Textbook Notes (358,627)
Canada (155,760)
English (66)
ENGA11H3 (3)
Chapter

a11.+notes+on+vertigo.docx

7 Pages
182 Views
Unlock Document

School
University of Toronto Scarborough
Department
English
Course
ENGA11H3
Professor
Garry Leonard
Semester
Summer

Description
frequently been made that the plot hinges on a wild improbability: not so much that a man who has seen the woman he loves fall from a height should not stay to make sure she's dead, as that the murderer should count on his not doing so. But if one is going to approach the film in this way, a moment's thought will make it clear that the whole plot is quite fantastic -- no one would ever set about murdering his wife in that way. Most of Shakespeare's plays can be demolished in the same way, and with just as much validity. As in Shakespeare's plays, in fact, the organization of Vertigo is thematic; plot, characterization, psychology, all are strictly subordinated to thematic development. Whatever aspect we choose to consider, in passing from book to film, we find total transformation. The difference in significance in the locations, for example, is not simply a matter of transposition from France to America: the novel offers no equivalent for the sequoias, and the complex thematic and emotional deepening that comes with them. The characters are quite altered and an important new one (Midge) introduced. Of even greater consequence is the difference in the attitude to them: in Boileau/ Narcejac they are despised like so many ignominious worms, and we are invited to look down upon them, and to regard life as squalid and ignoble; in Hitchcock they become entirely acceptable representatives of the human condition, whom we are permitted to regard -- for all their weaknesses and limitations -- with respect and sympathetic concern: no question here of any failure of awareness of human potentiality, flawed and imperfect as the protagonists may be. The drab, willful pessimism of D'Entre les Morts is an essentially different world from the intense traffic sense of Vertigo, which derives from a simultaneous awareness of the immense value of human relationships and their inherent incapability of perfect realization. The first image is of a horizontal bar standing out against a blurred background: a single object against an undefined mass. The shot is held for a moment, then two hands grab the bar, the camera moves back, the focus deepens, to reveal a city spread out beneath the night: suggestions of clinging and falling set against a great wilderness of rooftops. There follows the accident, with Scottie (James Stewart) clinging to a collapsing gutter while a policeman, trying to save him, plunges past him to his death hundreds of feet below. The sensation of Vertigo is conveyed to the spectator by the most direct means, subjective shots using a simultaneous zoom-in and track-back that makes the vast drop telescope out before our eyes; we watch, from Scottie's viewpoint, the policeman hurtle down. When we next see Scottie, he is sitting in the apartment of Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). We do not see, and are never told, how he is rescued. Midge and her apartment (that contrasts markedly, we see later, with Scottie's own, which is furnished largely with antiques) represent one of the possibilities before Scottie. The assessment of Midge herself is made with that complexity and economy so characteristic of Hitchcock (though it is only completed by the contrast offered by Madeleine); it is an assessment not only of a clearly defined character but of a whole milieu, even of modern culture itself. It is a very sympathetic portrait: Midge is practical, realistic, emancipated, eminently sane, positive and healthy in her outlook: but from the outset the inadequacies revealed later are hinted at. A trained artist, she devotes her energies to sketching the advertisements for brassieres. In her cluttered studio-cum-living- room, Miros on the wall are juxtaposed indiscriminately with fashion designs. Entirely devoid of mystery or reserve, the kind of sexuality she represents is suggested by her smart sex-chat about corsets andbrassieres ("You know about those things, you're a big boy now"), she reduces everything to the same matter-of-fact level. Yet one senses already a discrepancy between what she is and what she might be: a depth of feeling, of constancy, is hinted at, more visually than verbally, which is at odds with the superficiality of the cultural environment her flat evokes. Her look at Scottie when he reminds her that it was she who broke off their three-week-long engagement is one of those moments that reveal the basic strength of the cinema, because it suggests things not really formulable in words: one could say that the rest of the film defines why she broke it off. If there is something a little boyish about her, there is also something -- Scottie actually uses the word -- "motherly." she disapproves of Scottie's leaving the police, she supervises his attempt to "lick" his Vertigo (by climbing her portable steps) as a mother might help a child to master a bicycle, alternately urging and restraining. Next is the transition from the smart modernity of Midge's apartment to the discussion about the past in Elster's office. Behind Elster we see shipbuilding in progress, and there is a model ship in the room, carrying a suggestion of escape. The walls are covered with prints of San Francisco in the "old days": Scottie and Elster examine one as they talk. Elster bears a clear thematic relationship to Scottie: Shipbuilding -- modern development -- bores him; he has a nostalgia for the past, where a man had "freedom" and "power": the words are echoed twice later in the film: 1. in the bookshop (linking Elster with the man who destroyed Carlotta Valdes) and 2. at the end when Scottie exclaims to Judy: "all that money! all that power!". There is in Elster a hint of the inexplicable -- of the diabolical -- in his intuitive understanding of Scottie's psychological traits (the metaphorical, as well as the literal,vertigo), in his fastening on them and using them. When Scotty jokes he won't be able to go to bars at the top of hotels, but three are pl
More Less

Related notes for ENGA11H3

Log In


OR

Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


OR

By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.

Submit