Vertigo is the best place to start a Hitchcock analysis. While many themes repeat in his films, Vertigo is most memorable for its psychological depth and mystique. Containing some of the most famous scenes in the history of cinema, Vertigo is also the “master of suspense’s” deeper message about the psychological manipulation that can occur in our own lives, in society, and amongst the elite. My thesis is that Vertigo is not just a film about an average guy that is caught up in a spiral of madness (a common theme in Hitchcock), but also an insight into the control and manipulation we see from those who are our masters. Not only does Vertigo present an elite shipping magnate that manipulates Scottie (Jimmy Stewart, protagonist), it demonstrates the lengths to which these powers are interested in, to use the words of the Collins brothers, “managing the beyond.” Vertigo is therefore a film about the manipulation of beliefs.
Initially the audience is shown a series of eyes, probably of Kim Novak, with spirals emerging. The spiral has the significance here of alerting the viewer that we are trapped. The swirling spiral of madness will grip us, causing us to dissociate, losing our sense of self and identity. Losing one’s balance, or falling, is thus a metaphor for the loss of place and identity: this will be the crucial point in Vertigo. How far can the manipulation of the psyche go to create and induce the loss of identity? In the opening scene we see a flashback to Scottie, a traumatized former police detective who was involved in the death of a fellow officer. While not intentional, Scottie was stuck on a ledge following a chase, which resulted in another officer falling to his death. Scottie emerged from the scene with vertigo, and only after a few years has he begun to make progress toward recovery. It is worth noting that for Scottie, the causes of his further descent into his downward spiral of obsession, mania and dissociation revolve around trauma.
Scottie spends his days with the homely “Midge,” waiting for something interesting to happen in his life, eschewing marriage. Midge is sexually frustrated, annoyed that Scottie has no sexual interest in her (or in anyone apparently). Upon receiving a special invitation to see his old war buddy Elster, Scottie reluctantly decides he must go, ignoring the innuendos of Midge. Meeting at a disguised location, Elster explains that he married into great wealth, particularly a family involved in the shipping business. Elster tells the fantastic tale that his wife Madeleine is possessed by a ghost – a dead woman named Carlotta Valdes. Scottie is incredulous but finally caves and agrees to Elster’s request that he follow Madeleine. Elster says Madeleine dissociates and drives to the Golden Gate Bridge and stares at the “pillars – portals to the past.” This will be significant later, especially as twin pillars are constantly seen throughout the film.
Scottie spots Madeleine at a club called Ernie’s and follows her to a florist, where Scottie begins to develop a fascination for voyeurism. Interestingly, he spies on her in the shop through a mirror which is a classic symbol of the psyche and its double. Scottie begins to fall in love with Madeleine, which only sucks him deeper and deeper into the spiral of insanity that awaits. The reference to wealthy shipping magnates and British power calls to mind the research of Fritz Springmeier, who is generally accurate in his claims. According to Springmeier, we can assume that the mention of connections to elite merchant and sea power is not accidental. He writes in regard to Hitchcock, the Onassis shipping magnates and Grace Kelley:
“Grace had many affairs including one with Bing Crosby. Grace Kelly worked for MGM. Alfred Hitchcock was the one who is credited with seeing a superstar in Grace. Alfred Hitchcock came from a British generational occult family, and was a dark genius who produced many exceptional films. Grace Kelly acted for three of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. Dial “M” for Murder was the first. Later, Hitchcock visited Grace and Prince Rainer at their Paris home, and Grace made a rare public appearance in Apr. ’74 with Hitchcock in New York. Hitchcock’s life has been described by someone who knew him as “an enigma within an enigma.” Hitchcock was very secretive about his own life and his parents. We do know that he was instructed by the Jesuits at St. Ignatius College which he left in 1913. He had an extreme fascination for sadomasochism, which can be seen in his movies such as Frenzy. Continue reading