Plot – A former police detective juggles wrestling with his personal demons and becoming obsessed with a hauntingly beautiful woman – Vertigo.
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Released – 1958
Vertigo is probably Hitchcock’s most discussed and critically revisited movie. Not well-liked upon its release and subject to some copyright restrictions, this film has been revisited and reassessed to where it’s now viewed as one of the greatest films ever made. Which is interesting given how simple on first viewing the plot appears to be once you strip back all the Hitchcock-isms? But just like the critics that disliked the movie when it first came out, repeat viewings are a necessity to fully appreciate the genius of Vertigo.
Almost a film of two halves, Vertigo devotes the first half to developing the almost supernatural mystery elements/plotlines. Kicking off with a prologue explaining Ferguson’s (Stewart) fear of heights before jumping into an almost dream-like sequence with Ferguson following Madeline (Novak), with the creeping omen of death hanging heavy as Hitchcock started to pull the atmospheric string and delve into ever darker territory. All of which is leading us to a truly enjoyable finale that’s memorable as it is shocking.
When it comes to the direction, Hitchcock outdoes himself, making use of a couple of new camera techniques, the best of which is the one used to showcase the feeling of vertigo itself. The two leads are arguably producing the best performances of their lengthy careers, James Stewart clearly committed to the role as Scottie Ferguson, showcasing the level of confusion, damage and believability you’d expect from the character and the event’s he’s lived through. Kim Novak as Madeline may well be the quintessential blonde you see if most of Hitchcock’s movie, but that doesn’t prevent her from excelling in the duality aspects of the role.
Vertigo is a film that I didn’t think twice about upon first viewing, but during revisits to the movie, it surprised me just how little respect I had paid this film and how much I’d missed the first time around, getting better with each subsequent viewing. It’s a film that asks to be seen as many times as possible and one that rewards you for doing so, the true mark of a truly great movie, one of the greatest ever made.