full title · Vertigo
director · Alfred Hitchcock
leading actors/actresses · James Stewart and Kim Novak
supporting actors/actresses · Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones, Konstantin Shayne
type of work · Full-length film
genre · Mystery/Suspense
language · English
time and place produced · 1957; Los Angeles
american film institue · Number sixty-one on the Institute's “100 Greatest American Movies of All Time” list
date of release · 1958
producer · Alfred Hitchcock, associate producer Herbert Coleman
setting (time) · 1957
setting (place) · San Francisco
protagonist · Scottie Ferguson
major conflict · Scottie cannot accept the death of Madeleine and struggles to re-create her in another woman who, unbeknownst to him, was behind Madeleine’s death.
rising action · Scottie gradually descends into madness as he falls in love with Madeleine, loses her to an apparent suicide, and then attempts to recreate her in Judy.
climax · The world of illusion Scottie has created for himself is permanently shattered when he discovers that Judy had duped him by playing the role of Madeleine and faking a suicide as part of a plot to murder the real Madeleine Elster.
falling action · In an effort to free himself from the acrophobia and romantic delusions that led him to this point, Scottie drags Judy/Madeleine to the scene of the crime at the top of the bell tower; Judy confesses to the crime and falls to her death when she is startled by the shadowy figure of a nun.
themes · Death as both attractive and frightening; the impenetrable nature of appearances; the folly of romantic delusion
motifs · Power and freedom; tunnels and corridors; bouquets of flowers, spirals
symbols · Sequoia trees; the color green
foreshadowing · In the opening credits, the mysterious woman’s face drenched in red is a foreshadowing of the murderous role a mysterious woman will play in the film. When Scottie faints in Midge’s arms while attempting to conquer his acrophobia on a stepstool, it prefigures his more significant incapacitation when his acrophobia prevents him from stopping Madeleine’s suicide. A close-up shot of Madeleine’s tightly wound hair—a spiral—hints at the chaos into which she will lead Scottie.