Our focus film is Alfred Hitchcock‟s Vertigo (1958)Vertigo is currently rated as the Number 1 film of all time by the BFIT...
When you sit your FM4 Examination at the end of the course you will be presented with a choice ofTHREE questions for Secti...
You may have noticed that FM4: Section C is the only module on the entire course devoted to justONE film text. This indica...
The purpose of any opening title sequence is to establish the mood and visual characteristics of thefilm. The opening titl...
CharactersLocationsNarrative/PlotThemesVisual StyleGenreThe opening sequence is split in to two sections. The first is a m...
The next shot is another Extreme Close Up of Madeleine‟s eyes. Her eyes shift nervously from side toside – she is clearly ...
The theme of unstable identity and the internal working of the mind are shown through a mix of liceaction, colour change a...
The chase sequence ends with Scottie being left suspended at a great height with a fear of impendingdoom and realisation t...
that „Vertigo‟is a key component of the film and the characters deserve close inspection.Hitchcock creates the sensation o...
Castration Anxiety may also be metaphorical and refer to being castratedmetaphorically – to have a masculine feature remov...
During this sequence is effectively „Castrated‟ as his masculine qualities (To be active, in control,dominant etc) are rem...
Throughout the sequence Midge is represented as motherly and unappealing (to Scottie, and thereforethe audience) as a love...
As we have already identified, Midge emasculates Scottie, and this continues in the next scene, inwhich Scottie meets with...
At first, Scottie is comfortable walking around the large office whilst Gavin remains seated. It is onlywhen Gavin mention...
The way Scottie manipulates Scottie, arguably leads to his feminisation, and position of the „Passive‟;he is instructed ho...
Look at these images! The camera shots have been chosen for us, and as aresult, so has our „position‟ in relation to the c...
Women are simultaneously looked at, and displayed as a SEXUAL OBJECT – the connote „TO-BE-LOOKED-AT-NESS‟The scene begins ...
spectator to gaze at her face in close up.This shot literally frames Madeleine in the doorway. The image reminds us of a p...
In this sequence, not only are we, the spectator „gazing‟ at Madeleine, we are being led around SanFrancisco by her. She i...
Vertigo is basically the wild ride of a textbook cynic who gives in to sentimentalism and has two(technically three) relat...
Scottie can deal with, and he does. He feels that he has taken a step towards redeeming himself andregaining his virility ...
VB
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×

VB

2,144

Published on

Published in: Entertainment & Humor
0 Comments
2 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total Views
2,144
On Slideshare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
9
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
0
Comments
0
Likes
2
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Transcript of "VB"

  1. 1. Our focus film is Alfred Hitchcock‟s Vertigo (1958)Vertigo is currently rated as the Number 1 film of all time by the BFIThe ability of candidates to engage in critical study of a single film is examined in this section. Thesynoptic dimension is clear – as there is the expectation that the candidate‟s cumulative learning will bebrought to bear in this study.Critical approaches that may be applied include those arising from the frameworks for the FM3 researchproject while contextual study will consolidate work completed for FM2 and FM4 Sections A & B. Therole of macro and microelements of film in the construction of meaning and the creation of emotioninforms the specification as a whole.Each of the films available for study has given rise to much debate in its critical reception and each lendsitself to study within on or more of the critical frameworks listed for FM3. A consideration of some ofthese debates and the application of critical frameworks will provide a basis for the candidate‟s ownengagement with the film.Hitchcock’s supreme and most mysterious piece (as cinemaand as an emblem of the art). Paranoia and obsession havenever looked better—Marco MüllerAfter half a century of monopolising the top spot, CitizenKane was beginning to look smugly inviolable. Call itSchadenfreude, but let’s rejoice that this now conventionaland ritualised symbol of ‘the greatest’ has finally beentaken down a peg. The accession of Vertigo is hardly in thenature of a coup d’état. Tying for 11th place in 1972,Hitchcock’s masterpiece steadily inched up the poll overthe next three decades, and by 2002 was clearly the heirapparent. Still, even ardent Wellesians should feel gratifiedat the modest revolution – if only for the proof that filmcanons (and the versions of history they legitimate) are notcompletely fossilised.
  2. 2. When you sit your FM4 Examination at the end of the course you will be presented with a choice ofTHREE questions for Section C.TWO Questions will be general questions. ONE will be specific to Vertigo and focus on a particularaspect of the film.Previous questions include:YOU MUST ONLY ANSWER ONE QUESTION FOR THIS SECTION!Section C is an „in-depth‟ study of Vertigo. This means we must cover all aspects of the filmsproduction, background and reception.Our course will focus upon the following areas:Psychoanalysis of FilmSpectatorshipThe „Auteur‟ TheoryRepresentations of Gender - Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey (aka „TheMale Gaze‟)You will be expected to demonstrate a thorough understanding of Vertigo, it‟s Director and the filmskey themes.
  3. 3. You may have noticed that FM4: Section C is the only module on the entire course devoted to justONE film text. This indicates that we must understand our chosen film in great detail.Psychoanalytical theory states that films contain ideologies and psychological messages that arecreated in sub-conscious mind of the filmmaker. As a result it is essential we understand the mind ofthe filmmaker whose film we study.You should also spend sometime researching the life and career of Alfred Hitchcock.Documentaries about Hitchcock:„Hitchcocked!‟*„Reputation: Part 1 – Hitch: Alfred the Great‟ *„Reputations: Part 2 – Hitch: Alfred Hitchcock the Auteur‟ *„In the Masters Shadow‟*„Paul Merton looks at Hitchcock‟**= Available on Youtube.comEarly LifeBirthEarly career inBritainMove to the United StatesRelationship with femaleco-stars, in particular KimNovak, Grace Kelly&TippieHedrinDeath andlegacy
  4. 4. The purpose of any opening title sequence is to establish the mood and visual characteristics of thefilm. The opening titles are also essential in introducing:
  5. 5. CharactersLocationsNarrative/PlotThemesVisual StyleGenreThe opening sequence is split in to two sections. The first is a mixture of live action and graphics thatserve to introduce the character of MADELIENE (Kim Novak).The second section is live action andthe beginning of the narrative – it introduces the character of Scottie (James Stewart).The first part of the opening sequence focuses solely on Madeleine and the theme of „Vertigo‟. Thissequence is very effective in introducing key theme of women as objects to be used.The extreme close up of Madeleine‟s lips inform us that physical appearance of female characters isvery important. The character is clearly nervous (symbolised by her twitching lips) and isuncomfortable being placed under such close scrutiny.
  6. 6. The next shot is another Extreme Close Up of Madeleine‟s eyes. Her eyes shift nervously from side toside – she is clearly uncomfortable being paced under such close scrutiny. The shot also introducesmore themes of the film: Anxiety, Paranoia, the notion of looking and „Gazing‟.The theme of „Gazing‟ is reinforced by the next shot of Madeleine. An extreme close up of her eye isshown with the films title „Vertigo‟ over it. A link between the condition of „Vertigo‟ andwatching/gazing is introduced to the audience and is vital to our understanding of the film.Gaze: to look steadily and intently, as with great interest orwonder.Gaze is often indicative of wonder, fascination, awe oradmiration.
  7. 7. The theme of unstable identity and the internal working of the mind are shown through a mix of liceaction, colour change and the Vertigo graphic.THESE ARE CENTRAL THEMES OF „VERTIGO‟The second section of the opening sequence begins with an action sequence as several policemenpursue a criminal across the rooftops of San Francisco. The function of this sequence is to reinforcethe themes, mood and tone established through the graphical credit sequence, but also introduces theidea of Scottie as the „Castrated‟.The opening chase sequence sets up an atmosphere of anxiety and very importantly of suspense, asone of Scottie is literally left suspended in mid air.SpiralsSpirals evoke the literal and figurative feelings of Vertigo that hound Scottie and Madeleine/Judy. Theopening credits feature a spiral emerging from a women‟s eye. When Scottie looks down from the roofat his fallen colleague, the dead man‟s limbs are splayed in the shape of a spiral, indicating that eventshave spiralled out of control.As Scottie observes Madeleine in the museum sitting in front of Carlotta Valdes‟s portrait, the camerazooms in on the back of her head to reveal a tightly wound spiralling bun, an exact replica of the styleworn by Carlotta. The spiral foreshadows the dizzying chaos into which Madeleine will lead Scottie. Themost physically jarring spiral is the on formed by the winding stairs of the bell tower as revealed fromScottie‟s perspective. As he chases Madeleine up the stairs attempts to half her apparent suicide hisacrophobia takes over and the camera shoots straight down the stairwell. His Vertigo has made himpowerless to save the woman he loves. The very structure of the film suggests a spiralling circulatory:Scottie falls in love with Madeleine, loses her to death, then falls in love with Judy/Madeleine again,only to lose her to death as well.
  8. 8. The chase sequence ends with Scottie being left suspended at a great height with a fear of impendingdoom and realisation that he is powerless. Scottie‟s Vertigo incapacitates him and is used by GavinElster to manipulate him later in the film.Combined, both opening sequences successfully set the mood of the film, as well as the visual style.The sequences introduce:Themes of suspense, identity & ObsessionThe use of generic conventions:Vulnerable FemaleObjectification of womenA flawed male leadVoyeurismNotions of Looking/GazingA mise-en-scene thatechoes the charactersstate of mindThe fact that this is the filmstitle gives us a reason to think, fulfillment and despair.Herrmann really understood whatHitchcock was going for – hewanted to penetrate to the heart ofobsession”Martin Scorsese (Sight & Sound,Sept 04)“Hitchcock’s film (Vertigo)is about obsession, whichmeans that it’s aboutcircling back to the samemoment, again andagain…… and the music is alsobuilt around spirals andcirclesVertigo“a sensation of dizziness or abnormal motion resulting from a disorder of the sense of balance”Dolly-Zoom(aka The „Vertigo Shot‟)The dolly zoom is commonly used by filmmakersto represent the sensation of vertigo, a "falling-away-from-oneself feeling" or a feeling ofunreality, or to suggest that a character isundergoing a realization that causes him or herto reassess everything he or she had previouslybelieved. After Hitchcock popularized the effect(he used it again for a climactic revelation inMarnie), the technique was used by many otherfilmmakers, and eventually became regarded asa gimmick or cliché. This was especially trueafter director Steven Spielberg re-popularizedthe effect in his highly regarded film Jaws, in amemorable shot of a dolly zoom into PoliceChief Brodys stunned reaction at the climax ofa shark attack on a beach (after a suspensefulbuild-up). Other notable examples include PeterJackson‟s Fellowship of the Ring as the fourHobbits first encounter the Ring Wraiths.
  9. 9. that „Vertigo‟is a key component of the film and the characters deserve close inspection.Hitchcock creates the sensation of Vertigo in the film through a creative use of the camera. Thetechnique is achieved by zooming towards an object whilst simultaneously tracking backwards at thesame speed.The „Vertigo‟ shot is used as a storytelling device throughout the film and is used to position theaudience in the place of Scottie and share his „Vertigo‟.In his essay, „Hitchcock‟s Films Revisited‟ film theorist Robin Wood writes:Thefirst use of the „Vertigo‟ shot comes during the opening sequence as Scottie, hanging from the buildingroof top, looks down to see his fellow officer dead on the ground.This sequence ends by fading to black, only to fade up to a scene with Scottie and Midge discussingScottie‟s „Condition‟. As an audience we never see Scottie get down from the rooftop and thereappears to be no way for him to save himself.It could be argued that the entire film is a psychological journey through the mind of Scottie as hecontemplates both the possibility of life and the possibility of giving up.This idea introduces the theme: DEATH AS BOTH ATTRACTIVE AND FRIGHTENING as a majortheme of the film.„Castration Anxiety‟ is one of the most important aspects of Psychoanalysis and will be a fundamentalpart of your understanding of Vertigo.The „Castration Complex/Anxiety‟ is an area of psychology developed by Sigmund Freud.“The sensation has been explained I believe, by psychologists, as arisingfrom the tension between the desire to fall and the dread of falling... anidea it is worth bearing in mind in relation to the whole filmWe are made to understand what it feels like to be so near death, and tohave death made so temptingly easy – a way out of pain and effort”“Castration Anxiety is the conscious or unconscious fear of losingall or parts of the sexual organs, or the function of them”
  10. 10. Castration Anxiety may also be metaphorical and refer to being castratedmetaphorically – to have a masculine feature removedThis can refer to being degraded, dominated or made insignificant!Men will usually go to extreme lengths to save their pride and have their perceptionrestored. The question for restoration can often take the form of proving virility orsexual dominance.During theopeningsequenceScottie, a Policeman whose purpose is to protect others, fails, and see‟s afellow police officer fall to his death as he attempted to save Scottie. Asa result of this he develops ACROPHOBIA and suffers fromVertigo.According to Freud, when a child (male) becomes aware of both male and female genetalia heassumes that the female‟s penis has been removed and becomes anxious that his penis may be cutoff by his rival.Watch the opening sequence to Vertigo and consider the following questions:1. How can we argue that Scottie has been a victim of „Castration Anxiety‟?2. What „masculine feature‟ is removed from Scottie during the sequence?3. What are the symptoms of Scottie‟s „Castration‟?4. How is Scottie‟s „Castration‟ shown on screen?An extreme fear of heights. Suffers of ACROPHOBIAcan experience panic attacks, become dizzy oragitated when confronted with high places.A sensation of whirling and loss of balance,associated particularly with looking down from agreat height or caused by a specific medical condition
  11. 11. During this sequence is effectively „Castrated‟ as his masculine qualities (To be active, in control,dominant etc) are removed from him and he is left hanging, waiting for the help of others. Hebecomes „Passive‟ and demonstrated typically female characteristics.In the opening of Vertigo Scottie is „feminised‟Midge‟s apartment reveals that Scottie was a fairly average man firmly rooted in reality before hisnear-death experience. If Madeleine represents a romantic, otherworldly ideal, Midge stands for theopposite. The bespectacled Midge is practical, competent, realistic and well adjusted.Throughout this sequence, Scottie is consistently emasculated.This scene begins with a fade from black to Scottie and Midge sitting inher apartment. The fade suggests a passage of time between this sequenceand the opening; posing the question:How did Scottie get down from the rooftop?The scene opens by highlighting Scottie‟s „weakness‟ through his use of awalking cane. He begins the scene as an injured man and his „weakness‟ isemphasised.As a result of this he must wear a corset – a feminine item of clothingdesigned to emphasise a feminine shape and body type.Watch the next scene between „Scottie‟ & „Midge‟ and consider the following:1. How is Scottie‟s „Castration‟ highlighted?2. In what ways is Scottie seen as „passive‟?3. How does Hitchcock construct Scottie‟s Masculinity?1 – Make (person) weaker or less effective2 – Deprive a man of his male role or identity: “hefeels emasculated because he cannot control his thissituation”Is possessing the qualities or characteristicsconsidered typical of, or appropriate to a man.
  12. 12. Throughout the sequence Midge is represented as motherly and unappealing (to Scottie, and thereforethe audience) as a love interest. This is best emphasised when she states”“You know about these things. You‟re a big boy now”Later in the sequence she encourages Scottie to climb the ladder – similar to a mother attempting toencourage her child.When Scottie fall he lands in Midge‟s arms in a way you expect to see in romantic films of the GoldenHollywood era, but the roles are reversed, with Midge occupying the male role, and Scottie the female.This scene tells us that the impossible relations between men and women will be anintegral aspect of this film!Scottie (and by extension, the Spectator) clearly has a different relationship with Midge than that hehas with Madeleine.This sequence is unique in its absence of Point of View shots – We are never given the opportunity to„gaze‟ at Midge like we do with Madeleine. We are encouraged to see as the masculine character inthe scene and see her as neutral, with no overt sexuality or appeal.The editing of the dialogue is in an alternating pattern (taking turns, being polite) and theirrelationship is constructed by its „reality‟Midge:We are encouraged to view Midge as a „Mother‟ figure. She ispurposefully unappealing to Scottie and the Spectator in theauditorium – her drab clothes, „librarian‟ look and maternalrole are effective in removing her feminine qualities. She doesnot connote „to-be-looked-at-ness‟Madeleine:Throughout the film we are encouraged, even forced to „gaze‟ atMadeleine and see her as a desirable, sexual object. The firsttime both Scottie and the spectator see‟s her, the camera literallydraws us towards her, connoting her „to=be-looked-at-ness‟She is consistently shot via POV shots – we are literally „gazing‟at her through the eyes of Scottie.
  13. 13. As we have already identified, Midge emasculates Scottie, and this continues in the next scene, inwhich Scottie meets with his college friend Gavin Elster.Throughout the scene, Scottie is again emasculated and positioned as the„passive‟ character – a typically female role.Is a major theme of Vertigo and forms thebasis of our understanding of Scottie‟scharacter and motivations. The only other prominent male figure inthe film is that of Madeleine‟s estranged husband, Gavin Elster.Through Gavin and Scottie, we are presented with varyingrepresentations of masculinity, from the rich, powerful, middle-class male, to his damaged,emasculated and psychologically damaged counter part.There are clear differences between Scottie and Gavin:PowerfulDominantAttractiveRichManipulatorIn control of his ownlifeMarriedBefore you move on to the next scene, you should write a short essay style answer to thefollowing questions, focusing solely on the opening sequence and first scene.“How has your study of „Psycho-analysis‟ enhanced your understanding of Scottie?
  14. 14. At first, Scottie is comfortable walking around the large office whilst Gavin remains seated. It is onlywhen Gavin mentions Madeleine (a women who required help) that Scottie becomes uneasy.The quick cut to Gavin‟s face as he says:Emphasises what Robin Wood claims is “The result of Gavindominating, imposing his story on Scottie”User of othersWeakCastratedDamagedDangerousThreateningDominantSubmissiveManipulatedSympatheticLack of controlVictim of TraumaWatch the sequence between Scottie & Gavin and consider the following:How is Gavin‟s masculinity constructed?How are the camera and mise-en-scene used to emphasise the difference between Scottie& Gavin.Someone dead!
  15. 15. The way Scottie manipulates Scottie, arguably leads to his feminisation, and position of the „Passive‟;he is instructed how to act, and a complex game is constructed byGavin that Scottie obediently plays.Scottie‟s psychological vulnerability is on display and is beingexploited by Gavin.Positioning of the camera and the characters is also significant in thisscene. Once the subject of Madeleine comes up the cinematographicstyle shifts to a series of low/high angle S/R/S exchanged betweenGavin and Scottie.Gavin looms over Scottie throughout the scene, mostly achievethrough a lot of low angle shots that emphasise his physicaldominance over Scottie.At the beginning of the scene Scottie attempts to remain standing andasserts his control over the situation. By constantly framing Scottie ina high angle shot and Gavin in a Low Angle, Hitchcock presents othermen as imposing and Scottie weak. He is overshadowed andcontrolled by Gavin.Laura Mulvey is a British Feminist Film Theorist from Britain.She is best known for her study of gender in cinema, entitled: “VisualPleasure and the Narrative Cinema”Her essay is credited with the shift of film analysis from aesthetic andcultural to a psychological framework.She was heavily influenced by the psychoanalytical works of psychologistsSigmund Freud, and Jacques Lacan.In her essay she coined the phrase: „THE MALE GAZE‟Mulvey in her own words:She believes that all audiences must view each film from the perspective of a heterosexual male.“Sees the representation of women in film and literature (and thereforesociety in general) as being dominated by a male point of view. Her beliefis that the world is a patriarchy and that men have the ‘active’ roles andwomen ‘passive’”
  16. 16. Look at these images! The camera shots have been chosen for us, and as aresult, so has our „position‟ in relation to the character. The camera isfocused upon the bodies of each actress and by extension so is our(spectators) gaze. We are unable to view either character in any other wayas the director has denied us alternative Points of View.As spectators we are left no alternatives other than to view each femalefrom the perspective of a heterosexual male. Even women are forced to viewwomen this way.Star Trek: Into Darkness received lots of negative responses to it‟s depictionone women, especially the character of Carol Marcus.“The scene (pictured) was flat out gratuitous. It had no point. There was noreason for her to change clothes. There was no reason for her to change in front of Kirk. There was noreason for her to change in a shuttlecraft with the back door hanging wide open” -http://trekmovie.com/Mulvey states that the role of a female character in a narrative has two functions:1. As an erotic object for the characters within the story2. As an erotic object for the spectator within the auditoriumMulvey states that our world is ordered by sexual imbalance and pleasure in looking has been split into the following:The characters that „look at‟ (Gaze) at others are seen as the „ACTIVE‟ role – Male charactersThe characters that are „To be looked at‟ (gazed) are seen as the „PASSIVE‟ tole – femalecharacters – and therefore under the control of the male „Gazer‟As a result of this the MALE GAZER projects his fantasy on to the female form, which is styledaccording to his tastes.Mikaela Barnes (Megan Fox) is introduced via a POV shot from theperspective of the male lead Sam (LeBeouf). She is clearly an eroticobject for the character (this is obvious from the way he looks at her).Barnes also fullfils the role of erotic object for the spectators as we aregiven no alternative POV and gaze at her body
  17. 17. Women are simultaneously looked at, and displayed as a SEXUAL OBJECT – the connote „TO-BE-LOOKED-AT-NESS‟The scene begins with a MCU of Scottie‟s face. As he turns to „gaze‟ atMadeleine, the camera pans right and follows his line of sight. Thecamera itself is drawn towards Madeleine; visually representing hisinability to take his eyes of her, he is literally drawn to her. The cameraalso acts as the spectators POV and we, as spectators are drawn toMadeleine, and encouraged to view her as an erotic object.As the camera moves closer (and by extension, the spectator) to her themusic swells and reinforces the romantic nature of the image.The mise-en-scene is effective as the red hints at lust, love, danger,romance etc. and the green dress makes Madeleine stand out from theother women in the room who are dressed in dark, drab clothing.This sequence introduces Madeleine as alluring and captivating. It is impossible for Scottie and thespectator to take their eyes off her or resist her pull. In this shot she fulfils the role of erotic object forScottie and for the spectator in the auditorium.As Madeleine leaves the bar with Gavin Elster, her alluring nature is againhighlighted.Hitchcock uses the camera to „frame‟ Madeleine and present her as aparadigm of beauty. This profile shot, from Scottie‟s POV, allows theWatch the scene at „Ernie‟s bar‟ when Scottie first lays eyes on Madeleine. Pay closeattention to the camera movement use of musicHow is the „Male Gaze‟ applied to this sequence?How does the camera position Madeleine as a „erotic object‟ for both Scottie and thespectator?
  18. 18. spectator to gaze at her face in close up.This shot literally frames Madeleine in the doorway. The image reminds us of a painting – Hitchcockpresents her as an ideal women/erotic object that is being created in the mind of Scottie. We(spectator), & Scottie see her an ideal „creation‟.As mentioned earlier, throughout film history, male characters have played the „ACTIVE‟ role anddrive the narrative forward.Women generally play „PASSIVE‟ roles and are seen as erotic object who slow the narrative – theyinspire things to happen.Notice, in the sequence above, the narrative literally stops progressing so we can GAZE at Madeleine.MULVEY STATES THAT FILMS INTEND TO REFLECT THE PSYHICAL OBSESSION OF THESOCIETY THAT PRODUVED OT – A PATRIARCHIAL SOCIETYIn order for us to fully identify with the male protagonist we must be able to accept the cinematicworld as a substitute for reality. The function of a film is to therefore reproduce as accurately as itcan, the so-called natural conditions of human perception.Camera movement, shot types and invisible editing tend to blur the limits of screen space. We see theworld as „real‟ as this perfect male or „bearer of the gaze‟ is free to look and create the action.During the sequences were Scottie follow‟s Madeleine, Hitchock relies on POV shots to position theaudience in the same place as Scottie. We are literally seeing this world, and by extension, Madeleinethrough Scottie‟s eyes.Watch the sequences where Scottie begins to follow Madeleine.Make a note of the shot types used, the music, how the audience is positioned in relationto the characters and how the narrative develops.In what ways can you apply the „Male Gaze‟ theory to these sequences from Vertigo?
  19. 19. In this sequence, not only are we, the spectator „gazing‟ at Madeleine, we are being led around SanFrancisco by her. She is occupying the „ACTIVE‟ role whilst the „PASSIVE‟ Scottie follows her.Due to Scottie‟s weakness he has allowed himself to bemanipulated, and therefore feminised by a stronger malecharacter. His „Castration‟ creates his desire to „save‟ Madeleine and regain the masculine qualitieshe has lost.You may also notice that Scottie is continually driving in a spiral - a major motif of the film!To do: More analysis of Bell Tower Sequences:Control over M & J in the beauty salonAuteur
  20. 20. Vertigo is basically the wild ride of a textbook cynic who gives in to sentimentalism and has two(technically three) relationships destroyed by his dysfunctional emotions and obsessions. And, ofcourse, there is the title character, Scottie‟s phobia, waiting in the wings to lend a hand if Scottie‟s lifelooks like it might be stabilizing at any point in the movie. Anyway, I decided I wanted to take a closerlook at some of the ideas we were playing around with after class with Watson and the Hitch Lady, sothis is a look at the movie using what I understand of Freudian psychology, plus some entertaininginput from the Vengeful Cynic. (We disagree about the way the movie ends, but I went with his viewbecause Freud would disagree with me as well.)At the very beginning of the movie, we see Scottie vaulting across rooftops, struggling to keep up withthe policeman ahead of him as he realizes that he is afraid of heights. He is, of course, suffering fromcastration anxiety. The ability to chase down criminals is important to his work, which is tied directlyto his role as a male, providing for himself (he is not married . . . I‟m getting to that). If he is unable toperform adequately, it will signify that he is impotent. When he fails to save the life of the policemanwho is trying to save him, he is effectively castrated.There is, at this point, one woman in his life, and soon there will be a second. The first, Midge,threatens his already repressed sexuality, but her relationship with him also conflicts with that threat.She often attempts to operate as a mother figure (later in the movie she will come directly out andidentify herself as such: “Mother is here.”), but she is also very much the liberated woman in thestory. She is self-sufficient, supporting herself from her own work and even, in many ways, more ableto cope with life than Scottie. She was also the one to break off their engagement when they were incollege (even though she wants to pick up the pieces now), and perhaps he has never gotten past theeffects of that rejection. She doesn‟t have any real issues, and even as I watched the movie I couldn‟thelp but think that she is the only well-adjusted character in the movie. Unless, of course, someonewants to make the usual case for penis envy! Personally, I‟m leaving Freud‟s theories about womenalone.Then Madeleine enters the scene. Scottie is asked to follow her and protect her from the verybeginning of the relationship, long before they ever meet face to face. Far from threatening hissexuality, Madeline gives him another chance to make up for his„castration‟ experience. An important part of the job is, at first, tomaintain distance between them. This makes him feel safe. Theavailability of this second chance to perform his task becomes more andmore apparent to him as he sees how much help she needs, culminatingin her throwing herself into San Francisco Bay. Here is something that
  21. 21. Scottie can deal with, and he does. He feels that he has taken a step towards redeeming himself andregaining his virility through the rescue of this lovely, helpless young woman. And now he hasundressed her and placed her in his bed. Is it any wonder that his sexuality, and even his sanity,becomes tied directly to her very existence? Or that he becomes totally enamoured of her?But she isn‟t safe yet, and he isn‟t fully redeemed yet, either. He mustcontinue to protect her as the attraction grows and he becomes moreobsessed with finding out what is causing her madness. Then, disasterstrikes. Before he is ready to confront the act of regaining the fullmeasure of his sexuality, she dashes ahead of him, running up the belltower. And, yes, the tower is tall and thin and otherwise generally phallicin nature. Duh. He is unable to follow her all the way to the top and sheplummets to her death. He is now totally devastated, and the slimy guypresiding over the inquest into her death (or whatever it is) certainlydoesn‟t help his perceptions of himself.And so, he finds himself in an asylum, shutting the entire world out. Midge certainly can‟t breakthrough the barrier and she sees that he is still “in love” with Madeleine. It takes an indeterminateamount of time for him to slowly come out of his depression. As he slowly revisits the places where hehad previously encountered Madeline, he begins to strongly manifest the classic symptoms of a phallicfixation (some symbolically, some literally). Then he meets Judy, immediately notes the resemblance,and the fixation becomes dominant. He is so obsessed and desperate to work through his repressionand regain his lost virility that he treats Judy like an object,ignoring her feelings in order to „do her up‟ like Madeleine.And when he is shocked to discover that thisactually is Madeleine, he firmly and instantly takes theinitiative this time. He drives her out to the bell tower androughly forces her to the top (against her will), where there is abrief but intense burst of passion between them. Then she isscared off of the pinnacle by the arrival of a nun (symbol of femalechastity) and plummets to her death. He moves to the edge, nowunafraid of the terrible height and not threatened by the presence ofthe chaste woman behind him, exhausted in every way, butsatisfied as the bells toll behind him. As the movie ends he isfinally able to stand triumphant high above his conquest.---- ---------------------------

×