Love. Obsession. Fate. And a Hitchcock thriller that uses murder as a MacGuffin rather than a plot device.
These are all the marks of the wonderfully crafted suspense masterpiece simply known as Vertigo.
Having recently been crowned Greatest Film of All Time by Sight and Sound, I decided to finally take a look at this film. Upon the viewing, my initial thoughts were "pretty good." Like many great films, it took several days of thought to let the film truly sink in, and that's when I realized the importance of it.
Now this review is not for those on the fence, it is sharing my opinion, so I'm assuming you have seen the film and will not recount the plot. Go to Wikipedia if you want that. Now, when Scottie meets Judy and asks her to dinner, she writes a letter explaining that she was the women he obsessed over but was really a decoy so that Gavin could murder his real wife, the real Madeleine, by dropping her off the top of the tower, taking advantage of Scottie's vertigo. She eventually scraps the letter, meaning it was only for the viewer's knowledge rather than Scotties. This heaps more importance than is initially known, as later on in the film, when Scottie makes her more and more like Madeleine in frighteningly specific ways, which comes to a boiling point in the ending, when he realizes she was Madeleine through her necklace, and takes her back to the tower to confront his past. They make it to the top, and Judy confesses and hopes to live a normal life. Unfortunately, she is startled by a nun walking to the top to ring the bell, and she falls to her death. Just like Madeleine did earlier. And just like how Scottie saw in his dream sequence earlier. Notice the pattern? Not only that, but he then looks down on Judy from the clock tower, not scared, and his vertigo not acting up. Was that the severe emotional reaction needed to cure it like Midge discussed earlier? Was this death helpful or harmful? Did it truly cure him of his obsession, or just his vertigo, or even anything at all? And while on the topic, his obsession truly was her downfall. He made her into Madeleine right down to every detail.
Even her death.
So what we saw was a frightening character study into a man whose obsession with a lady, led to tragedy, but not to the end. His obsession led to another lady, another victim, who was changed to match his fixation as he got lost further into his fears, attractions, and eventual insanity, downfall, and perhaps, his cure.