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Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo is a 1958 American thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring James Stewart and Kim Novak.  This late fifties thriller is one of many suspense-filled film’s directed by Alfred Hitchcock who continued into the 60’s with many other cinematic masterpieces such as Psycho and The Birds. Vertigo is considered an American classic of not only Hitchcock’s film career, but also of the late fifties film noir.  The poster tagline for this film reads “Alfred Hitchcock engulfs you in a whirlpool of terror and tension! – He Thought His Love Was Dead, Until He Found Her in Another Woman.” This tagline essentially encompasses the idea(s) behind the film leaving the viewer knowledgeable of the movie.  Vertigo is a great film in that it accomplishes the right atmosphere.

The film does an excellent job of presenting the various psychological twists and issues inherent within a few of the characters.  For example, Jimmy Stewart plays the role of a detective named John Ferguson (Scottie) who suffers from acrophobia.  Throughout the film, the plot plays on the ailment Scottie suffers from. Unfortunately, Scottie develops vertigo when he is exposed to any form of heights.   Another character in the film who deals with a psychological disability is Madeleine Elster, the wife of Gavin Elster.  Madeleine, played by Kim Novak, is believed to have suicidal tendencies and Scottie is paid by Gavin to follow her around to see what she does with her day.  Both characters personalities coincide throughout the movie.  One interesting aspect to the thematic sense was how a reversal of roles occurred between Madeleine and Scottie.  For example, the beginning of the movie has Madeleine being the completely obsessed and crazed wife with Scottie following her around.  Towards the end of the film, Scottie acts obsessed and confused to the woman who looks very similar to the deceased Madeleine and is later revealed to be the woman Scottie knew as Madeleine.

The plot of Vertigo is very enjoyable and exhilarating to say the least.  This films plot begins by gripping the audience in an irrational storyline in which spirits, possession, and suicide conjoin to confuse the audience.  The film was very coherent with its dialogue and presents a realistic criminal strategy.  Once the film ends, the audience is left with a couple unanswered questions.  For one, how did Madeleine walk into the McKittrick Hotel unnoticed with Scottie a few steps behind her?  Another question left unanswered was how the relationship between Midge, Scotties friend, and Scottie ended or even began anew.

The camerawork used in this film was quite good as is to be expected with most Alfred Hitchcock movies.  The chiaroscuro lighting technique employed by Hitchcock in a few scenes was proper for showing the contrast of roles and emotions between various characters.  One such scene was the art gallery scene where Madeleine stares at the painting of Carlotta Valdez and Scottie is obscured in the shadow to her left.  Other cinematic tricks and effects included nice uses of high and low camera angles, mainly high, which left an impression on the audience of merely witnessing the events unfold.  Overall, the music also coincided well with the scenes mood.  Vertigo has been a highly influential film over the past 60 years in the film noir genre with its psychological twists and surprise ending meaning this film will continue to be revered as an excellent film for many years to come.

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