By Lucas Battista

Available on Amazon Prime. Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore and Henry Jones (1958).

The destructive tunnel piercing Vertigo’s drunken, degenerating spiral manifests everywhere, in everything, inescapable to the film’s hero, Scottie Ferguson (played by Jimmy Stewart). It becomes so deeply embedded in every scene, that the spiral’s own prominence becomes a metaphor for paranoia and obsession unto itself. It might as well reek of a fistful of sweet, crushed flowers, or a woman drowning in perfume. Every wing twists deeper and deeper, closer to darkness and disaster, piercing one hundred veneers of higher order thinking in reach of humanity’s deluded, primal heart. Throughout the film, Scottie, a jaded, retired cop afflicted with vertigo (a fear of heights), finds himself chasing the mystique and allure of a woman (Kim Novak) he has been hired to watch as a private investigator. Despite becoming increasingly embroiled in a mystery that he finds himself personally entrenched in, Scottie maintains a distant and prudent demeanor with regards to what he considers a one-off job for a friend.

“Vertigo” easily carries one of cinema’s greatest scores and Bernard Hermann’s best composition. Haunting as it is beautiful, it is cleverly used with fantastic precision to lull and frighten the audience. “Vertigo” succeeds outside of any other film from its genre, time, and Hitchcock’s own repertoire, in winning to suspend all disbelief against a mystery that might otherwise seem entirely nonsensical. Hitchcock’s weaponization of color is particularly unique with shifting struggle between reds and hazy greens, finding themselves attached to particular characters, and the connotations that might live in each color.

When it was first released, “Vertigo” was met with mixed reception, with tons of critics digging at it for being totally bizarre and with a ridiculous plot. Despite the immediate caustic reaction it garnered, “Vertigo” would quickly become a cult-classic, and many aspects of modern cinema are easily attributable to it. Hell, it even invented the vertigo zoom, so iconic that it has been parodied and re-used a million times over. Furthermore, there is a constant air of nostalgia or sentiment throughout, plastered onto the screen with the use of a constant “glow,” over daytime shots and “haze,” over nighttime shots. The film really does have a certain quality reminiscent of a dream, as if you were sitting inside someone’s head watching their memories cycle in slides, every scene becoming more and more warped by the biases and sentimentalities of the memory’s owner, the derivations of logic and common sense purged from them, until there is nothing left but raw zeal for something, or someone, that never existed.

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