Next up on my list goal of watching the 50 top movies of all time was Vertigo. Vertigo is quite difficult to review for a few reasons. Firstly, while this film is seen as one of the best films ever made and Hitchcock is lauded as a master, I’ve found his films troublesome to say the least. But secondly, Vertigo lends itself so much to analysis that there’s almost too much film to review!
There’s the obvious theme of obsession, almost autobiographical from a director notoriously scared of women. There’s the clear link to Basic Instinct that has been pointed out to me. Finally there was the frankly game-changing revelation by a friend about the film’s hearkening to the past; how all the characters, bar Judy, want the world to revert to how it once was, especially emphasised by the character of the bookshop owner.
But something else struck me as I mulled on Vertigo:
While I’m not sure it was intended that way, I see the Judy/Madeleine dynamic as one mirroring celebrity culture. The public has a voracious obsession with the public face, the hyper-real persona of the celebrity in question; female celebrities perhaps more so than men. This public image is invested in, revered, polished and sold, often hiding something quite different and possibly scared underneath. And when the facade cracks, the audience howls their dismay and seeks to tear down both the simulacra and the original underneath.
In terms of film-making and visual imagery, Hitchcock makes good use of mirrors; it’s not an original technique, but in this case it complements the narrative very well indeed.
Finally, did I enjoy the film? Yes, I think so. It’s uncomfortable watching at times, and rich in imagery and ideas and film-making expertise. It is truly one of the great films. But much as I enjoyed it, much as I’ll watch it again and again, I can’t say I loved it.