The color motif extensively incorporated in the mise-en-scene of Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock is apparent through many scenes. Two complementary colors on the color wheel, red and green, are repeatedly amalgamated into various elements of each scene. Starting with the opening credits, and continuing throughout the film, red and green are used to represent characters and ideas in order to reinforce the narrative.
The opening credits set the tone for the rest of the film by introducing the color red and the fear associated with it. Prior to revealing the introduction of this color motif, the woman’s face appears to be apathetic. Suddenly, everything in the frame, including her face, dramatically changes to bright red. This is followed by the widening of her eyes and the dilation of her pupils, corresponding to an alarmed and insecure state. This suggests that the color red symbolizes fear and uneasiness. The word “vertigo” then comes zooming out of her eye, to introduce the ...view middle of the document...
When Scottie focuses his gaze on Madeleine’s profile, there is a subjective shot of her face to show Madeleine from Scottie’s point of view. At that same moment, the redness of the room intensifies, introducing the correlation between the color red and Scotties obsession with Madeleine. When Madeleine is recovering after Scottie saves her from drowning in the San Francisco Bay, he gives her a red robe to put on. This implies how Madeleine will become a key figure within Scottie’s obsessions. Scottie’s friend, Midge, becomes aware of his fondness for Madeleine and attempts to recapture his attention. Midge is typically shown wearing the color yellow, a color in between red and green on the color wheel. This indicates how she serves as the force between Scottie’s two worlds. When Midge presents her version of the portrait of Carlotta, she is wearing a red sweater instead of her usual yellow, hinting that Midge is mimicking Scottie’s obsession in hopes of enticing him.
In addition to the color red, the color green is used to illustrate meaning. The color green symbolizes Madeleine and all feelings and implications associated with her. Madeleine is shown wearing a radiant, green dress in Ernie’s Restaurant and driving a green car around town. Since the color green directly correlates to Madeline, it is further used to symbolize the idea of life, and the supernatural. At the point in the film when Madeleine wears the green dress in the restaurant scene, the viewer is lead to believe that a deceased, supernatural being possesses her. On the other hand, while Scottie and Madeleine walk through the forest of sequoia trees, he remarks, “Their true name is Sequoia sempervirnes- always green, ever living.” This statement affirms that life is also implied by the color green. After Madeleine dies, there is very little green incorporated into the scenes. However, when Scottie discovers Judy, Madeline’s “ghost,” on the street, the color green is revealed again by Judy’s unique green dress. Her resemblance of features and colors to Madeleine, inspire Scottie to “recreate” his deceased love. When “Madeleine” reappears, the green light of the Hotel’s sign creates a prominent and intense, green glow in the shot that signifies her “rebirth.”