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Key Facts

Key Facts

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


 · 1958 Academy Awards:
 · Nominated, Art Direction
 · Nominated, Sound

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.

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