Film Studies Lecture 3 – Vertigo


Vertigo was directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1958, and starred James Stewart, Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes.  The film told the story of a retired San Fransisco detective who suffers from acrophobia, an extreme fear of heights, who ends up tailing the wife of a friend who is worried she may be going crazy and contemplating suicide.  Stewart, the detective, then becomes dangerously obsessed with the wife and gets drawn into a murderous plot, filled with mystery and acrophobia.

Like many Hitchcock films, the interesting story, characters and camera shots keep the audience fascinated, without the typical Hollywood recipe of Mario saves the world by finding which castle the princess is trapped in, which is probably wise as the whole acrophobic issue in this film may have suffered due to the scale of some castles.

The film begins with Stewart’s character chasing a criminal across the rooftops in the inner city.  However instead of catching the criminal like the dashing Hollywood hero Stewart is, he trips and nearly falls off the building.  While hanging onto the side and looking down, this camera shot is shown to the audience.  Now, I’m not sure about other people, but this is one of the few films and camera shots that actually gave me vertigo, therefore, it must be incredibly effective.  Hitchcock has always been good at using strange or different camera shots to convey something to the audience, in this case, a fear of height.

A good camera shot, causing real vertigo!

This first shot is not the only vertigo inducing camera work in the film, in fact the whole film is riddled with examples, this one bellow for example, depicts the leading lady as being very small, vulnerable and lonely.

Withering heights

Another different technique that Hitchcock used during this film was some very early special effects.  These were employed to give make the audience feel unease and even a small amount of insanity.  Bright colours were used spinning around a torsoless head… Strange.

James Stewart's head in a kaleidoscope.

The film itself was interesting, if a little slow in places.  I rather enjoyed the slow spiral into self-destruction that Stewart was walking, however I felt that the ending was designed specifically to annoy me, as there was very little explained or wrapped up.


About opinionatedalex

Less opinionated than one might think.
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