Alfred Hitchcock’s work is peppered with masterpieces that left a lasting mark on the film landscape. These include classics such as “Psycho”, “The Invisible Third” or “The Birds”. However, none of his directorial work possesses the almost mystical sublimity that still characterizes “Vertigo – From the Realm of the Dead” today.
When the best films of all time are chosen in polls, “Vertigo” regularly not only ranks high, but right at the top, i.e. in first place. Even when we determined the 100 best films of all time a few years ago, this list ended with the Hitchcock classic at number 1!
What “Vertigo – From the Realm of the Dead”, which you can borrow via Amazon Prime Video (for a fee) or purchase digitally directly there, one of the things that makes it such an exceptional work in Alfred Hitchcock’s vita is the way in which the British master director faces his own fears and obsessions. The 1958 classic is a chilling soul striptease that any film fanatic must see.
» “Vertigo” on Amazon Prime Video*
The lynchpin of the story is police officer John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart), who suffers from acrophobia, i.e. fear of heights. After a tragic chase across the San Francisco rooftops, Scottie, traumatized and guilt-ridden, decides to resign from the police force.
When Scottie is asked by a former classmate (Tom Helmore) to shadow his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak), he reluctantly accepts the job. He has no idea into which spooky abysses this will lead him.
Like many of today’s classics (just think of “Blade Runner” or “The Thing From Another World”), “Vertigo” received rather moderate reactions from audiences and critics when it was released in cinemas. Today, however, there is probably no other Alfred Hitchcock film that has been the subject of scholarly debates so often and is so often praised as a masterpiece.
The reason for this also lies outside of conventional review principles. “Vertigo – From the Realm of the Dead” shines with a formidable, style-defining staging. Hitchcock’s particularly elegiac sense of style in this film, which is characterized by giving looks, movements and spaces an unusual amount of time for nuanced development, even had a lasting influence on directors as diverse as Brian De Palma and Christian Petzold.
Unlike what you should get to know before (and afterwards) from Alfred Hitchcock, in the case of “Vertigo” he levers out the suspense tension mechanism early on and thus does not work towards an external effect (e.g. a twist), but rather opens it up The web of relationships between Scottie and Madeleine is purely introspective.
The psychologization that “Vertigo – From the Realm of the Dead” produces succumbs to a perversion idea that is unique in Hitchcock’s work. Because where the so-called Master of Suspense While in earlier works he exploited the terror with relish, in this case he rather reveals the personal connection between the fear of death and indestructible lust.
Sometimes depressingly clear, sometimes dreamily vague, Hitchcock formulates the approach that loving always carries within itself the willingness to die. Scottie, as the story progresses, declares himself capable of entering the realm of the dead to keep his feelings for Madeleine alive. Also sexually.
If you like, then “Vertigo” sees itself as a deeply tragic love story that expresses the impossibility of eternal romance with depressingly horrifying poignancy. Aesthetically, Alfred Hitchcock draws on an unforgettable symbol of the “Green Fog”. Poisonous fog that is as graceful as it is devastating in its alluring visage.
The fact that Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t exactly the most sociable person on the set shouldn’t be a secret anymore. He asked James Stewart, one of the greatest American actors of all time, to disappear completely behind his characteruntil any star persona has vanished into thin air.
The result is still impressive. James Stewart’s Scottie, a man who is doomed to failure in every respect because he ultimately surrenders to his memories, is increasingly becoming the transparent shell of a person whose inner life you can see through the Oscar winner’s game, which is drawn far from any affectation can track.
So anyone who claims to have a certain enthusiasm for the subject of cinema must have seen this classic. As Bruce Willis explained in 12 Monkeys, Vertigo is one of those movies that gets better with every viewing. Why? Because we as viewers are constantly changing – and thus use the breeding ground of the film to let it grow.
This is a re-release of an article that previously appeared on DashFUN, which we re-released for today’s TV broadcast.
*The link to the Amazon offer is a so-called affiliate link. If you make a purchase through this link, we will receive a commission.