Just when you think you have already predicted the plot; then Hitchcock makes a fool of you.
Unlike Hitchcock’s previous works, Vertigo takes a slightly different approach to enticing its audience in. Vertigo is a near-perfect suspense thriller with a devastating tragedy at hand. Retired police detective, “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart) is traumatized after a rooftop chase to catch a criminal which ends badly, exposing his fear of heights. An old school friend of Scottie’s, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) shows up out of the blue, asking him for help. Gavin is worried about his wife Madeleine’s (Kim Novak) ever-changing behaviour, believing she might be possessed.
The cinematography holds a vibrant colour scheme; the juxtaposition of the bright reds work particularly well in contrast to the dark, supernatural atmosphere of the film. Though we may be presented with rich and exuberant colours, something threatening is always lurking beneath the surface. The San Francisco backdrop, emphasised by the panoramas along the California coast are simply beautiful. Moreover, the score heightens the suspense throughout. In terms of acting, James Stewart and Kim Novak are on top form, supported by a selection of good actors on the side. Stewart arguably did most of his finest work under Hitchcock. Novak plays her Femme Fatale role beautifully. Due to the convoluted nature of its plot, Vertigo is even more dependent on Hitchcock’s obsessive attention to detail as a means of controlling audience response. His mastery over our emotions continues.
Quite the opposite of a mystery, Vertigo becomes a lesson in dramatic irony, as the audience can only sit and watch a man destroy himself in his blindness. A story of obsession to easily fall in love with; its absorbingly intriguing narrative and slow-burning tension, Hitchcock envelopes you in the mystery.