Vertigo (1958)


  • While not my favorite Hitchcock film, Vertigo is excellent intellectual filmmaking that covers up narrative flaws with symbolism and in-depth thematic analysis of obsession, victimization, romanticism and life and death.
  • Vertigo’s themes, motifs and symbols are more complex than its characters and narrative, and for that reason repeat viewings are likely to increase most viewers’ appreciation. With successive viewings, audience members are likely to better understand Hitchcock’s use of tunnels, flowers, staircases and whatever other symbols he includes.
  • Which is not to say Vertigo fails thematically on the initial viewing. Because we feel Scotty’s (James Stewart) pain at losing Madeleine (Kim Novak), Midge’s (Barbara Bel Geddes) loneliness, and Judy’s (Novak) determination to regain Scotty’s love, we immediately understand many of Hitchcock’s themes.
  • Which is good, because Vertigo has narrative flaws aplenty. There are plot holes, unexplained character decisions and important events left unseen. Plus, Midge disappears for so much of the narrative that we almost forget she exists.
  • It is these narrative flaws that make me like Vertigo less than some of Hitchcock’s other films.
  • Vertigo is still very good, however, partially because the director delivers plenty of surprises. He also makes every plot twist feel natural, with or without much foreshadowing.
  • Final Grade: B+

8 thoughts on “Vertigo (1958)

  1. Yay another Hitchcock review. 🙂 I actually really love this movie. Something I really enjoy about this film is that you get to see how Hitchcock shaped his actresses into this icy blonde persona, almost similar to the story itself in Vertigo. Very cool I look forward to more Hitchcock reviews. I should totally do one!

    • I liked it, too. I just don’t love it the way I do Rear Window, The Birds or Psycho. Mostly because here the story isn’t the thing, really. The theme and symbols and other “oh my god that dude is smarter than me” elements are.

  2. Yes, it’s not my all time favourite Hitchcockian show, yet I do think it is an excellent flick too.
    But, so far as the rating goes, I think I like it more than you do. I like the narrative flaws, I like that not every character sketch has to be explained. That’s Hitchcock for you, he gives you, in his own words, ‘a slice of life, with the dull bit’s cut out’.
    What’s your favourite Alfred Hitchcock flick? Mine’s, the most famous non-Hitchcockian Hitchcockian romantic noir flick, ‘Rebecca’ (1940).

    • I sense I haven’t seen as much Hitchcock as you have, so I’m not going to break new ground in answering that question.

      I used to think my favorite was The Birds, also reviewed on this site, but then I recently rewatched it. I still like it. A lot. But now I’ll say my favorite is Rear Window.

      • Oh!! I actually studied Hitchcock. For my M.A. in International Cinema (at University of Luton, UK in 2002-2003), my final dissertation was a complete psychoanalysis of various characters from Hitchcock’s best years in Hollywood, aptly titled ‘Marriage in Hitchcock Film : From Rebecca to Marnie’. I hope don’t sound like I’m showing off, I just mentioned it to clarify why I’ve seen so much Hitchcock.
        Rear Window too is a superb film, And The Birds, is visually spectacular, Hitchcock sure knows how to build the tension. Thank god CGI wasn’t that advanced back then. He managed to do such great work with comparatively less resources. He was a genius.
        I would also recommend the short story by Daphne DuMaurier, The Birds was inspired from, of course it’s very different to the film, and has more of a symbolic meaning. Rebecca too was a novel by Daphne DuMaurier, one of my favourites.

      • Then I was right: you have seen way more Hitchcock than me! 🙂

        And he was certainly a genius – (that sounds like an interesting master’s project to undertake, by the way).

      • Thanks! I really enjoyed both my postgraduate degrees. For I chose a couple of unconventional courses for higher studies, and I did them because I wanted to do them for myself, not to please other people.

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