Vertigo-Alfred Hitchcock Essay, Research Paper
In the 1958 film, Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock examines the vast intricacies of the dizzyinging effects of vertigo. Hitchcock examined the ailment in a physical, mental, and almost supernatural form. Some of the insights are easy to spot, but others are buried deep within the cognitive caverns of the scripting, acting, and production of the film.
According to Doctor Robert Herting and Doctor Nora Frohberg of the University of Iowa, vertigo is A sense that the environment is spinning around or a sensation of feeling impelled forward, backward, or to either side. In Hitchcock s Vertigo, the main character, John Scottie Ferguson has a severe case of vertigo caused by high altitudes. If Mr. Ferguson looks down from a place of an elevated stature, he becomes almost instantly dizzied and disoriented.
Although the film capitalizes on Scottie s infirmity, the film itself is meant to give the audience a vertigoish sensation through the use of a twisting and entwined story line, carefully planned camera angles, and dialoging which changes course several times throughout the work. The viewer is swept from scene to scene, which rapidly changes his or her opinions every few minutes.
John Ferguson is taken on a wild ride wedged tightly between fear, insanity, and breakdown. From woman to woman and emotional state to emotional state, Ferguson is trapped in a seemingly never-ending, spinning, spiral downwards. Being a retired detective, Scottie is commissioned to follow the wife of an old friend, Madeline Elster. Misses Elster has supposedly been leaving home for strange reasons and then returning at night not aware of her whereabouts that day. Scottie cases Madeline and learns her daily routine of sitting by herself at different locations all related to her great-grandmother, Carlotta. Realizing how similar their goals of love, happiness, and freedom are, Scottie falls in love with her. Thinking Madeline is possessed or evoking the spirit of Carlotta, Scottie decides to help her release the specter s hold. Treating this case like a policeman would, he narrows down the facts and clues about Carlotta. He has almost pieced the case together when Madeline commits suicide by jumping from the top of a tower in a small Catholic mission in Southern California. He tried to stop the bewildered maiden but was stopped by the gut-wrenching effects of the vertigo in the high ascending steps of the little white church s bell tower.
At the death of Madeline, John Ferguson is overwhelmed with grief, amazement, and disbelief. He slowly begins to have the same type of dreams as Madeline and eventually is incarcerated in a mental institution until his senses return. He now spends his days as a lonely wanderer who revisits the sites of Madeline s infatuations. One day he sees a woman who looks just like Madeline. He follows her home and asks for a date. Their relationship grows, and eventually he slowly changes Judy to be and act like Madeline. Scottie is finally happy and content.
Just as Mister Ferguson s nerves are settling down, Judy accidentally wears a necklace that belonged to Great-Grandma Carlotta and he realizes the grand scheme and sham which has been enacted upon him. Deciding to take Judy to the place of the crime, he drags her along up the stairs, which he could once not climb, to the top of the bell tower where Madeline met her doom. He is finally cured of the sickness and tortures of vertigo. It turns out that Mister Gavin Elster had paid Judy to act as Madeline to make his wife s murder look like a suicide. He supported his story with John Ferguson as a key witness.
The viewer is dropped and raised in a spinning motion repeatedly at every twist of the plot in this film. Once at the beginning, three times in the middle, and twice at the end. Each little scenario curve takes the spectator lower into the blackness of uncertainty and tingling ambition.
I think Alfred Hitchcock s goal for Vertigo, was to make the viewing audience actually experience the feeling of mental, and possibly even physical, vertigo whilst experiencing this film. After having seen this work, I believe that he accomplished his goal with flying colors. The plot changes, the scenario twists, and the dynamic acting of the star players was superbly Hitchcockian, and superbly exemplary.