10/27/09

A Few Thoughts on the Last Half of "Vertigo"

**This Contains Spoilers**

I feel like I’ve read a lot about the second half of Vertigo and the obsession displayed by Jimmy Stewart’s Scotty character, but in a lot of ways, the story in the second half has more to do with Judy’s desire to make Scotty love her rather than her former alter-ego. Judy, despite her obvious knowledge of all things going on plot wise, doesn’t seem to grasp Scotty’s obsession with her version of Madeleine. This is in spite of her near-obsession with gaining Scotty’s affection, which is only truly achievable by playing to his obsession. It’s almost as if she has herself convinced that she has done nothing wrong- her part in the events leading to the real Madeleine’s death and the birth of Scotty’s obsession are non-existent. She even childishly runs off to the corner, upset that she is being turned into Madeleine, rather than denying or attempting to obfuscate Scotty’s attempts to change her back to her Madeleine avatar. Scotty’s oft repeated line “it can’t matter to you” leads me not to think of it as some kind of male chauvinism, but rather his knowledge that this is Madeleine and that if she has been transformed once, she will be transformed again in order to feed his desire. But Scotty to a great extent is willing to play along rather than let on until near the end that he is aware of the double-cross. In fact, I believe he is not fully aware of either his actions, or the realization that this is his Madeleine.

Judy even ends up admitting that she no longer cares for herself and that, in order to satisfy her quest for Scotty’s love, she is willing to creep slowly closer to a re-transformation, all the while unaware that Scotty isn’t as blind as he appears. Judy does know, however, when she enters in full re-Madeleine that the hair style is the final conversion- and she fights it. However, upon stepping back into the room having put her hair up as Scotty requested, Judy’s look of satisfaction upon seeing Scotty’s reaction to her completes her quest for his love, even if he hardly cares for Judy at all. Unfortunately, Judy cannot separate herself at all from Madeleine and chooses to embrace her exterior transformation. Scotty’s decision to kiss her completes the obsessive satisfaction for both.

However, for Scotty, this is not enough. He must do two things: save Madeleine from her death, and perhaps over-ridingly, solve the puzzle that has been created. Hitchcock’s shot of Scotty and Madeleine as the camera rotates and Scotty looks away from Madeleine isn’t the birth of his desire to save her, but rather than decision that he has been duped.

Hitchcock makes it obvious though, of course, by giving us obvious visual cues. It’s one of the main faults of Hitchcock’s film making here, I think: he gives away when he could hold back. It’s his desire to make the audience feel as they know better than Hitchcock’s character and create a kind of tension. However, I would be interesting in seeing the film without Scotty’s realization played out so completely. A subtle look and then his forced march of Judy and his explanation of the crime to her and his interrogation would make it even more surprising for the audience.

But I digress…

Judy it seems is motivated by guilt when she rips up her letter to Scotty and chooses not to leave but rather give him the love she hopes that he wants since she is in love with him. Her guilt, however, leads her to the fatal, and I believe sub-conscious, mistake of wearing the necklace which leads to Scotty’s detective side realizing that she has been lying to him the whole time. However, more interestingly, when Scotty tells her he knows and that she shouldn’t have been so sentimental as to keep a souvenir of the crime, he means himself and not the necklace. He’s her souvenir of the crime as much as she’s his souvenir of Madeleine.

Judy’s immediate reaction is to tell Scotty the truth, which is an act revisited by her mistake. She sub-consciously chooses to tell Scotty the truth by showing him evidence that even in his advanced state of psychosis he would be forced to notice. While I don’t believe Judy needed to die, she certainly needed to have Scotty know because her ultimately goal was making Scotty love her.

Scotty’s violence towards the end of the movie when they reach San Juan Bautista is a fantastic combination of his obsession and his knowledge of Judy’s deceit. However, Judy sees it, for a moment, ONLY as Scotty’s obsession and when she realizes that Scotty knows, her resistance becomes even worse. She’d been fighting him, realizing that Scotty’s obsession had gone too far during the drive south of San Francisco.

3 comments:

Meg said...

"However, more interestingly, when Scotty tells her he knows and that she shouldn’t have been so sentimental as to keep a souvenir of the crime, he means himself and not the necklace. He’s her souvenir of the crime as much as she’s his souvenir of Madeleine."

Brilliant. Come up with it yourself?

Bang...bullseye. No wonder this movie is such a classic....this hidden detail does not detract from the overall enjoyment the average viewer might experience.

Thanks for pointing it out.

Amish Trivedi said...

I'm sure I'm not the first person to come up with it, though I haven't read it elsewhere, so maybe I did.

Brilliant? Ugh yeah, of course I came up with it! :)

Thanks, Meg!

非凡 said...

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