This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Dinelka Balasuriya’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Exquisite, fascinating, entertaining, hypnotic and disturbing, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is a near flawless, unbelievable, extraordinary, legendary, unmatchable and timeless film that shook the extent to which filmmaking was made possible. Inventing the "dolly zoom", enhancing cinematography and visual effects and creating sequences of enormous magnitude and near untouchable complexity, Hitchcock's Vertigo wasn't showered with praise upon its original release as some may expect but dismissed as inferior work, a clear highlight that Vertigo well ahead of its era. Today regarded as one of cinema's finest, and finest in some cases, Vertigo definitely operates within the "top 3" Hitchcock films; an absolutely stunning and beautiful romance and a stimulating thriller.
Jimmy Stewart leads the way in what is possibly, his finest performance ever. More powerful than the performance from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and more charming and sympathetic than the one from Harvey, Stewart is absolutely mesmerizing in the role of Scottie. Each expression is played with subtlety and to the uppermost perfection and each line delivered is delivered to the most convincing possible. His obsessive love for the woman with whom he falls in love is as strong, powerful, believable and effective as his reaction to his deception by his lover. More powerful than any performance in any other Hitchcock, even more so than Perkins from Psycho, Stewart is the embodiment of Alfred Hitchcock himself; his life and his strange obsession with women.
Kim Novak too brings much weight to the film in a tremendous performance. Playing a difficult and challenging role, which sees elements of supernatural possession, deception, love and betrayal, Novak masters all. Her performance of Madeleine is especially terrific, giving the character a true lifelessness in her eyes. Her slight facial expressions alone indicate that her character no longer shares contact with the real world but the supernatural world. Novak is fantastic and with Stewart, the two form tremendous chemistry in one of cinema's most epic love stories.
In small supporting performances are Barbara Bel Geddes as Stewart's ex-wife who spends her time painting and taking care of Stewart's character, who suffers from vertigo and continuously has horrific nightmares of an accident years earlier, in which a police officer fell to his death whilst attempting to rescue Stewart. Tom Helmore is also terrific as Madeleine's wife, with a deeper and darker secret to his deceptive and overly insightful manner.
Played in the opening scene, which is a visually stunning scene and a technical leap in cinema, introducing the now iconic and overused 'dolly zoom', often referred to as the 'vertigo effect', the opening scene is dark, exciting, intense, mysterious, unusual and unsurprisingly brilliant. The opening scene to Vertigo, featuring the roof-top chase inspired The Matrix; the latter being far less successful.
With this film, Hitchcock collaborator and frequent composer Bernard Herrmann, who in the next to years would create two more of cinema's finest scores with North by Northwest and Psycho creates a truly hypnotic score that defines the tone and atmosphere of the film. Dreamy, supernatural, ghostly yet romantic, Herrmann's score is absolutely phenomenal and possibly, the finest score the composer ever created for Hitchcock. To pick between Herrmann's best score from Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho is a near impossible task to commit to and truly a pointless one. Each score is very different, unique and mesmerizing, setting up the tone of each film perfectly.
Visually stunning, the film features some of the best cinematography in any Hitchcock movie, especially alongside San Francisco Bay. Such scenes capture the truly dream-like quality of the film with aces and other scenes, such as the belltower scene capture the true terror of the film. The clever, inventive, original and brilliant concept of allowing the audience to feel Scottie's sense of haunting vertigo, is simply ingenious. The 'vertigo effect' is an absolutely ingenious piece of filmmaking, Hitchcock himself creating the concept that would later be utilized in an iconic Spielberg scene from Jaws.
After the tragic "suicide" of "Madeleine", Scottie goes into a period of social banishment, in a guilt of being unable to save the life of Madeleine. It's a beautiful sequence of an almost Shakespearean nature where Stewart truly shines. His slow return to society is thwarted by the arrival of Judy, a familiar representation of his love, Madeleine. Soon after their initial confrontation, Hitchcock exposes the truth behind the film in a clever manner, allowing the audience to sympathize with Stewart and the craftiness of his deception.
Vertigo is an allround masterpiece of near cinematic perfection, a statement which can often be applied to Hitchcock movies, whether deservingly or not but here, every ounce of praise upon the film is deserved. Amazing, mesmerizing and striking in every aspect, Hitchcock has rarely created a film as unique, as twisted, as dark, as tragic or as romantic as Vertigo, applying Hitchcock trademarks to create one of the most beautiful and most brilliant films.