Vertigo (1958)

Original Movie Poster

The camera is focused intently on John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson as he races up the staircase of the San Juan Bautista Mission.  As continues to climb, his acrophobia, or fear of heights, intensifies.  The camera immediately flashed down to show the stairwell Scottie has just scaled from his perspective [pictured below].  The feeling of vertigo sets in; he becomes nautious to the extent that he cannot climb any further.  He hears a loud scream coming from the roof.  He glances out the window as Madeleine Elster plummets to her death before his very eyes.

Stairwell Through The Eyes of John "Scottie" Ferguson, Seconds Before the Death of Madeleine Elster

In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller, Vertigo, the director shows many advances and unique aspects of cinematography that  the world had never seen before.  Hitchcock became famous for these revolutionary advances, part of the reason he is regarded globally as one of the best directors of all time.  For instance, the camera angles and the special effects used by Hitchcock in Vertigo were ground-breaking.

Alfred Hitchcock

In fact, the way he uses the camera to bring the audience in is an advancement that has been adopted by nearly every modern movie in the thriller genre. The viewers are made to identify with the camera, which moves in a way to mimic a person’s gaze.  This unique angle forces viewers to engage in a form of voyeurism.  It makes the audience feel more involved and attached to the film.  When the camera moves as if a part of the character, the viewer is drawn in, as if they are literally in the character’s shoes. While this technique is epitomized in the aforementioned scene, the movie contains many other example. Primarily, when Scottie is following Madeleine Elster around San Francisco, the camera does not merely show Ferguson’s car trailing hers.  In fact, it shows the scene through the eyes of the driver, looking through the front windshield at the car in front of him.  While this may seem like commonplace in cinema today, it was an incredibly innovative breakthrough by the director.  Hitchcock uses these unique camera angles to effectively add suspense and intrigue to his film.

Looking Through Ferguson's Windshield as He Pursues Madeleine Elster

The use of camera angles is not the only unique cinematic advancement made in this film.  The special effects used by Alfred Hitckcock are revolutionary, and add to the suspense of the thriller.  For example, the use of special effects to show the change in Ferguson’s mental state seems to add to the gravity of it.  This image [pictured below] add a completely new and attention-grabbing element to the film.

 

Special Effects

Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo, took place in a time period of great advances in modern film.  Hitchcock definitely did his part in adding to the success by his unique camera angles and special effects.  While these developments may seem rudimentary today, they were astonishing for the time period.  Hitchcock’s amazing directing is what makes Vertigo a truly timeless thriller.

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