the reasoning behind vertigo’s critical acclaim and importance to the world of cinema is not because its story or even the acting in the film. the reason for the films greatness is the cinematography techniques such as the taking shots the wide angle shot and the integration of the first real cgi with practical effects, making thus a film ahead of its time in technique and laed the groundwork for modern cinema.
My views on the film Vertigo are slightly mixed. The first time I watched the film I was very disappointed. I knew that this film was supposed to be Hitchcock’s masterpiece and I was supremely let down when I viewed the film. I didn’t really understand the plot and didn’t care for the main character, Scottie which was played by James Stewart. I agree that Hitchcock’s cinematography and tricks with the camera were masterfully done, but that did not help with the plot of the film. I was not surprised to hear, in our first discussion of the film, that it did not do well in the box-office. However, when we discussed the film further and what it meant, I understood everything a lot better. The main character, Scottie, trying to transform a new woman into the woman he lost was basically the story of Hitchcock trying to find his perfect “Hitchcock blonde”. After this thought ruminated in my mind and I thought about how this story was about Hitchcock himself and it was also the first time he showed any sympathy towards women in his films, I thought that I may want to watch the film again with this new perspective. I have to say, after watching it again I felt a much greater appreciation for the film, itself. After discussing, in the class, the meaning behind the film I could better understand the “masterpiece”, however this also made me dislike the film. A “masterpiece” to me and to be number one on the list of “Best Films of All Time” should be a film that has a message all audiences can understand. To me, the message in Vertigo is better understood by people of an earlier generation. To audiences of this generation, the film does not have as much of an appeal as it would to people of an older generation. In Robert Egbert’s review of the film, he describes it as, “one of the two or three best films Hitchcock ever made, and is the most confessional, dealing directly with the themes that controlled his art” (Egbert). Throughout his review, Egbert defends and congratulates Hitchcock on his work. However, to me, this film is great, but it does not deserve to be above Citizen Kane on the list of “Best Films of All Time”.
Ebert, Roger. “Vertigo Movie Review & Film Summary (1958) | Roger Ebert.” All Content. N.p., 13 Oct. 1996. Web. 07 Nov. 2014. <http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-vertigo-1958>.
Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film, Vertigo, was ranked as the “Greatest Film of All Time” by the British Film Institute in 2012; the question becomes, then, does this movie deserve its dizzyingly high position on this list? I believe that it does.
Vertigo is an unusually good film, even for Hitchcock. The characters in particular are excellent; few people are who they seem to be, and fewer still survive through the entirety of the plot. One rather atypical feature of this film was the lack of emphasis on the murderer; the plot is primarily driven by the interactions between Scottie and Madeline/Judy, while Gavin appears only twice and is never really developed. This, I believe, is intended to focus the audience on the love angle of the film, in a reversal of the typical Hitchcock formula of “MacGuffin, killer, romance.” Nobody expected that from Hitchcock at the time, and first-time viewers of Vertigo will find it very different to his other classics such as Psycho and The Birds. Hitchcock, however, proves that he can play both Cupid and the Master of Suspense at once, managing to maintain the romantic plot even through twisting deceptions, mental breakdowns, and eventually murder and possibly suicide.
The cinematography of Vertigo is, at least for me, the most memorable aspect of the film. The theme of voyeurism, already a common Hitchcock element, is accentuated by the use of the camera as Scottie’s eyes; the audience is Scottie, and we see exactly what he does. Only twice does the camera break from the protagonist. In Judy’s flashback the camera goes where Scottie cannot, making the audience more powerful than the protagonist. The audience does not object; we desire to see more of Judy’s inner thoughts, as if we were observing a rat in a laboratory. Soon afterwards, Judy dies, right as Scottie overcomes his acrophobia. He gets what he wants, but only at the cost of his love’s life. Similarly, we get what we want (the truth of the mystery), and by doing so we kill Judy. The shot of Scottie looking down at Judy’s body brings everything back together: the suspense, the mystery, and the romance are all over and done with. We do not know what happens to Scottie, and if we did then I believe the film would not be worthy of its position on the British Film Institute’s list. The genius of Vertigo is that it does not require additional closure; the audience is not supposed to be comforted by a definite ending. All together, Vertigo is, without question, the greatest film ever made.
The films Vertigo and Citizen Kane have been battling it out for the number one spot in most cumulative lists made by prestigious film institutes all over the world ever since their respective releases in 1958 and 1941. Having seen both films, I can say with much resoluteness that these two films certainly have a spot in the top ten most influential films of all time. In my personal opinion, Citizen Kane is a much better movie in all respects than Vertigo, simply because it has that flawless combination of great story, impeccable acting, incredible cinematography, and intuitive directing. Vertigo has all of that as well, but it proves to be a bit top-heavy on the stylistic side than the story side. Rather than striving to be a complete package, this film becomes an artistic tour de force, which is certainly not a bad thing at all. Citizen Kane simply proves to be a more watchable film. I had to watch Hitchcock’s work twice before I could fully understand what had happened, which does not happen when one has watched Orson Welles’ masterpiece. I absolutely love Hitchcock, and Jimmy Stewart – one of my absolute all-time favorite actors – does not disappoint in his performance, but I feel that in the battle of two of my favorite directors, Welles comes out on top.
I believe that the film that epitomizes all of Hitchcock’s strengths and comes out as the better all-around movie in his repertoire proves to be Psycho; I had never even heard of Vertigo, but everyone has heard of the harrowing story in Bates Motel. However, Vertigo proves to have made much of a bigger impact on film itself as an art than Psycho has, though the latter has made much more of an impact on society and movie genres as a whole. I do believe that Vertigo deserves to be ranked higher than Psycho, simply because film as a medium never would have developed quite in the way it has without that particular film. I also believe that Vertigo is a much scarier film than Psycho, and indeed Hitchcock’s scariest film in all. It is not scary in the typical sense of the word, but the way that Stewart’s character completely dominates Kim Novak’s character would have left me shaking and crying in terror if I had not been surrounded by my peers. It is in this respect that this film surpasses other films – its revolutionary characters and character development. Most other films had never before addressed such topics as stripping away one’s identity for love and giving oneself wholly to another, and what happens to one when that happens, and if a relationship under such a premise could ever be healthy. Roger Ebert aptly describes this volatile relationship and characterization in his film critique, in which he describes Vertigo as “one of the two or three best films Hitchcock ever made”:
“Vertigo… is the most confessional [of Hitchcock’s films], dealing directly with the themes that controlled his art. It is *about* how Hitchcock used, feared and tried to control women. He is represented by Scottie, a man with physical and mental weaknesses (back problems, fear of heights), who falls obsessively in love with the image of a woman–and not any woman, but the quintessential Hitchcock woman. When he cannot have her, he finds another woman and tries to mold her, dress her, train her, change her makeup and her hair, until she looks like the woman he desires. He cares nothing about the clay he is shaping; he will gladly sacrifice her on the altar of his dreams.”
He then goes on to expose Scottie’s hypocritical anger at Gavin and Judy, in which Scottie laments that he could not shape the woman he so desired, as the woman he loved was pure fiction. In no other film has this topic been scrutinized to the length that it was in this film, and in no other film does the treatment and complete submissiveness of the woman strike such fear into the viewer as this film. This characterization and the gleeful pleasure Hitchcock takes in playing with audience expectations and preconceptions, as well as the unnerving examination of the role of women in society and in romantic relationships, combine to help make this film into the work of art that it is.
While I do not think that this Hitchcock film is necessarily the best film ever made, it assuredly deserves to be in every top ten list of best movies ever made. Its contributions to film-making as an art is undeniable.
Ebert, Robert. “Vertigo.” Ebert Digital LLC, October 6, 1996.
In 2012, Sight and Sound ended the 50 year reign of Citizen Kane at the number one spot of the greatest films of all time and crowned Vertigo in its place. I think that this was a good decision, not necessarily because I think Vertigo is a better film than Citizen Kane, but because it’s good to change with the list a little in order to encourage discussing great films. While I wouldn’t put either of them in my number one spot, they’re definitely in my top thirty, and I believe that Vertigo is a respectable choice for the greatest film of all time.
An essay published in The Guardian praised Vertigo’s spot at number one, stating that, “Ultimately the beauty of Vertigo cannot be so captured and pinned; it is more akin to the butterfly garden, in which we all wave our own nets. Everyone’s catch will be different, and different each time.” This is an apt description of the film’s brilliance as different people will find different reasons to enjoy the film. Roger Ebert spends a large amount of his review analyzing Judy’s role in the film and the pathos of the pain and humiliation she endures, stating “From the moment we are let in on the secret, the movie is equally about Judy: her pain, her loss, the trap she’s in.” I agree with this, and believe that the final third of the movie from the point where we’re in on the secret to end is the strongest part of the film. Not only does it contain the most emotionally powerful moments of the film, the technical aspects shine as well, particularly the kissing scene when Judy is transformed into a perfect replica Madeline. Judy’s ghost-like appearance when she first emerges, the haunting music, and the rotating camera trick come together to create cinematic perfection. In a film full of fantastic scenes, this one, in my opinion, is the most memorable.
There are many more scenes and motifs in Vertigo which I would love to analyze, but the bottom line is that Vertigo is a wonderful film which I think falls somewhere between Ebert’s declaration as “one of the two or three best films Hitchcock ever made,” and the BFI’s ranking of Vertigo to be the best film anyone ever made.
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.
In the fall of 2012 The British Institute of Film rightly voted Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo to its number one spot within the Greats 50 films of all time, knocking Citizen Kane down to the number two slot after 50 years of reigning at number one. Ranking films based on their “greatness” is a highly subjective matter, however, it is evident that Hitchcock’s Vertigo surely belongs to such a list based on its novel camera tracking shots, shocking story and ability to stand the test of time. Vertigo compiles many cinematic and stylistic features which make it appealing to all types of audiences and film critics alike. These features include a melodramatic romantic plot but also a thrilling detective story sure to please any movie goer, however, it is the stylistic camera shots which truly define both these differentiating styles that perhaps make this film so captivating and influential. The whirling romance of the film is tangibly felt through passionate kisses, a mist, spinning cameras, and montage overlays. The decorative noir essence is portrayed through the suspense of following Madeline within Scottie’s point of view. The audience stylistically follows Madeline through Scottie’s car and into the beautiful city landscape of San Francisco.
Vertigo rightfully deserves its new number one standing as it is both stylistically classic and thrillingly entertaining. Vertigo is an influential film within the film industry. Its iconic staircase tracking shots, cityscape panoramas, and spinning camera kiss scenes will be studied and influential in the making of further films.
While there is no doubt that Vertigo is an excellent film and will be remembered as such for many years to come, I do not believe that it was the best Hitchcock picture. Personally, I am much more inclined to give that credit to Psycho as it is faster paced and better know in the younger generation. It is very influential for many thriller films made after the fact which wasn’t as much the case with Vertigo. Psycho also has an advantage as it made later in Hitchcock’s career which provides a little more understanding on how to work with the audience and how certain camera angels and lighting provide certain feelings.
Granted Citizen Kane is undeniably one of the best movies to have ever been made, however, I still feel that Psycho in some aspects is a more enjoyable film. While I have not studied Citizen Kane in such great depth, the amount of planning and subtlety of Psycho was truly astounding.
I understand this is an incredibly unpopular opinion but I feel with the amount of enjoyment watching Psycho gave me it is hard for me to justify giving it any other spot on the list except number 1. There are not many times that you see a movie that so widely affects the audience or cinema in such a way so at the very least Psycho must be respected in that aspect.
Although Citizen Kane is undeniably one of the greatest movies of all time, I can understand how critics and scholars can rank Vertigo as number one on the “50 Greatest Films of All Time” list. After 50 years of Citizen Kane enjoying the spotlight, it was finally replaced by the honorable Vertigo. Many film-fanatics of this generation do not consider Vertigo one of Hitchcock’s most influential films, but I would have to disagree. Although the movie may have some more adult-centered themes that may not appeal to younger audiences, I can completely see how older generations are able to relate with the concepts portrayed in Vertigo. The film relies heavy on the idea of loss, which only someone who has experienced loss can understand. However, some critics do not agree with the idea of dominance that is portrayed throughout the film. Laura Mulvey, for example, is one of those critics. As a strong feminist, Mulvey believes that the voyeurism depicted throughout the film is symbolic of male objectification of women. Although this appears to be true in this particular film, I disagree with her belief that men are the only ones guilty of objectification. Both men and women can be found guilty of objective voyeurism, and although Vertigo was admittedly centered around male dominance, men are not the only ones capable of objectification.
Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo is ranked number one on the list of the “50 Greatest Films of All Time,” as I believe it deserves to be. Hitchcock planned the entire film out, making very intentional decisions about how to put the movie together. Overall, from the opening credits to the closing, the film was affective. The camera shots are well put together, especially the ones that portray Scottie’s acrophobia to the audience. Just as we are made to feel and understand Scottie’s fear of heights, we also feel uncomfortable like Judy when Scottie is changing her. In addition to the good camera technique and making the audience connect to the characters, the storyline, while somewhat slow at times, I found to be very intriguing. I didn’t expect many of the events that took place throughout the movie, which kept me alert and eager to find out how the movie was going to conclude. Lastly, the film is still enjoyable after a second viewing, because you can pick up on cinematographic and plot details that you originally missed, making you understand even more why Vertigo has received so much praise.