"Vertigo" viewed from a height

Saw Vertigo again, and found out it's perfectly watchable even for a nine-year-old kid.

Don't know if anyone's noticed this before, and I suppose it's too obvious not to notice, but Madeline (Kim Novak) wears a green dress when Scotty (James Stewart) first sees her, same as Judy (Novak, again); that shold have been a clue as to their true nature (that they're really the same person). Well, good enough for a film critic, tho I suppose in real life you'd need better proof.

More damning still is the moment when Judy comes out of that bathroom, wrapped in a green haze; when she emerges from that haze, she moves like Madeline, a dead giveaway (Judy's motions are casual, girlish; Madeline's are formal, and in intense moments, smooth and catlike), Scotty dressed and made her up like Madeline but wouldn't have taught her how to move like her (he had enough on his hands trying to get her to wear Madeline's hair). That's Judy, conspiring in her own way to complete Scotty's vision, only Scotty is too caught up in what he has wrought to notice.

Scotty tells us acquaintances call him 'Scotty' but friends call him 'John.' Madeline calls him 'John' first time but in succeeding scenes calls him 'Scotty.' Is it a move on Hitchcock's part, because 'Scotty' is a more distinctive, memorable name than 'John?' Is it the more informal Judy, preferring the less stuffy 'Scotty' to the more Biblical 'John' (so when Judy as Madeline calls him 'Scotty,' it's a Freudian slip on her part?)? Why all the hullabaloo about his name anyway?

The spiral is prominent in the credit sequence, in Madeline's hair, in the Mission belltower's staircase. It's also a good symbol for man's passage through time, because while there are many repetitions and correspondences throughout a man's life, each moment in time is never exactly the same as the previous one. Time and again Madeline comes back to Scotty's apartment, but each time the situation is different (first as a supposedly unconscious near-drowning victim, second as a polite visitor, third as a distressed lover); Judy acting as Madeline climbs the belltower, then climbs a second time as Judy substituting for Madeline.

Scotty is a man who tried to go back against that spiralling flow, to go back in time, in effect; for one night in Judy's apartment he achieves that goal--he's actually there, back in the stable, and Hitchcock brilliantly shows us his vision--thenhas his illusions shattered forever.

Someone once complained to me that she disliked Vertigo for attempting to glorify an unhealthy obsession; there was no trace of ordinary life or love in the film, of affection the way normal people express it. I told her normal love is something Scotty was striving for all the time, even when he was obsessed with Madeline, trying to possess her from beyond the grave, only he probably didn't know it.

It happens in the bell tower: Judy was pleading for a second chance, Scotty kept insisting it's too late, Judy presents her face at a certain, fatal angle--and suddenly Scotty was looking at Madeline again, face uptilt, lips sllightly parted, alive from beyond the grave. And he relents.

I'd argue that at that moment he accepted Madeline as having never existed, that all he has is plain old Judy, and that ordinary, normal love is all they had left (unless he could convince her during their honeymoon to try a few necrophilic games). That at that moment in the bell tower they fell in love again, and that this was the kind of solid, quotidian love she (the one I was arguing with) was looking for--marriage, children, the whole ball of wax.

And, of course, the story ends.

No comments: