Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Vertigo (1958)

Fig. 1
Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is psychological thriller that has the audience gripped till the last minute! The film twists and turns though the plot, with every scene feeling like its the final shot! Although by many expressed as Hitchcock's more defining pieces the atmosphere, intended or not, is intense and at times nauseating, possible to relate to the theme of the film. Staring James Stewart in a more conceited role than he usually plays, the plot focuses on the ex police officer who suffers arachnophobia. After being hired as a private investigator it is then when he is played till the end to cover up a murder. Vertigo is most remembered for Hitchcock's breakthrough in creating the dolly zoom.

The editing and tint frame colours can be read prominently throughout, these techniques give the audience a direct and harsh atmosphere. The theme vertigo is expressed brilliantly through the dizziness of the twists and turns of the plot, as well as the unyielding tension brought to a head. There's an indescribable anguish felt by watching the intense emotions, actions on screen and yet cannot be pin pointed to a specific sequence. The confusion felt by the editing all add to the effect of fear, vertigo, panic. Geoff Andrew observes, 'Brilliant but despicably cynical view of human obsession and the tendency of those in love to try to manipulate each other. Stewart is excellent as the neurotic detective employed by an old pal to trail his wandering wife, only to fall for her himself and then crack up when she commits suicide.' (Geoff 2006) Geoff expresses much admiration for the themes and characters of the film, describing Stewart's performance to be outstanding. The films light touches of colour and manipulating edits all brings it to life in a hard hitting experience.
Fig. 2
Roger Ebert states, 'He [Hitchcock] was a great visual stylist in two ways: He used obvious images and surrounded them with a subtle context. Consider the obvious ways he suggests James Stewart's vertigo. An opening shot shows him teetering on a ladder, looking down at a street below. Flashbacks show why he left the police force. A bell tower at a mission terrifies him, and Hitchcock creates a famous shot to show his point of view: Using a model of the inside of the tower, and zooming the lens in while at the same time physically pulling the camera back, Hitchcock shows the walls approaching and receding at the same time; the space has the logic of a nightmare.' (Ebert 1996) Ebert picks up on the context of Hitchcock's techniques and expresses them with clear, intent descriptions. It is clear that both styles used by Hitchcock have proven to be a successful combination, which explains why he is seen as an icon amongst directors for his innovative editing and camera shots.

Fig. 3
The dolly zoom, also known as the 'Hitchcock zoom' and Vertigo zoom', is featured within the film. As the film was the first to use this technique Hitchcock's technical advances has inspired so many other directors, for instance the dolly shot can be noted in several later films - the most popular one being Jaws. Martyn Glanville suggests, '"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), in other words: pure Hitchcock ... Watch out for a great piece of Hitchcock innovation to visually represent Scotty's vertigo: the simultaneous zoom-in and pull-back of the camera that creates a disorientating depth of field.'  (Glanville 2000) Glanville applauds Hitchcock's creation and states that both the editing and plot itself can be deceiving throughout. This best describes the theme and tone of the piece, the audience definitely gets the sense that they're being manipulated just like Stewart within the film.  

List of illustrations

Figure 1. Hitchcock, Alfred (1958) Vertigo Movie Poster. At: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e5/Vertigomovie.jpg (Accessed on:20/2/12)

Figure 2. Hitchcock, Alfred (1958) James Stewart and Kim Novak. At: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-E4Z5gG_6cWc/Ts3Px7wF_tI/AAAAAAAAB3w/1NxQLS5KgXk/s1600/Vertigoopener.jpg (Accessed on:20/2/12)

Figure 3. Hitchcock, Alfred (1958) End Outcome. At: http://www.polars.org/IMG/jpg/P.vertigo.jpg (Accessed on:20/2/12)

Geoff Andrew (2006) Vertigo (1958). At: http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/62922/vertigo.html (Accessed on:20/2/12)

Roger Ebert (1996) Vertigo (1958). At: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19961013/REVIEWS08/401010371/1023 (Accessed on:20/2/12)

Martyn Glanville (2000) Vertigo (1958). At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/12/05/vertigo_1958_review.shtml (Accessed on:20/2/12)

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