Views on Vertigo

I completely agree with the new ranking of Vertigo as number on on the the British Film Institute’s list. Albeit this is not the first time I have watched the movie, so I might be a little bit biased towards it. I also agree with critic Robin Wood’s claim that Vertigo is “…Hitchcock’s masterpiece to date, and one of the four or five most profound and beautiful films the cinema has yet given us.” (108)

Though modern audiences may be taken aback by the sexism and abuse shown in the film, I am of the belief that this was the full intent of the director. Hitchcock wanted the relationship between Scottie and Judy to be intense and aggressive. The movie is jam-packed with high emotions. Scottie was driven to such extremes by his own obsession with Madeleine, a major theme present. In order to portray the level of his obsession, as well as Judy’s desperation to win Scottie’s love, their relationship was seen as being toxic and alarming to the audience.

Regardless of the unnerving relationship between the two characters, the movie contains many images and details that make it mesmerizing to watch.

I must disagree with Laura Mulvey’s theory towards the movie regarding male gaze, however. As it was mentioned in class, a female viewer may see the movie differently than the “male spectator” that Mulvey refers to.

Also, Mulvey claims that the role we play as the male spectator is a scopophilic role, meaning that we are getting some form of gratification (sexual or otherwise) from viewing the passive female role portrayed on screen. However, I would disagree with this viewpoint. Though parts of the movie could be viewed as giving the spectator (both Scottie and us, technically) some form of pleasure, for the most part the movie does not provide either spectator pleasure. Scottie suffers greatly throughout the movie due to his obsession, and the movie-goer may not even feel fulfilled at the end. Many people in our class claimed that the ending left them feeling unsatisfied, as if there should be more or as if something else should happen. If the ending does not satisfy the spectator, what pleasure have they received from it? If the movie ever did contain the “male gaze”, I think that the ambiguous ending certainly shattered it. And technically, it was the “passive female” that shattered it by falling off the tower.

Mulvey, L. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen: 6-18.

Wood, Robin. Hitchcock’s Films Revisited. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

1 thought on “Views on Vertigo

  1. viviandarkbloom

    I completely agree with you, and I believe that because this movie is alarmingly intense and even a bit aggressive, it it interesting and compelling to watch for views of this generation. I know a lot o people felt that the pace of the movie was slow and that a lot of the movie’s conflicts and controversy, were lost on todays generation, but I felt the movie really moved and the strain of Scottie and Madeline’s psychologically toxic relationship was definitely still relevant. The notion of a kind of maddening, forbidden romance, surrounded in controversy is, although not a new idea it is definitely a timeless one. I believe no one will forget the obsessive and sometimes abusive relationship between Scottie and Madeline much like no one will forget, the controversial yet time-standing, relationships in Romeo and Juliet, Lolita, and Wuthering Heights. If anything is outdated I believe it is Laura Mulvey’s theory regarding the gaze of the audience or men in particular. I totally agree with all the points you made especially your point of the gratification of the male audience and Vertigo’s unsatisfying end among its spectators. I really enjoyed reading your post and found your points really refreshing amongst a number of people that found Vertigo kind of boring, but then again maybe I’m a bit biased too, since I thought Citizen Kane was pretty boring.

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