Sunday, December 12, 2010

#128. Vertigo (1958)

DVD Synopsis: Set in San Francisco, James Stewart portrays an acrophobic detective hired to trail a friend's suicidal wife (Kim Novak). After he successfully rescues her from a leap into the bay, he finds himself becoming obsessed with the beautifully troubled woman.

From the opening title sequence alone - which is punctuated by Bernard Herrmann’s haunting, powerful score - it’s obvious that Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is going to be an intense experience. 

Yet even this harrowing start fails to adequately prepare us for what's to come. 

With burning desire bubbling just below the surface at all times, Vertigo proves an all-consuming motion picture, a film that probes deeply into the psychological obsessions of a man torn apart by love. 

Scotty (James Stewart), a retired San Francisco detective with an extreme fear of heights, is contacted by old college friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), who wants to hire Scotty to spy on his wife. 

Far from being a jealous husband, Elster has come to believe that his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) has been ‘possessed’ by the spirit of one of her ancestors, a woman named Carlotta, who died tragically many years ago. 

Elster now fears that Madeleine may attempt to harm herself as she unwittingly relives events from the past. During the course of following Madeleine around town, however, Scotty finds that he himself is falling in love with her, a love that eventually takes full control of his good senses.

Vertigo is a passionate movie, yet it’s passion is not solely of a romantic nature. More than merely falling in love with Madeleine, Scotty becomes obsessed with her, and Hitchcock captures this obsession by way of several impressive camera tricks. The first time Scotty sees Madeleine, she’s dining in an exclusive restaurant. Scotty watches as Madeleine gets up from her table and walks through a doorway, and as she does so a bright light envelops her, throwing everything in the background into darkness; Scotty can see nothing but Madeline’s radiant beauty, and from that moment on, whenever we see her, everything surrounding her is slightly out of focus. Like Scotty, we are meant to see only Madeline.

I’ve been a fan of Hitchcock’s for many years, and I rank several of his films among the best I’ve ever seen. Vertigo, though, is his masterpiece.


SJHoneywell said...

Such a great movie--I remember seeing this for the first time and being surprised by something in it about every 15 minutes.

It's also the theme of one of the best songs by the band Harvey Danger:

DVD Infatuation said...

@Steve: Thanks for stopping by.

Hitchcock has directed some of the finest motion pictures ever made (REAR WINDOW, PSYCHO, NOTORIOUS), yet VERTIGO is my favorite.

Thanks also for the link. Good song!

Lesya said...

I also think it's my fave Hitchcock film.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Lesya: Most definitely mine as well. Thanks for checking out the blog, and for stopping by.