hitchcockVertigo stars James Stewart as Scottie, a retired detective, and Kim Novak as Judy Barton, who gets disguised as Madeleine, a woman hired by Scottie’s friend to act as his wife in order to frame Scottie. The story takes place in San Francisco in the 1950’s. The film opens on a high building, where officer Scottie and his partner are in pursuit of a suspect. Scottie’s partner’s life is on the line and only he can save him. Unfortunately, he has vertigo, a fear of heights. Scottie is unable to assist his partner who unfortunately falls to his death. Hitchcock underlines Scottie’s fear of heights by using intense music and a bird’s eye view of the street below, to give the viewer an impression of height. Closeups of Scottie’s face demonstrate his obsessive fear, hence making it more realistic to the audience. As the story develops, Scottie falls deeply in love with Madeleine, a beautiful young blonde woman. Madeleine later runs up the stairs of a church, unsuccessfully pursued by Scottie, and jumps off the roof killing herself, or so Scottie thought. Here again, the camera angles play an important role in demonstrating Scottie’s fear of heights, as a spiralling effect is used to shoot the staircase. As the story develops, Scottie gets admitted to a psychiatric unit. His mental and emotional confusion is illustrated by chaotic music. When he meets a young woman named Judy Barton, who bears a striking resemblance to the late Madeleine, Hitch really takes advantage of color in a scene in Judy’s apartment. Fog, typical to San Francisco, combined with green light coming from a neon sign in the street, give the scene a remarkable, almost divine effect. In order for Scottie to overcome the trauma he suffered when he lost Madeleine, he drives Judy to the same church and asks her to run up the stairs in an attempt to reproduce the sequence of events leading up to Madeleine’s death. Shockingly, Judy really jumps off the roof, thus abruptly ending the story. An Internet review points out that the Vertigo script reads: “There is a flower stand – known to all San Franciscans – at the curb opposite the main entrance to Gump’s. Scottie and Judy have stopped there to pick a flower for her to wear… Amazingly, this flower stand still exists, although it is no longer the wood frame structure as seen in the film, (it’s now made of black steel). Gump’s has since moved one block down Post Street.” (http://www.widescreencinema.com/vertigo/tour.htm) Vertigo has two characteristics common to many Hitchcock masterpieces: the presence of a young beautiful blonde woman, and the main character’s weakness, in this case, Scottie’s vertigo. Like all of Hitchcock’s movies, suspense is omni-present, and the story generates a strong reaction from every viewer. The abrupt ending makes the film stand out, and the complexity of the plot as well as the expressed values of love and passion, in addition to the themes of reality and tragedy, make this classic worthy of being on the list of the Top-100 movies of all time. According to critically acclaimed movie critic Martin Siberok, “this is Hitchcock at his cynical best – a story of human obsession and psychological instability, exploitation and guilt.” Hitch’s message in this movie is to face our fears in order to go on with our lives.
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