Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vertigo - Movie Review

Ah...the good old top 100 movies. Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 movie  'Vertigo' is at the top of the pile having been voted as the best film of all time, and I revisited it again. The movie starts with a rooftop chase where a policeman Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) almost dies as he slips off a rooftop, and watches a colleague die attempting to save him. Scottie is badly shaken and is affected by acrophobia (fear of heights) and vertigo. He leaves the police force.
Scottie is approached by an old friend, a rich man who asks him to trail his wife whom he suspects of being possessed. A reluctant Scottie takes on the job and finds the wife Madeline behave strangely and showing suicidal instincts - once almost drowning in the San Francisco, once jumping off a cliff almost. Scottie finds himself drawn to her while protecting her and he tries to understand her 'dreams'. He takes her to the site of her recurring dreams, an old Spanish church, and before he realizes she climbs up to the top of the bell tower rapidly and all a vertigo-ridden Scottie sees is a body falling. Madeleine dies and Scottie could not save her due to his condition. A shattered Scottie goes into depression until he finds a look alike of Madeleine. He finds out more about her, is convinced that perhaps it was all a conspiracy to cover up the murder of the real wife by having him as a witness. The ending is poetic justice in a limited fashion and one can only assume that his friend would also be booked for murder after the accidental death of the fake Madeleine. And once can also hope that Scottie, after having given up detective work for good will return to his old love.

It is those small details, that rounding off of characters and stories, the depth to the characters and their fears and foibles that makes the older movies so much more real and relatable. Scottie is deeply flawed and is a loser in today's terms but he is real. He fights his condition bravely and sees that the truth does come out. He falls in love with his subject  hopelessly and even she falls genuinely in love with him. It is a love story that is doomed and there we see more human drama. All in all, splendid piece of work. 

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