James Stewart is all kinds of psycho, and has many, many issues.
Screenplay By: Alec Coppel & Samuel A. Taylor
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Vertigo isn’t a movie about a murder, it isn’t a mystery at all. It has all the trappings of an Alfred Hitchcock murder mystery full of suspense. But the murder, the mystery and the suspense are secondary to the character of Scottie Ferguson. Scottie is an ordinary man, but as the movie progresses he is drawn further and further into the reality that there is no such thing as an ordinary man. That even within someone such as himself there exists a person that can be so taken with the idea of a woman that he will ruin everything and everyone around him. In the hands of a lesser actor I have no doubt that Vertigo would have failed, but James Stewart isn’t a lesser actor. He brings a darkness to his usual everyman that is deep and scary. We witness this stalwart man descend further and further into a myopia that he doesn’t want to end. His journey is the entire point of Vertigo, and that journey is a complete one resulting in Ferguson’s utter ruin. Sir Hitchcock takes us on a whirlwind trip, one that we don’t want to be on, but one that we embrace anyways.
It is through Sir Hitchcock’s masterful use of shadow and darkness that the story of Vertigo draws us in. The vertigo effect in and of itself is nice and an achievement, but it is merely window dressing to the overall story of the macabre that we witness. Sir Hitchcock revels in the dark places that we all know exist but like to pretend don’t. He brings our fears and insecurities to the forefront and he never does this better than with Vertigo. You are out of sorts for the entirety of the film, you can’t believe what is going on. You are in an eternal daze just like Ferguson endures for the final act of the film. Hollywood style closure isn’t necessary, we are given all the closure we need when Ferguson watches Judy fall to her death. He has finally overcome his vertigo, but he has done so at the cost of the life of the woman he loves and at the cost of his own sanity. Love is the most sinister emotion of them all, and Hitchcock understood that better than anyone.
There is a reason that Alfred Hitchcock is regarded as an all-time great in the field of cinema. No work shows off the reasons for all the accolades lauded upon him better than Vertigo. It’s a movie that holds up over time and endures whatever new conventions time may bring. Sit down with Vertigo and watch in wonder as a movie from 1958 told us everything we ever needed to know about the wicked nature of man that we try to deny.