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.