“Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere.”
Hitchcock’s Vertigo is considered by many critics as the best film ever, although this wasn’t always the case considering that when it was released in 1958 it was poorly received by audiences and critics alike. So much so that it marked the last time that Hitchcock worked with James Stewart who he blamed for not attracting audiences any more due to his age. Unfortunately it was the last collaboration between the two, but they left us a rich legacy. Hitchcock also blamed Kim Novak’s performance, but if he were alive today he would realize what a mistake those two claims were. First of all, I believe Kim Novak was enchanting in this film, she was the perfect femme fatale in this sort of film noir suspense thriller. She was attractive and hard to decipher. James Stewart was also great and once again is believable as this obsessed man who is following this mysterious women all over San Francisco. His fear of heights, which is a key part of this film, is also believable and thanks to Hitchcock’s technique (now known as the Vertigo shot) those scenes worked extremely well. However, the best thing about Vertigo is the strange twists it takes and how it surprises us with the direction it takes half way through the film. It is hard to classify this film and it goes places you never imagine. This is what Hitchcock does best in his films and that is why he is considered as the Master of Suspense. The psychological elements are always present and everything is so masterfully crafted in this film that it is hard to break out of the enchanted atmosphere created here.
The film’s theme of obsession is probably why it is called a masterpiece considering no other film has explored this subject as well as Vertigo does. I personally prefer Rear Window, another collaboration between Stewart and Hitchcock, as his masterpiece although that film is more generic and easier to classify. In Rear Window Hitchcock explores voyeurism, in Vertigo a man’s obsession over a mysterious woman who he feels attracted to. Actually there are two women who Stewart’s character relates to in this film. Other than Madeleine (Kim Novak) who is the woman he is assigned to follow around the city he also shares a close friendship with Midge (played by Barbara Bel Geddes) his former love interest from his college days. Midge is an intelligent women and the perfect one for Scottie (James Stewart), but as he becomes more and more obsessed with Madeleine she begins to be sidelined. The only issue I had with this film involved some of the dialogue scenes between Scottie and Midge during the beginning of the film which served to set up the story and their background. It never felt authentic but it accomplished its purpose. Once Kim Novak enters in the picture and the theme of obsession kicks in the film really picks up and seduces the audience into its mysterious and eerie atmosphere. It’s unpredictable, but I wouldn’t say this thriller is as scary as Psycho, another Hitchcock film I would rank above Vertigo. I really loved this film despite some pacing issues during the beginning and midway through the story, but other than that I agree with the claims that this is a masterpiece and a must see for film lovers everywhere. Just like Citizen Kane this is a film that was ahead of its time and one who the contemporary audience wasn’t ready to embrace.