Vertigo - Opening Sequence Analysis


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Analysis Keynote of the opening Sequence by Andrea Joyce (ACJ) (Long Road Sixth Form College, 2008)

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  • Vertigo - Opening Sequence Analysis

    1. 1. Vertigo (1958: Hitchcock, Alfred) The Opening Sequence analysed by Andrea Joyce
    2. 2. <ul><li>The purpose of an opening title sequence is to establish the mood and visual character of a film, to introduce the viewer to all or some of the following elements: </li></ul><ul><li>Characters </li></ul><ul><li>Locations </li></ul><ul><li>Narrative/Plot </li></ul><ul><li>Themes </li></ul><ul><li>Visual style </li></ul><ul><li>Genre </li></ul>
    3. 3. <ul><li>The opening sequence is in two parts </li></ul><ul><li>Part One is a mixture of live action and graphics, which were designed by Saul Bass, it introduces the character of Madeleine, played by Kim Novak </li></ul><ul><li>Part Two is live action, it is the beginning of the narrative of the film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It introduces John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson, played by James Stewart. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Part One - Live action & graphics <ul><li>Designed by Saul Bass </li></ul><ul><li>He is considered by many to be a pioneer of modern title design </li></ul><ul><li>Bass’ style was unique and iconic </li></ul>
    5. 5. <ul><li>Her lips twitch nervously, introducing anxiety and a close examination of the character’s physical appearance as integral themes. </li></ul>
    6. 6. <ul><li>The female character is clearly on edge and not comfortable with the viewers scrutiny </li></ul><ul><li>This scene introduces some more key conventions of the thriller genre: anxiety, paranoia and the notion of looking. </li></ul><ul><li>Being watched and being seen watching someone else are also conventions of thrillers </li></ul>
    7. 7. <ul><li>A shift in the mood – linked to the score </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction of theme of identity </li></ul><ul><li>Confirms the sub-genre of the film </li></ul>
    8. 8. <ul><li>The theme of unstable identity and the internal workings of the mind </li></ul><ul><li>These are central to the narrative of Vertigo </li></ul>
    9. 9. <ul><li>A visual metaphor for the complex layers of a person’s identity, for Madeleine’s hairstyle, for dizziness and for falling </li></ul><ul><li>The series of graphical geometric shapes appear to come from a distance and then fill the screen, when one disappears another takes its place </li></ul>
    10. 10. Part Two – Live Action <ul><li>Introduces the character of James ‘Scottie’ Ferguson and his fatal flaw </li></ul><ul><li>Also introduces the location – San Francisco </li></ul><ul><li>Scottie’s vertigo disempowers him and is used by the antagonist to draw him into the concealment of a terrible crime </li></ul>
    11. 11. <ul><li>The opening sequence of Vertigo sets up an atmosphere of anxiety and very importantly of suspense, as one of the central characters is literally left suspended in mid-air. </li></ul><ul><li>The chase sequence ends with Scottie being left suspended at a great height with a fear of impending doom and a realisation that he is powerless. </li></ul>
    12. 12. <ul><li>The score was composed by Bernard Herrman </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hitchcock's film is about obsession, which means that it's about circling back to the same moment, again and again ... And the music is also built around spirals and circles, fulfilment and despair. Herrmann really understood what Hitchcock was going for — he wanted to penetrate to the heart of obsession.” </li></ul><ul><li>Martin Scorcese (Sight & Sound, Sept 04) </li></ul>
    13. 13. <ul><li>Scorsese also said that the opening title sequence successfully set the mood of the overall film, as well as the visual style. </li></ul><ul><li>It introduces themes of suspense, identity and obsession </li></ul><ul><li>It introduces the use of generic conventions such as: </li></ul><ul><li>Vulnerable female </li></ul><ul><li>Objectification of women </li></ul><ul><li>A flawed male lead </li></ul><ul><li>Themes of voyeurism </li></ul><ul><li>Notions of looking </li></ul><ul><li>A mise en scene that echoes the characters state of mind </li></ul>