by Maurizio Roca
What is it about a dream? Half remembered, maddeningly elliptical, hazy in its details. Snippets of information that one must process slowly as memories are recalled suddenly…sometimes never. Vertigo, for all its attributes, is best approached this way at first. It is a part of Hitchcock, but also separate, holding a certain position in his filmography that can feel isolated and distinctive. It’s not just out to entertain us, but to probe something mysterious and elusive within—a personal exploration through obsession that feels repressed, almost necessarily so by its author. When reality becomes too hard to face…maybe only a dream will do.
What is it about the wordless segment of Scottie tailing Madeleine throughout San Francisco that sinuates deeply into the viewer’s equilibrium? The aura that is permeated from Bernard Hermann’s exceptional score as we journey through a flower shop, then a church, followed by a graveyard, next to a museum, and finally into the McKittrick’s Hotel where eleven minutes of silence are suddenly breached. A conversation with a front desk clerk seemingly designed to arouse us from a blissful slumber back to the waking world.
What is it about the way Hitchcock methodically transforms the film from a mystery to a haunting look at infatuation? Making the likable Scottie slowly reveal a tortured preoccupation with control and sexual fantasy previously hidden. As his façade of normalcy gets stripped clean, we are witness to some endemic perversions he cannot conceal. Increasingly he falls deeper and deeper into his own personal abyss…a ghastly nightmare he cannot wake up from. (more…)