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Widely regarded as Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films, Vertigo presents the masterpiece of suspense. Produced by Paramount Pictures in 1958, the film consists of 128 minutes. A range of talented artists contributed to the creation of Vertigo, including Kim Novak, James Stewart, Bernard Herrmann, Robert Burks, and so on. This film is a screenplay of the French novel From Among the Dead, which was provided by three screenwriters, and filming was established on the on-site principal photography. This paper focuses on the analysis of one scene, the impact of which is based on the selection of colors and camera movements.
The film narrates about the policeman, Scotty Ferguson, who was retired because of depression and panic fear of height, which caused the death of his colleague. This trauma continues to return to the main character’s life as he follows a woman, Judy, who reminds him of Madeline – one of the clients who behaved in an inexplicable manner. Throughout the film, he is struggling with constant dizziness due to acrophobia and events that have delayed the former detective into the depths of passions and mysteries.
Characteristic Features of the Film’s Style
The details of the film create an atmosphere of psychedelic transmission of fear, horror, and panic in the eyes of the actors. The musical accompaniment, as well as the color spectrum, conveys the mood of the film, which introduces a viewer into an alarming state and the feeling that something wicked will surely happen. Even though at the time of the film production there were few technical opportunities, the feeling of dizziness is transmitted perfectly. Thus, the atmosphere of fear is revealed by cinematographic means, such as editing, sound, and properly exposed light along with the impressive relationships between the characters and their psychological impact on each other.
Analysis of the Style of One Key Scene
The scene when Judy dressed like Madeline appears from the bathroom and walks towards Scotty to kiss him is one of the most remarkable ones. An important color characterizing the heroine is ghastly green that labels something mysterious and ominous (Vertigo). For this scene, the director used green filters that created the effect of light fog, providing characters with a romantic charm. The work with the shadow also carries a semantic meaning: Judy stays in a room lit up with green neon, while light and shadow divide her face in half, recalling the sinister dualism of her image.
Another way to emphasize the romantic perception of the character used in this scene is the rear projection. During the kiss, Madeline and Scotty are surrounded by the background with a changing image that shows Madeline’s room and moves to the church’s courtyard. It seems that to create a spinning effect, the actors were placed on a circular rotating platform. The coordination of the movement of the camera and that of the platform was targeted. At the same time, the actors do not move for a long time, naturally causing feelings of nausea and dizziness.
To conclude, Vertigo contains various cinematographic means that help the director to provide the desired impact on viewers. Personally, I learned that the combination of several methods to reveal a character’s mood and the overall atmosphere is rather effective. For example, in the analyzed scene, the integration of rear projection and coloring are the most effective in showing obsession and vertigo, which fits the main idea and tonality of the film and depicts the relationships between characters.
Vertigo. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, performances by James Stewart and Kim Novak, Paramount Pictures, 1958.