"Vertigo" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
"Vertigo" is nothing short of an Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece. The story, the characters, the cinematography is so beautiful throughout that you lose yourself in it, and forget you're watching a film. This is hands down the best collaboration between James Stewart and Hitchcock, while also being one of the best and most famous Hitchcock films of all time.
The film opens with a criminal being chased by a police officer and seasoned detective John "Scottie" Ferguson (Stewart). The criminal jumps from a building onto another, with the officer hot on his tail. When Scottie misses the jump, the police officer tries to help him up, only to fall to his death. This prompts Scottie to develop acrophobia, which is a fear of heights.
When Scottie tries to retire, he is pulled back in by an old college acquaintance, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), who married into a multi-millionaire dollar estate in ship building. He tasks Scottie with the mission to follow his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), who he thinks is possessed by her vengeful great grandmother.
The story is so well-written and intricate that it leaves the viewer on the edge of their seat throughout the entire runtime of the film. We don't really get to know much about Madeleine until the halfway point of the film, making the viewer want to know more about this complicated and confusing character. Scottie, which is played excellently by Stewart, is this character that we are not forced to love, but rather love him in a way that we want him to succeed in his mission and be happy in his life.
The opening credits shot sets the tone for what we are about to experience throughout the whole film. It leaves the viewer in a daze by showing off trippy, drug-like images with swirls and ever-changing colors. It captures the feeling of Vertigo that our main character, and therefore our viewer, will feel by the end of the film.
The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, and you just need to watch the scene below the Golden Gate Bridge to know this. We watch our characters go all over San Francisco, capturing the beauty of the city and the places around it. In the movie's core, it is essentially a love story between Scottie and Madeleine, which makes it such a beautiful and wonderful film to watch.
The film shifts in tone a little after the halfway mark, marking this change of tone with a drastic and shocking twist. Similar to the amount of surprise shown in Hitchcock's other film, "Psycho", the viewer is completely caught off guard by this twist, and totally changes our perception of every character in the film. It's absolutely incredible, and only a masterful filmmaker like Hitchcock can pull this off so well.
The film ends with another twisted and dramatic twist, making the viewer feel cheated and robbed from a beautiful and good ending. However, it works, and that's why the ending is so masterfully created and executed. It's beautiful in a way, and really does show that life always doesn't end with a happy ending. It's almost bittersweet, and scenes like this are what makes Hitchcock the legendary filmmaker he is known as today.