Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

Vertigo

Below is a report that I did after doing a group presentation on Vertigo. 

On the 31st January 2013, my group consisting of Imogen Berrington, Gina Griffiths, Micky James, Steph Scothern, and myself presented a presentation to our class about Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958). We chose Vertigo as our choice of film as we believed that we had enough information regarding the subject on how the film was a challenging masterpiece, both today and when it was first released. Each person was given a specific topic to research and speak about, with the main focus points being placed onto the PowerPoint presentation.

Hitchcock was influenced by early filmmakers such as D.W.Griffith and Fritz Lang, particular during the Silent Era wherein he was named England’s Best Director. We can also tell how much the Silent Era influenced his later work as many of his famous film sequences, relies on expressions along with music to set a tense environment for the audience. A sense of dread is created by such emphasis on sound and music without the need of dialogue, which sets Hitchcock apart from other auteurs. He takes the audience back to when the art of cinema focused on actually seeing and taking in what is on the screen rather than listening to what is being spoken.

It was by 1938 that Hitchcock reached his peak of fame and he was known for being a brand: books were sold about him; a magazine was made about him and most interesting, a TV series produced called “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. He was a brand to the public, as his films drew the most interest at cinemas as the audience knew that for two hours or less, they were going to be watching a drama filled with themes of obsession, paranoia and the art of looking. To me, it seemed that Hitchcock knew how to manipulate and control the audience as he knew that they wanted to escape from reality and be able to watch a film about their deepest desires and not be judged e.g. the art of voyeurism, the ‘torture the heroine’ aspect. Hitchcock knew that the best way to keep the audience interested was have the woman protagonist in distress and needing a male to save here, hence his famous mantra of “torture the heroine.”

Hitchcock is mainly known for his psychological thrillers, being named ‘The Master of Suspense’ as the audience is always known to be on the edge of their seats while watching one of his films. Another aspect of his that is a common theme throughout his films is the use of ‘mistaken identify’ that is mostly seen in Vertigo. John/Scottie is obsessed with Judy who he thinks is Madeleine; the woman who he had previously loved but due to his fear of heights, was believed that she fell to her death on top of the clock tower. Judy is then pressured into changing her appearance to match Madeleine to make her more appealing to Scottie as he is obsessed with the idea of resurrecting Madeleine memory onto Judy. He sees Judy as an object that he can control for his own desire and to help bring him out of his depression as he is focusing on something other than the fact that he could have saved Madeleine. Laura Mulvery (a British feminist film theorist) who in 1975 calls this the ‘maze gaze’ that was explained by Imogen in the presentation which to summarize, is when the female characters are the object of the gaze by men as they are often sexualised and are seen to be under the control of male characters. It places emphasis on the ‘the look’ that is controlled by the male characters within the film as well as the male members of the audience.

Finding research about Alfred Hitchcock was not hard to find as he is a popular auteur and nearly everyone has heard either of him or his films. During A-Levels, I studied Hitchcock and his particular style of visual storytelling that he was famous for and how exactly he was an auteur. I used lecture notes and newspaper articles to help me base my speech and how it was all related to Vertigo. Deciding whether a film is a masterpiece or not, it always is good to know background information about the director and to see similar traits that comes across the chosen film as well as others. I found that even though my section originally had nothing to do about Vertigo, when doing a presentation it is always good to set the scene first about the director. If we know more about the director, then we can start to understand why certain themes of the film are present and why they make films the way they sets them apart from others. The most interesting research that I found was that Hitchcock and Disney were good friends as often; Hitchcock used Disney’s special effects technicians to help out in his films. It was also said that they were such good friends as they both had a deep sadist side that crept out into their films e.g. Hitchcock’s brutal killing of Janet in Psycho and how Bambi’s mom was killed in Bambi by Disney.

Overall, I personally think that out presentation gave our class a helpful insight into how Vertigo is seen as a challenging masterpiece. We also had an approximately forty minute discussion after the presentation that allowed the class to join in with the debate as certain questions were asked for example, ‘Why is Vertigo seen as a masterpiece today after its re-release rather than when it was first released in 1958?’ We worked well as a group and personally, the overall presentation and mini-seminar was a success as I would like to think that people gained a deeper insight about Vertigo.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (Lucas, 1977)

Star Wars IV poster

“When I left you, I was but a learner; now I am the master.”  Everyone knows about Star Wars: Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia. Starting from 1977 all the way up to the present and the knowledge of a 7th film in production; it is safe to say that it’s a series that will never die. It will always be in high regard and be a form of escapism that people will always run to. Children will have their fantasy of owning a lightsaber when they first watch the film: while adults can continuously re-live their childhood fantasy over and over again. This however is not the film where men are crying their eyes out, or a single tear is forced out. It’s more of a film where Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) learns more about himself and the use of the Force.

All aboard

All aboard

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.” Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is captured by Darth Vader (David Prowse) in order to gain information on where the new rebel forces base is. With the help of Obi-Wan (Alec Guinnes) who has fined the art of the Force quite predominately and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) who at first cares for no-one but himself, try and rescue the Princess alongside Skywalker. Star Wars brings clear the theme of good & evil and has a clear grasp on what spectacle is really about. Even without the use of high special effects, Lucas has managed to bring to the public a new experience of film-making. A woman instead of being boring airhead and moaning about someone to save her, actually helps in the making of her escape and has a tough personality that takes no nonsense. Women can take a leaf out of her book and instil in real life situations and not rely on men to do everything, which is the 70’s was becoming more & more apparent.

The beginning of a masterpiece series and only being 121mins, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope certainly packs a punch.