Logline: A retired detective suffering from acrophobia is hired to follow the mysterious activities of an old friend’s wife but becomes obsessed with her in the process.
Review: Hypnotic, haunting, and dreamlike, Vertigo is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films. Like any great film, it requires multiple viewings to appreciate its complexity and power. My love for Vertigo grows each time I see it.
In Sight and Sound’s 2012 poll of the greatest films of all time, Vertigo dethroned Orson Welles’s 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane as the greatest film of all time. Personally, I think it is absurd to rank masterpieces. It is interesting, though that Vertigo, of all of Hitchcock’s masterworks, took that honor. It is easily one of the Master’s darkest films and the black humor that is usually present in Hitchcock’s films is largely absent in Vertigo. The film seemingly begins as a ghost story only to delve into something much deeper and darker.
Hitchcock was known as a controlling director particularly when it came to his leading ladies. Vertigo is the closest Hitchcock came to reflecting himself in his films by depicting a man’s obsession with a woman. Hitchcock was a master at visual storytelling, which is evident in Vertigo.
The film’s soundtrack, composed by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Hermann is fantastic and is perhaps, my favorite soundtrack of all time. In addition, James Stewart gives one of his best performances. Hitchcock helped reveal a darker side of the actor that is astounding.
Do not watch Vertigo with the thought of “the greatest film of all time” looming over your mind. Watch it for what it is – a Hitchcock classic that examines man’s fascination and sometimes, fetishistic obsession with woman.
Great scene: Judy completes her transformation into Madeleine in this haunting scene.