Ranked as one of the top films of all time by the American Film Institute, the British Film Institute, and Sight & Sound consecutively for several years, it’s no secret that Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo is a film that captivates people — over and over again. But what makes it so brilliant? Surely Psycho was scarier, and Rear Window more clever. Here’s what top film critics say about the timeless lure of the film:
- The plot is mysterious, suspenseful, romantic and hypnotizing — in the most twisted way (and without today’s visceral film violence).
The film’s plot follows a boy (James Stewart) who falls for a girl (Kim Novak). The girl happens to look strikingly similar to a woman that the boy’s character was secretly in love with — and who fell to her death under the boy’s helpless watch. In a demented Pygmalion-esque turn, Stewart’s character develops an obsession with transforming his new love interest into a clone of his fallen angel, and the two develop a dangerous — even fatalistic — relationship. Big Think’s Bob Duggan says that this haunting interaction and the dreamy scenes that Hitchcock films it in make Vertigo one of the greatest films.
- The use of color is so intense and powerful that it reinvented black-and-white.
In an article published by the Telegraph, Tim Robey says that “Hitchcock never used colour with such swooning yet nightmarish force,” he says.” Hitchcock uses red and green luridly to his advantage — with green as the color of mystery and fear, and red as the color of desire and danger. Example: “As Madeleine walks around a graveyard near the beginning, she is bathed in the ghostly light of a green fog filter … The [on-screen tint of] reds flare up like danger signals as Scottie’s libido swells.”
- The film created one of the most famous camera effects in cinema history.
“Vertigo was responsible for the popularization of the so-called ‘Vertigo effect’ [the dolly zoom] — the trademark shot that creates the effect of Scottie’s [James Stewart’s] acrophobia (falling away from yourself),” says Oliver Lyttleton of Indiewire. The effect of the technique is that the viewer seems to fall infinitely while remaining somehow stationary. It was then used in films like Jaws, E. T., Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Goodfellas, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Are you captivated enough to watch Vertigo? Casa Romantica will host a special screening of the film in honor of its 60th anniversary on Tuesday, January 23 at 6:00 PM. With a luxury-style cinema experience including lounge furniture, wine and snacks before and during the film, and a new, state-of-the-art A/V system in the Casa’s historic Main Salon theater, watching one of the greatest films of all time doesn’t get much better than this.