Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958) One of the most intensely debated films in the history of cinema. Most of these debates deal with psychoanalytical issues, strongly influenced by Freud and Lacan, as well as by Marx and particularly feminist thought. Your views on the film?
Scottie Opening scene We encounter Scotties’ impotence (and our own) Drowning scene A psychoanalytical reading of the film will pick up on the ‘rescue fantasy’ as a theme
Applying Mulvey Interprets Scotties’ pursuit of Madeline as an erotic obsession based on castration anxiety. States: Scotties’s voyeurism is blatant: he falls in love with a woman he follows and spies on without speaking to. Its sadistic side is equally blatant…Once he actually confronts her, his erotic drive is to break her down and force her to tell by persistent cross-questioning. Then, in the second part of the film, he re-enacts his obsessive involvement…he reconstructs Judy as Madeline, forces her to conform in every detail to the actual physical appearance of his fetish…in the repetition he does break her down and succeeds in exposing her guilt. His curiosity wins though and she is punished.
Mulvey cont… As harsh with Judy as she is with Scottie: “Her exhibitionism, her masochism, make her an ideal passive counterpart to Scottie’s active sadistic voyeurism.”
Madeline Woman as helpless object of desire Opening to film – fetishistic Scottie is able to gradually win Madeline’s love, in spite of her resistance and hesitation. However, the woman who was his object of compassion and passion, turns out to be the creation of another man. The result is Scottie’s sadistic and vengeful domination (last bell tower scene)
Alternate views: Wood (1977) Character of Midge “devoid of mystery or reserve’. She contrasts Madeline (more erotic through mysteriousness, vulnerability and grace) Wood points out that in the second half our POV is split between Scottie and Judy. Madeline dies (both times) at the moments when she threatens to become a real person.
Judy Fetishistic attempts to mold her into Madeline. She succumbs and agrees to fully recreate her. Judy disappears under the shadow of his object to win his love Transformation scene: Breathtaking moment of romantic fantasy fulfillment.
Alternate views: Wexman (1986) She criticisesMulvey’s ideas. Sees them as representing an ‘idealist position which…can obscure the working of more culturally specific codes within the cinematic text.’ She also discussed the commercialised eroticism of the American film industry, and the way its demand led to controlling Kim Novak’s image and to harassing the actress during production.
Midge Maternal qualities Soothing tone of voice Male imitation Presents herself as Scottie’s buddy Spectator figure Female spectator identify with?
Challenging Mulvey: Keane (1986) Contests the idea of the camera aligning itself with the male POV. Mulvey views voyeurism as purely active and sadistic. Keane suggests (with the help of Freud’s work on Scopophilia) that Scottie also suffers in his voyeuristic position and is in a way a passive character. Scottie also loses his beloved by looking at her.
Palombo (1987) Scottie’s fainting in Midge’s apartment is revealed as his ‘raging fear of his dependence on Midge and her mothering…’
Rothman (1987) ‘Scottie knows Judy can become Madeline, that is what is most beautiful in her can only be realised if she has the courage to accept the potential Madeline in her.’
Modleski (1988) Discusses the film’s supposed male viewpoint Suggests that due to Hitchcock’s fascination with femininity which throws masculine identity into question and crisis’ Scottie’s desire to merge with a woman who is some sense doesn’t exist…points to self annihilation. In his nightmare, Scottie lives out Madeline’s hallucination and he dies her death. His attempts to cure her have failed and he is plunged into a feminine world of psychic disintegration, madness and death. Scottie oscillates between a hypnotic and masochistic fascination with the woman’s desire and a sadistic attempt to gain control over her.
Conclusion Contradicting viewpoints. Mulvey’s militant feminism. More subtle standpoint of Modleski and Keane. Male as dominating and controlling? Or weak and impotent? Female placed in impossible position? Passive and easily moulded? Helpless object? Spectators viewpoint?