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Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo Essay

1603 words - 6 pages

The film, Vertigo (1958) directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is classified as a genre combination of mystery, romance, suspense and thriller about psychological obsession and murder. Filmed on location in San Francisco and on the Paramount lot in Hollywood, California in 1957, the cultural features of the late 1950’s America were depicted in the films mise en scène by costume and set designs current for that time period. The film was produced at the end of the golden age of Hollywood when the studio system was still in place. At the time Vertigo was produced, Hollywood studios were still very much in control of film production and of actor’s contracts. Hitchcock’s groundbreaking cinematic language and camera techniques has had great impact on film and American popular culture and created a cult following of his films to this day.

As stated in an article by Magellan (1994), the multiple genres of Vertigo can be defined as follows:
Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is a film which functions on multiple levels simultaneously. On a literal level it is a mystery-suspense story of a man hoodwinked into acting as an accomplice in a murder, his discovery of the hoax, and the unraveling of the threads of the murder plot. On a psychological level the film traces the twisted, circuitous routes of a psyche burdened down with guilt, desperately searching for an object on which to concentrate its repressed energy. Finally, on an allegorical or figurative level, it is a retelling of the immemorial tale of a man who has lost his love to death and in hope of redeeming her descends into the underworld.

The narrative of Vertigo tells a plot twisted story of mystery and suspense as the main character “Scottie” (James Stuart), a retired detective suffering from acrophobia, falls romantically in love with Madeline (Kim Novak), the wife of a college friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), whom he reluctantly has been hired to follow. Elster conveys concern regarding his wife’s bizarre behavior explaining to Scottie that she has been taking trips during the day in which she has no recollection of afterward and believes she’s possessed by the spirit of her great-grandmother Carlotta Valdes who tragically committed suicide. Scottie, out of sympathy for his friend, begins shadowing Madeline’s daily movements. He watches her activities from a distance until he follows her to Golden Gate Park where she jumps into the San Francisco Bay and he ends up having to rescue her. He takes her back to his apartment to dry off and they begin to get to know each other and an attraction begins to form. The pair begins spending time together in scenic parts of San Francisco. On the day they visit the Spanish mission where Carlotta committed suicide, Scottie professes his love for Madeline only for her to run off and up the stairs to the top of the bell tower where she falls to her death or so he thinks. Because of Scottie’s paralyzing fear of heights, he was unable to stop her and save...

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