Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film “Psycho” made a strong impression on the cinematographic community. Reviewer Oleg Prekrasnov writes that Hitchcock was looking for “a first-rate and inexpensive so-called” shocker, “which was the murder of the main character in the middle of the film. The audience’s attention, previously focused on a crime story with a bank robbery, switches to a new plot. Alfred Hitchcock has always experimented with storytelling. Thanks to this, his films remain the same mysterious and frightening mansions of the Bates family against the backdrop of typical Hollywood industry buildings.
And two years earlier, Hitchcock made a film in which he unexpectedly ends not the storyline of one character but the whole narrative: the tragic ending of the hero’s fate comes in the middle of the film. But the action continues, only not in reality, but oneiric space.
Underestimated by contemporaries and rediscovered by Martin Scorsese, Paul Schroeder, and many other filmmakers of the 70s, Vertigo became a good thriller, an outlet for supporters of the psychoanalytic school. The film confirmed the Freudian thesis about the need to repeat psychological trauma to overcome it.
Private detective John’s (James Stewart) fear of heights, caused by the death of his partner, determines this character’s behavior, pushing him to the object of his phobia and, like a time bomb, bringing disaster closer.
The first part of the film ends when John ends up in a psychiatric hospital, unable to cope with the death of his beloved Madeleine (Kim Novak). He idealizes her image even more, helped by loneliness and dissatisfaction with his relationship with his girlfriend, Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). The second part of the film is a fantasy: Hitchcock visualizes the world of the unconscious of his hero, transferring to the screen what is happening in his head. Unnecessary and mundane characters disappear from history; for example, Midge and his replace John’s alter ego, Scotty.
Hitchcock made green an indicator of the unreality of the action – in the first part of the tape, the shades of this color are natural. First, we see Madeleine in a chic green dress, and then we notice her green car, curtains, and other items. Green invades the hero’s everyday life, and Madeleine’s false image captures his mind. The main intimate element is John’s greenhouse sweater in the scene where Madeleine wakes up after trying to drown herself. This episode first hints at the spiritual and sexual attraction of the characters to each other. And the sweater declares: a man met a woman, let him into his life, made green his own. From that moment on, John’s imagination materializes the image of Madeleine; he sympathizes with her and believes in her legend. And the movie’s greatest scene – the exit of Judy (also Kim Novak), hired to portray Madeleine as an exact copy of her – is accompanied by a bright green glow.
The main motive of the film’s second half is the inability to realize Scotty’s physical and emotional attraction to Judy until she becomes an exact copy of Madeleine. That is why most
interpretations of this picture are associated with the concepts of sexuality, the unconscious, and even necrophilia. Although Hitchcock himself admitted in conversations with Truffaut that he was most fascinated by “the hero’s attempts to recreate the image of a dead woman with the help of another, living one,” that is, the process of image creation as such. ” Vertigo” became a milestone in the history of cinema and a necessary act of its self-reflection. In this film, Hitchcock continues to reflect on the nature of the cinematic gaze and the ethical position of the observer, a theme that emerged as early as Rear Window.
Before us unfolds a story about the dark side of the sacralization of images stamped by the dream factory. To some extent, Stewart’s character imitates Hitchcock and his expressive techniques, transforming one woman (the actress) into another (the heroine). One demands excessively on the set, the other – in his personal life.
It’s also ironic that Scotty persuades Judy to dye her hair from brown to blonde. Kim Novak, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, and others alternately starred in the role of a beautiful and intelligent “Hitchcock blonde” in the master’s films. Such a routine transfer of one image from film to film eventually mortifies it and makes it purely fictional. Perhaps this was the calculation – Hitchcock bleached women’s hair for strictly practical reasons. “Blondes,” he said, “are the best victims, and it’s like pure snow with a bloody footprint on it.”
Like any meticulous filmmaker, Scotty is a fetishist. The construction of Madeleine’s image is directly related to meticulous detailing – a gray suit and a curl of hair. And the pendant, evidence of Judy’s crime, is the primary catalyst for the plot. The pendant here is the so-called MacGuffin, an object around which intrigue is built or with the appearance of a climax. This is a critical structural unit of the plots of the master of suspense Hitchcock. In Vertigo, the pendant again leads the lovers to the ill-fated bell tower. Maniacal attention to detail as Scotty’s way of being is the director’s poking fun at himself.
Hitchcock film interpreter Slavoj Zizek draws attention to the fact that the heroine Kim Novak often appears in the frame in profile – the main character and the audience complete her image and become its passive consumers and creators. The essence of cinematography, which captures reality, but at the same time always leaves the viewer space to independently “finish” the script, is reflected in the heroes of the tape “Vertigo.” Scotty’s tenacious gaze illustrates this phenomenon: it is as if he is looking at Madeleine through the eyes of a movie camera. Perhaps this was the reason for the vast popularity of the picture among the directors of New Hollywood – the first generation of authors from the cinephile environment.
The meaning of the movie “Vertigo.”
In his monograph on the study of Vertigo, Charles Barr stated that the film’s central theme was a psychological obsession, focusing in particular on Scotty’s obsession with the women in his life. Barr says in his book, “This story of a man who exploits a mysterious woman’s romantic obsession has often been seen by his colleagues, as well as by critics and biographers, as a story that got Hotchiccock into a particular thought. Path, and he evoked a comparable fascination with many viewers. First seen as a teenager in 1958, Donald Spotoreturned another 26 hits by the time he wrote The Art of Alfred Hitchcock. in 1976. In a 1996 journal article, Geoffrey O’Brien cites other “constant fascination” cases with Vertigo. He then casually reveals that he has seen it “at least thirty times” since 15.”
Critics have interpreted Vertigo as “a tale of male aggression and visual control; a map of the female oedipal trajectory. as a deconstruction of the male construction of femininity and masculinity itself. like the uncovering of the director’s mechanisms, the Hollywood studio and the colo the original oppression; and as a place where textual meanings play out in an endless regression of self-reflection.” Critic James F. Maxfield has suggested that “Vertigo” can be interpreted as a variant of Ambrose Bierce’s short story “The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890). The film’s central narrative is invented by Scotty, who we see hanging from the building at the end of the initial phase of the rooftop chase.
FACTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S ‘VERTIGO’
The film is based on the novel From the World of the Dead by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Hitchcock wanted to stage their book The Devils, but Henri-Georges Clouzot did it first, and Hitchcock did not get the film rights. So he kept an eye out for new manuscripts by these authors, and when a new book came on the horizon, he got Paramount to buy the rights.
Different authors wrote the script three times – Hitchcock did not like the first two versions.
Vera Miles was originally going to be cast in the lead role – Hitchcock’s fondness for women of a specific appearance is well documented. Kim Novak was not the director’s first choice.
After his beloved Grace Kelly married the Prince of Monaco and left the cinema, Vera Miles became her replacement. He signed a five-year contract with the 25-year-old actress. She starred in a couple of the director’s projects and was supposed to participate here, but became pregnant shortly before filming began, and Hitchcock had to look for a new actress urgently.
For some time, Hitchcock refused to work with Vera Miles; however, later, he filmed her in Psychosis.
While there was original material, some key aspects of the story changed as the script developed. At first, Hitchcock decided that the truth needed to be told after two-thirds of the film (the scene in which Judy writes a confession note to Scotty). But Hitchcock got nervous during the first screening to a test audience and decided he was giving it away too soon. He decided to remove this scene. And only by the decision of the head of Paramount did this scene return to its place.
If the movie had closely followed the book, its ending would have been very dark: Scotty strangled Judy for her betrayal. But the studio decided to tone it down. And even punish the heroine’s husband for her murder. But Hitchcock insisted on removing such an ending from the film. So that. This is the only Hitchcock film where the killer gets away with it.
The bell tower from which Kim Novak’s character falls was recreated with a drawing effect because the real one was demolished shortly before filming began.
The film features several well-known San Francisco locations, including the Empire Hotel, renamed Hotel Vertigo in 2009. But the bell tower from which the heroine falls does not exist today.
Between the moment the locations were approved and the filming, it was demolished due to the dilapidation of the structure. Therefore, Hitchcock had to draw it (not himself, of course, the famous matt painter Albert Whitlock did this in his films). By the way, the “new” bell tower was higher than the present one.
For the film, one famous effect was created, called “the effect of dizziness” (The Vertigo shot). Hitchcock had an idea to do this effect for “Rebecca,” but no one knew how to do it. The cameraman of the second crew, Irmin Roberts, finally came up with the idea. He zoomed in, focusing on the main object while moving the camera cart towards this object. Today, this effect has many names (trans-traffic, dolly zoom, etc.) and is often used (we last saw it in Passenger with Liam Neeson).