees her. One day, he notices a woman who reminds him of Madeleine, despite her vulgar appearance. Scottie follows her and she identifies herself as Judy Barton, from Salina, Kansas.
A flashback reveals that Judy was the person Scottie knew as “Madeleine Elster”; she was impersonating Gavin’s wife as part of a murder plot. Judy writes to Scottie explaining her involvement with Gavin’s murder of his wife. Gavin had deliberately taken advantage of Scottie’s acrophobia to substitute his wife’s freshly dead body in the apparent “suicide jump”. Judy rips up the letter and decides to continue the charade, because she loves Scottie. They begin seeing each other, but Scottie remains obsessed with “Madeleine” and asks Judy to change her clothes and hair so that she once more resembles Madeleine. When Judy complies, hoping that they may finally find happiness together, he notices her wearing the necklace portrayed in the painting of Carlotta and realizes the truth. He insists on driving her to the Mission.
There, he tells her he must re-enact the event that led to his madness, admitting he now understands that “Madeleine” and Judy are the same. Scottie forces her up the bell tower and makes her admit her deceit. Scottie reaches the top, finally conquering his acrophobia. Judy confesses that Gavin paid her to impersonate a “possessed” Madeleine; Gavin faked the suicide by throwing the body of his wife from the bell tower. Judy begs Scottie to forgive her, because she loves him. He embraces her, but a nun rises from the trapdoor like a ghost. Judy steps back and falls to her death. Scottie, bereft again, stands on the ledge while the horrified nun rings the mission bell.
Vertigo’ has some good suspense diversion. These include a macabre, misogynistic sequence in which the obsessed detective (James Stewart) enlists dressmakers and hairdressers to make over the lightly disguised Kim Novak number two in the image of the lost Kim Novak number one; a typical Hitchcock joke, in which the detective tracks the girl down an alley, through a dark and dingy passage-way, and finds that this sinister approach is the back door to an expensive flower shop; and a single shot of stunning virtuosity, with a corpse spread-eagled across a church roof at one side of the screen, and the detective slinking out of the church door at the screen’s opposite edge. A roof-top chase, decisively opening the picture, a struggle in the church belfry, some backchat in the manner of Rear Window with a cool, astringent second-string heroine (Barbara Bel Geddes) are all reminiscent of things Hitchcock has done before, and generally done with more verve. One is agreeably used to Hitchcock repeating his effects, but this time he is repeating himself in slow motion.
Vertigo is certainly one of cinema’s most compelling, as famous for its splendid construction as its actual entertainment value. A rich masterpiece of macabre obsession, Vertigo is not so much a movie as a web that entangles and traps both the characters and audience. Besides the use of color and how well a film can look by using the colors and create those sensational moods. So much as never you would have found scenes where the colors have been saturated or changed to create a special feeling. Hitchcock even went so far as to openly dye some frames with illustrated luminosity.
This is just me writing as a movie fan, typos and all. Also, it seems a bit silly to shout as this movie made over fifty six years ago, but I suppose if you haven’t seen Vertigo yet, you should……
- Produced & Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
- Screenplay by Alec Coppell & Samuel.A.Taylor
- Based on novel “D’entre les morts”by Boileau-Narcejac
- Casting: James Stewart; Kim Novak& Barbara Bel Geddes
- Music by Bernard Herrmann
- Cinematography Robert Burks
- Editing by George Tomasini
- Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Original)& Universal Pictures(Current)
- Release dates: May 9,1958
- Run time of 128 minutes
- Country: United States