Vertigo – Hitchcock Defying Genre
“…alternatively, a film can revise or reject the
conventions associated with its genre” - Bordwell
Based on the French novel D’Entre les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, Vertigo is arguably one of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces and the “strangest, yet most hauntingly beautiful film he had ever made” (Adair, 2002). At the time, its far-fetched plot drew a mixed response from critics – Time magazine called the movie a “Hitchcock and bull story” – but today most agree that it is one of the director’s most deeply felt pictures. Vertigo very easily categorized into a specific genre – Thriller, a genre of movies that, in many ways, Hitchcock played a major role in defining. Thrillers are typically movies that attempt to create excitement and include stories about murder, conspiracies, violence, or, in the case of Vertigo, a psychological thriller with unusual characters with unstable mental states. Vertigo checks most of the boxes in defining itself as a thriller. However, simply labeling Hitchcock’s Vertigo a thriller will limit its contents, symbols, motifs and themes to just that of a thriller film. Very frequently, a “film can revise or reject the conventions associated with its genre” (Bordwell, 2001) Instead, in analyzing the film, we need to explore its mystery and romantic melodramatic themes Hitchcock used in creating this masterpiece which defies itself being categorized into a single genre. As the man who helped to shape the modern day thriller genre, Hitchcock was fluent in manipulating the audience's fears, and suturing them into a state of association with the characters and the world in which they exist. The main point of Vertigo being a thriller is the plot – Scottie, the protagonist and victim of a planned murder of an old friend’s wife – whom he falls in love with, an impossible love as she ‘dies’ and in turn, he continues his downward spiral into mad obsession. These semantic elements are true to...
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