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Vertigo (Hitchcock 1958) Case Study

James Clarke | Monday August 18, 2014

Categories: A Level, WJEC A Level, WJEC A2, FM4, Section C: Single Film Critical Study, Analysis, Film Analysis, Film Industry, Film Marketing, Film Publicity, Film Promotion, Films & Case Studies, Hollywood Films, Vertigo, Genres & Case Studies, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation

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Understanding the relationship between the micro and the macro elements of a film is an essential part of our analysis of movies. Every shot, every sound accumulates to form the expression of an idea. Thinking about movies in this way might prompt us to acknowledge that a camera move for example, can express a character’s psychology, sometimes more forcefully and memorably than a line of dialogue could ever do. In the opening scene of Vertigo (1958) as the film’s protagonist Scottie looks down from a great height during a chase, a camera move typically known as a dolly zoom is used. Hitchcock’s use of this filming device is echoed by Steven Spielberg in Jaws (1975) when the characters of Martin Brody witnesses a shark attack. The combination of Brody’s helplessness and the disruption of the ordinary are concisely combined in the dolly zoom: the camera tracking towards the actor whilst the camera lens zooms out (widening the frame) so that the actor (or any subject, really) appears to be detached from his surroundings. It’s a subtly disorientating effect that compels the audience to empathise with a character and understand what is important to them at a given moment.

Alfred Hitchcock confidently applied all of the technical and creative options available in order to construct a narrative and would often ‘tell a story’ with a simple camera movement or type of shot. He has often been described as a ‘total’ filmmaker, using all of the resources available to make a movie. His film Vertigo is a ‘product’ of the Hollywood film industry at a specific moment in time, but is also part of a broader cultural ‘moment’. We can also consider Vertigo as the work of a film author or auteur. The influence of Alfred Hitchcock, or Hitch as he was often affectionately known is immense in terms of popular narrative cinema. Like a literary author his films have been analysed in terms of their...


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