A2 Film Studies - Vertigo

These cards, give very brief information that you can memorise as starting points for questions on characters, themes, motifs and critical debates.

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Character Analysis

CHARACTER ANALYSIS: SCOTTIE

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Character Analysis

SCOTTIE

  • Scene in Midge's apartment reveals that Scottie was a fairly average man firmly rooted in reality before his near-death experience
  • Lawyer who joined the police force.
  • Acrophobic - quits his detective job.
  • Yearns for his life before the accident on the roof. 
  • Lost in the world of illusion and fantasy - so lost that he cam no longer articulate rational reasons for his behaviour.
  • Rage at the dissolution of his dream and at Judy's trickery now possesses him. 
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Character Analysis

CHARACTER ANALYSIS: MADELEINE/ JUDY

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Character Analysis

MADELEINE/ JUDY

  • Fabrication from the start. 
  • 'Madeleine' is the perfect representation of the world of romantic illusion to which Scottie is tragically attracted.
  • 'Madeleine' is no more than a projection.
  • 'Madeleine' represents the unattainable ideal, Judy represents the real.
  • Judy is the antithesis of the refined, ethereal ' Madeleine'.
  • Judy consciously surrenders herself and allows him to transform her into Madeleine.
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Character Analysis

CHARACTER ANALYSIS: MIDGE

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Character Analysis

MIDGE

  • Midge stands for the opposite of Madeleine.
  • Practical, competent, realistic and well adjusted.
  • Attempts to unmask the improbability of the situation. 
  • Significant that the last shot of Midge is of her retreating down the hall of the sanatorium. She has been unable to bring Scottie out of his catatonic state and back to reality. 
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Themes

THEMES: DEATH AS BOTH ATTRACTIVE AND FRIGHTENING

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Themes

DEATH AS BOTH ATTRACTIVE AND FRIGHTENING

  • His fear is palpable, and whil he is overcome with terror watching his comrade fall, letting go seems to be the only way out of the situation.
  • Madeleine is the embodiment of this fear of and attraction to death.
  • Scottie attempts to mold Judy in Madeleine's image. Judy initially fights the annihilation of her real self - a kind of death- she eventually embraces it as a way to claim Scottie's love.
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Themes

THEMES: THE IMPENETRABLE NATURE OF APPEARANCES

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Themes

THE IMPENETRABLE NATURE OF APPEARANCES

  • Mask-like qualities of appearance. 
  • Midge is pragmatic, unromantic, and controlled in her responses, her exterior hides the soul of a passionate person.
  • Madeleine's character is nothing but appearance. She is a fabrication - based on the legend of a dead woman.
  • Judy has difficulty penetrating her own mask. 
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Themes

THEMES: THE FOLLY OF ROMANTIC DELUSUON

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Themes

THE FOLLY OF ROMANTIC DELUSION

  • Scottie's acrophobia is his most apparent Achilles' heel, tragic flaw - penchant for romantic delusion.
  • He fools imself, and is easily fooled by others.
  • Midge is the antithesis of romantic delusion - unable to offer Scottie a mature kind of love.
  • Scottie rejects this love in favour of the illusive, dreamlike love he finds with madeleine.
  • Judy's startled fall from the bell tower is the film's final example of the folly and danger of romantic delusion.
  • When nun appears, Judy is overtaken by the romantic notion that it may be the ghost of the real Madeleine returning to the scene of the crime. 
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Motifs

BASIC MOTIFS

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Motifs

BOUQUETS OF FLOWERS

  • Purchases small nosegay for Madeleine - fragile prefection is an ideal representation of Madeleine herself.
  • The destruction of the bouquet - plucking flowers from it - mirrors her fixation on self-destruction as she prepares to drown herself in the bay.

SPIRALS

  • Spirals evoke the literal and figurative feelings of vertigo that hound Scottie and Madeleine/Judy. 
  • The spiral foreshadows the dizzying chaos into which Madeleine will lead Scottie.
  • The very structure of the film suggests a spiralling circularity: Scotttie falls in love with Madeleine, loses her to death, then falls in love with Judy/ Madelein again, only to lose her to death as well. 
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Symbols

SYMBOLS

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Symbols

SEQUOIA TREES

  • 'Always green, ever living'
  • Symbolize life in the film

GREEN

  • Eerie of uncanny images.
  • Green sometimes symbolizes life, ghostly of uncanny.
  • Beacuse green can represent the spring and the rebirth of nature, it is also associated with the life after death embodied by ghosts. 


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Greek and Roman Mythology

GREEK AND ROMAN MYTHOLOGY

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Greek and Roman Mythology

GREEK AND ROMAN MYTHOLOGY

  • Orpheus and Eurydice, in which the musician Orpheus loses his wife, Eurydice, to death and ventures into the underworld to rescue her, only to lose her again.
  • Pygmalion, the sculptor Pygmalion uses his art to create a sculpture of the perfect woman and then tragically falls in love with his creation.
  • Tristan, who marries a second woman named Isolde when the true Isolde of his passions weds another. That legend ends with the death of Tristan and the suicide of his beloved, just as Vertigo ends with Judy's accidental death and Scottie's living 'death' in the wake of tragedy.
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Critical Debate

CRITICAL DEBATE: MULVEY

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Critical Debate

MULVEY

  • 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema'
  • Importance of the patriarchical viewpoint in the cinemal that the pleasure gained from looking (scopohilia) is a male pleasure and that 'the look' in cinema is directed at the male, this is often referred to as the 'male gaze'.
  • Scopohilia - two areas- scopohilic pleasure linked to sexual attraction and scopohilic pleasure linked to narcissistic identification. This identidifcation is always with the male, who is the pivot of the film, its hero, while the female if often seen as a threat.
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Critical Debate

CRITICAL DEBATE: MULVEY

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Critical Debate

MULVEY

  • Patriarchy and phallocentrism are instrinsically linked; the phallus is a symbol of power, of having. The woman has to phallus, she is castrated, which relates back to Freudian theory that the woman is lacking and therefore inferior because she has no phallus.
  • Cinema provises a perfect venue for illicit voyeuristic viewing because the audience is in a dark enclosed womb-like world. 
  • The woman in Freudian theory represents desire, but also the castration complex, and so there is a tension, an ambivalence towards the female form, and her 'look' can be threatening. The female is reduced to the icon, the ******, but at the same time is a threat because of her differnece.
  • Mulvey argues that woman has two roles in film: ****** object for the characters in the story and ****** object for the spectator. 
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Critical Debate

CRITICAL DEBATE: VERTIGO AND MULVEY 

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Critical Debate

VERTIGO AND MULVEY

  • Highly scopophilic - spectators derive immense pleasure from the act of watching.
  • Judy rendered helpless to the male gaze - Scottie literally constructed her under the male gaze.
  • Castration - Mulvey argues that the Policeman is a symbolic representation of all that is masculine. First scene - fear and acute sense of vertigo - establishes psychological fear of castration. Scottie regains his manhood by stalking Madeleine - submitting her to the male gaze. He rebels against the representation of the castrated man. More violent and vicious he is towards Judy - closer to redeeming his manhood. Last scene in which Judy plummets off the building to her death is then symbolic of Scottie's full redemption in that Judy, the image of the castrated man is banished forever.
  • Midge is the other image of the castrated man. She is never subjected to his gaze (no matter how much she wants to be), male gaze constantly ignores her.
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Critical Debate

CRITICAL DEBATE: VERTIGO AND MULVEY

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Critical Debate

CRITICAL DEBATE: VERTIGO AND MULVEY 

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Critical Debate

VERTIGO AND MULVEY

  • Midge shows Scottie a painting of herself as 'Carlotta Valdes' from the art museum. Frames herself as Scottie's object of desire - attempts to force her gaze upon him. Midge has control over the gaze in this scene. 
  • Vertigo also functions as a text for the Film Noir genre. Contrasting shadows of the cinematography are structural characteristics of Film Noir. Judy is treated as a woman who has the wrong morals - her beauty and significance as an object of desire brings about both Judy's and Scottie's downfall. Film Noir in itself is a genre that is incredibly male - it regards beauty and women as something that will bring about the male downfall.
  • Hitchcock uses scopophilic male gaze, the rejection of the female gaze, the Freudian fear of castration, and the syntax and semantics of Film Noir to create a film that exploits the male fantasy. 
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Critical Debate

VERTIGO AND MULVEY

  • Highly scopophilic - spectators derive immense pleasure from the act of watching.
  • Judy rendered helpless to the male gaze - Scottie literally constructed her under the male gaze.
  • Castration - Mulvey argues that the Policeman is a symbolic representation of all that is masculine. First scene - fear and acute sense of vertigo - establishes psychological fear of castration. Scottie regains his manhood by stalking Madeleine - submitting her to the male gaze. He rebels against the representation of the castrated man. More violent and vicious he is towards Judy - closer to redeeming his manhood. Last scene in which Judy plummets off the building to her death is then symbolic of Scottie's full redemption in that Judy, the image of the castrated man is banished forever.
  • Midge is the other image of the castrated man. She is never subjected to his gaze (no matter how much she wants to be), male gaze constantly ignores her.
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Random

RANDOM

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Critical Debate

CRITICAL DEBATE: VERTIGO AND MULVEY

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Random

RANDOM INFORMATION

  • There are parallels between the Vertigo protagonist's quest for the ideal woman and Hitchcock's relationship with Grace Kelly. Hitchcock felt that Kelly's blonde beauty and distinct acting style made her the standard by which all other actresses should be judged. Her departure led Hitchcock to attempt to mold other actresses in her image. Kim Novak, the blonde co-star of Vertigo, was one of these Grace Kelly stand-ins. 
  • Influenced by the art-film movement of the 1920's, which stressed experimentation and strong use of imagery. 
  • Interpreted in a variety of ways: as an allegorical tale of man's descent into the underworld in search of a lost love; as a psychological parable of guilt, obsession, and repression; and an experiment in generic collage, drawing on the generic conventions of realism, fantasy, and the women's film. Representation of women and the relationship among power, sexuality, and gender- which have garnered the most critical attention. 
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Critical Debate

VERTIGO AND MULVEY

  • Midge shows Scottie a painting of herself as 'Carlotta Valdes' from the art museum. Frames herself as Scottie's object of desire - attempts to force her gaze upon him. Midge has control over the gaze in this scene. 
  • Vertigo also functions as a text for the Film Noir genre. Contrasting shadows of the cinematography are structural characteristics of Film Noir. Judy is treated as a woman who has the wrong morals - her beauty and significance as an object of desire brings about both Judy's and Scottie's downfall. Film Noir in itself is a genre that is incredibly male - it regards beauty and women as something that will bring about the male downfall.
  • Hitchcock uses scopophilic male gaze, the rejection of the female gaze, the Freudian fear of castration, and the syntax and semantics of Film Noir to create a film that exploits the male fantasy. 
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Random

RANDOM

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Random

RANDOM INFORMATION

  • There are parallels between the Vertigo protagonist's quest for the ideal woman and Hitchcock's relationship with Grace Kelly. Hitchcock felt that Kelly's blonde beauty and distinct acting style made her the standard by which all other actresses should be judged. Her departure led Hitchcock to attempt to mold other actresses in her image. Kim Novak, the blonde co-star of Vertigo, was one of these Grace Kelly stand-ins. 
  • Influenced by the art-film movement of the 1920's, which stressed experimentation and strong use of imagery. 
  • Interpreted in a variety of ways: as an allegorical tale of man's descent into the underworld in search of a lost love; as a psychological parable of guilt, obsession, and repression; and an experiment in generic collage, drawing on the generic conventions of realism, fantasy, and the women's film. Representation of women and the relationship among power, sexuality, and gender- which have garnered the most critical attention. 
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Comments

Steve Merrell


Useful. Thank you.

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