Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo tells the story of mixed identities and a guilt-ridden  man plagued by a fear of heights.

For a summary of the movie click here.

After watching a woman fall to her death and being haunted with the guilt of it, the main character transfers his guilt onto another woman and attempts to remake her in the original woman’s image. This idea of transference was a common theme in Freud’s theories.While it was a theme in Spellbound, this is the first time that Hitchcock shows the actual transference taking place (Spoto, 2008).

Vertigo is the fear of heights, and can be manifested in dizziness, nausea, and paralysis when the patient comes in contact with extreme heights. It simply boils down to the fear of falling. In Freud’s analysis, dreams involving falling were common and symbolized the contemplation of giving into a sexual urge or impulse, and lacking indiscretion: ”It is  romping games of childhood which are being repeated in dreams of flying, falling, vertigo, and the like, but the pleasurable sensations are now transformed into anxiety.” (Freud, MISSING DATE chapter 6, part 2). The anxiety in this case is caused by the guilt of seeing a woman fall to her death.

Hitchcock did not care much for psychological theories (Sterritt, 1993). For this reason, most of his psychological meanings were not overtly stated, except for Spellbound. However, for the first and only time in Vertigo we see a direct link towards a theorist, Carl Jung (Blennerhassett, 2011). Jung’s idea of archetypes can be seen in this movie, specifically in the manifestation of the anima in the main character Madeline.

According to Jung, the color green is essential to the anima, and this color is highlighted throughout the movie (in the main dress, green car, and green tint) all in reference to the main character, Madeline. As the main character becomes obsessed with Madeline, he projects his femininity onto her and thus she becomes his anima (Blennerhassett, 2011).


Leave a Reply