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Analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' Characters

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In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Vertigo of erotic obsession, released in 1958, the film was an adaptation from the 1954 French novel D’entre Les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Vertigo is a psychological mystery, romance, and thriller about love, desire, loss, obsession, quilt, debit, memory, and madness. This is Vertigo film analysis – an essay where we are introduced to our hero John Ferguson as ‘Scottie’ who’s retired from the San Francisco police force as a detective, after almost falling to his death during a chase on a rooftop and watching the officer with his fall to his death trying to help him. 

Earlier in the film Scottie’s friend Gavin Elster asks Scottie to follow his wife, Madeleine from the start of their relationship, Scottie is observing Madeleine from afar, rather than interacting with her. In the beginning, Alfred Hitchcock sets up in the film the idea that Scottie will be the one that does the looking for us, and that the camera is male and it is so to say that the majority of the film comes to as with the gaze of Scottie or the male gaze. True to its name, Alfred Hitchcock’s vertigo leaves us feeling a little dizzy, by the end retired detective Scottie discovers that the Madeleine he was madly in love with never existed, yet a woman by the name Judy Barton was just pretending to be her, to help pull the murder plan of the real Madeleine Elster, whom we never get to meet in the film. Going to the scene in the graveyard where Scottie is following Madeleine. The bright colors and soft focus as Scottie watches Madeleine throughout the scene, in this scene, Hitchcock gives it a dreamlike quality as if there is something unreal about how he’s seeing her, like how one would look at a painting. Another scene that shows this depiction is where Madeleine goes to see the portrait of her great grandmother Carlotta, and we see her looking at that painting as she often does while Scottie looks at her. So the parallel, the way Scottie gazes at her as if she is a painting, shows to us that this Madeleine herself is an artistic creation just like the painting she is gazing at, and for Scottie is blinded by that, to him this Madeleine is seen to be a woman to be desired. We after find out, in fact, the Madeleine we came to know with Scottie is a fake persona created by the alliance between Judy and Scottie’s friend Gavin, and this whole fictional personality is built around him to draw him in. 

‘Lovers shape each other in terms of desires and concerns.’ Which they are invested to one another and therefore the investment to each other is historical. Even though Scottie and Judy start having this development of a historical account of the relationship both are aiming to what they desire and in Scotties case is the fictional persona he fell in love through the image played by Judy. Both Midge and Madeleine are portrayed as beautiful blondes and Midge as a slim attractive blonde, the audience is invited to compare both women, and only to discover that both are opposites of each other. 

The mask-like madness qualities of appearance are proposed during the opening credits, which shows a woman’s expressing face and a close-up shot of her lips and at her nervously moving eyes. The strong expressions, emotions, and experience of this woman are unknown to us. Right from the beginning scene in Midge’s apartment, Scottie appears to be a man of balance on the mend from traumatizing experiences but it doesn’t take long at all to realize his health exterior masks an exponentially increasing madness and unstableness. It surely seems Scottie is a man whose masculinity is under threat, the scene in Midge’s apartment shows this in a few ways. Scottie is suffering from vertigo, he has had to quit his ‘masculine’ Job as a detective and is reliant on a cane, which would show that Scottie perhaps does not have a clear sense of purpose now has lost what makes him a man. 

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Analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ Characters. (2023, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
“Analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ Characters.” GradesFixer, 11 Feb. 2023,
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