John "Scottie" Ferguson is a retired San Francisco police detective who suffers from acrophobia and Madeleine is the lady who leads him to high places. A wealthy shipbuilder who is an acquaintance from college days approaches Scottie and asks him to follow his beautiful wife, Madeleine. He fears she is going insane, maybe even contemplating suicide, because she believes she is possessed by a dead ancestor. Scottie is skeptical, but agrees after he sees the beautiful Madeleine. Written by
Since there are already so many real good comments on this film I want to focus on only one aspect.
Vertigo is a great example for what color films really can look like! Not only do I want to praise the quality of the Technicolor dye transfer prints but also more the way Hitchcock used color to create moods. Many directors used light to create moods in black and white movies but only very few ever got so far as to use the much greater palette of colors for the same purpose. One wonders why. Some directors decide for an overall color look, which is often done in the lab, but not on the set.
Vertigo is full of scenes where the colors have been saturated or changed to create a special feeling. Hitchcock even went so far as to openly dye some frames is bright unnatural colors. He played around with colors in all his color films but never as much as in this one. Think for example on James Stewart's nightmare in the middle of the film. There are frames dyed purple and green; the cemetery scenes are red, inserted to the rhythm of the music with normal frames. Kim Novak is often bathed in colored light like in the famous hotel room scene, where she appears like a ghost with all the green light around her.
The shading is also important. In the scene in the bookshop we hear a dark and sad story while at the same time the light dimes down to simulate dusk. In the scene where Judy remembers the real events in the bell tower it starts with an outdoor scene, which we have already seen but it is now much darker than the first time. In the sequence where Stewart follows Novak to the cemetery everything feels unnatural since every scene glows through the use of a filter that creates a blur.
The non-color of Kim Novak's dress as Madeleine is also a very important aspect in the film. She has to color her hair to become Madeleine again at the end of the picture.
The way color is used in this film gives it this dreamlike quality that allows endless interpretations. A true masterpiece!
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