Vertigo, a physiological thriller that primarily takes place in San Francisco, California, was released in 1958. It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The main character in the film is John “Scottie” Ferguson. He is a retired detective and is later hired as a private investigator by one of his college friends, Gavin Elster. John has a severe case of acrophobia, which is an extreme fear of heights. Besides having acrophobia he also gets vertigo which is caused by his phobia. Vertigo is an extreme type of dizziness accompanied by whirling and spinning movements. In the film, John’s job is to follow Gavin’s wife, Madeleine, around because of her recent abnormal behavior. This task becomes more difficult because John begins to fall in love with this woman whom he thinks is Madeleine but is actually, unbeknownst to him, a woman named Judy. His feelings cause him to through an emotional rollercoaster. The film with its twisted plot and challenging, yet very effective cinematography, only adds to the excitement of this unpredictable ride of a story.
The cinematography in Vertigo is done beautifully. Robert Burks was the cinematographer. Vertigo is a well-filmed in-color story that has many unusual types of camera shots in it. Of all the different types of tactics Robert used, the depth of field shots were the best. A depth of field shot is when a picture or video draws attention to one thing and the rest of it is blurred. Its main focus is what specifically the creator wants the viewer to see and which produces a very intriguing effect.
One of the best filming effects in the film is when the camera shows John’s phobia of heights. He goes into a sort of vertigo and the camera movement make you feel as if you are there feeling the same way. When the camera is capturing this experience it is zooming in and out and is spinning and whirling causing the viewer to feel dizzy. This scene occurs when “Madeleine” is running up the spiral stairs going to the bell tower at the Mission San Juan Batista. John is trailing behind her trying to stop her. Step by step John’s phobia begins to come into effect and slows him down. He looks down the all of the steps and realizes how high he is and his vertigo begins. At this scene in the movie the camera shows the full effect of John’s vertigo. The camera is steady looking down the steps and as it is locked in on this image it begins to get blurry and move around. Scenes like this occur throughout the movie capturing John’s acrophobia as it happens. Every time his vertigo kicks in this cinematic effect comes into play.
This American classic film is unlike any other. Through its plot and filming, it stands alone as stunning physiological thriller. The cinematography that causes the viewers to actually feel John’s phobia and vertigo, paints a clear image in the viewers head as if they were going through it. Its brilliance lies both in its convoluted filming and plot.