full title Vertigo
director Alfred Hitchcock
leading actors/actresses James Stewart and Kim Novak
supporting actors/actresses Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones, Konstantin Shayne
type of work Full-length film
time and place produced 1957; Los Angeles
american film institue Number sixty-one on the Institute's “100 Greatest American Movies of All Time” list
date of release 1958
producer Alfred Hitchcock, associate producer Herbert Coleman
setting (time) 1957
setting (place) San Francisco
protagonist Scottie Ferguson
major conflict Scottie cannot accept the death of Madeleine and struggles to re-create her in another woman who, unbeknownst to him, was behind Madeleine’s death.
rising action Scottie gradually descends into madness as he falls in love with Madeleine, loses her to an apparent suicide, and then attempts to recreate her in Judy.
climax The world of illusion Scottie has created for himself is permanently shattered when he discovers that Judy had duped him by playing the role of Madeleine and faking a suicide as part of a plot to murder the real Madeleine Elster.
falling action In an effort to free himself from the acrophobia and romantic delusions that led him to this point, Scottie drags Judy/Madeleine to the scene of the crime at the top of the bell tower; Judy confesses to the crime and falls to her death when she is startled by the shadowy figure of a nun.
themes Death as both attractive and frightening; the impenetrable nature of appearances; the folly of romantic delusion
motifs Power and freedom; tunnels and corridors; bouquets of flowers, spirals
symbols Sequoia trees; the color green
foreshadowing In the opening credits, the mysterious woman’s face drenched in red is a foreshadowing of the murderous role a mysterious woman will play in the film. When Scottie faints in Midge’s arms while attempting to conquer his acrophobia on a stepstool, it prefigures his more significant incapacitation when his acrophobia prevents him from stopping Madeleine’s suicide. A close-up shot of Madeleine’s tightly wound hair—a spiral—hints at the chaos into which she will lead Scottie.