Saturday, 3 March 2012

Film Review: Vertigo (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) is about an acrophobic detective by the name of Scottie, who is required to spy on his friend's wife named Madeleine because she is believed to be possessed. In the process of doing so, he falls in love with her. However, he is tricked into believing that she is dead and is grief stricken by that idea. After her 'Death', comes across her doppelganger who turns out to be the same woman who was staging as his friend's wife and the one Scottie fell in love with. As reviewer Laurie Boeder rightly states, "(It is) a dreamlike tale of obsession and the hopeless search for lost love."Boeder, Film Reviews. Vertigo.

Fig 1: Vertigo Film Poster

Scottie is a character who tries to recreate his lost love. He tries to change the new Madeleine(who's real name is Judy. He forces her to become someone whom she is not. He displays the characteristic features of a highly manipulative and self obsessed male. Judy obeys as she is led to believe by Scottie that he will love her once she physically transforms into someone that he is in love with.
There is quite a sense of the Uncanny when the character of Scottie sees Judy for the first time. Until that scene, Judy is a pale, blonde woman who wears a rich array of clothing made from fine fabrics. Judy is an average, working girl who is a brunette. The audience can witness her transformation as she changes from Judy and back to 'Madeleine'. That aspect of the film is rather uncanny.
The ending is a characteristic Hitchcock ending. This film maker appears to favour the endings that make the audience think. There is never a clear halt to the story.

Fig 2: The Real Judy

There is also an element of horror in this film as Scottie witnesses the death of his lover twice. One can only imagine how disturbed his character would be if this film were to document his life after the incident that takes place towards the end of the film.
In terms of story, this film has a lot to offer. Many might relate to the character of Scottie as his reactions seem to be driven strongly by his Id.
There are twists and turns aplenty in this film.  This is another characteristic feature of Alfred Hitchcock's film making. As reviewer Boseley Crowther states,"Vertigo" is performed in the manner expected of all performers in Hitchcock films."Crowther, Boseley. (1958). New York Times Film Review. Vertigo (1958)

Fig 3: Judy as Madeleine

This film was one of the first of it's kind to be created and has been emulated throughout film history.
Hitchcock gains control of the audience's mind by involving strong and relatable characters in the plot.
This film is one of Hitchcock's masterpieces. It can be viewed numerous times and is always entertaining. As Reviewer Martyn Glanville states, "(Vertigo is) an enjoyably duplicitous film, full of artificiality in both the film-making (lots of back projection) and the story (things not being what we thought),"Glanville,Martyn. (2000). BBC Film Reviews. Vertigo.


Glanville,Martyn. (2000). BBC Film Reviews. Vertigo. Available online at: 

Boeder, Film Reviews. Vertigo. Available online at:

Crowther, Boseley. (1958). New York Times Film Review. Vertigo (1958) Available online at:

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1: Hitchcock, Alfred. (1958). Vertigo.Available online at:

Figure 2:Hitchcock, Alfred. (1958). Vertigo.Available online at:

Figure 3:Hitchcock, Alfred. (1958). Vertigo.Available online at:

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