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Veritgo

9. Vertigo (1958)

Recently crowned the greatest film ever made by Sight & Sound, Vertigo’s masterpiece status is set up from the very beginning. It opens with Hitchcock’s most mesmerising title sequence. Put together by the legendary Saul Bass, it depicts a woman’s face in various close ups that subtly depict her unease, all stitched together by Bernard Herrmann’s greatest score; a symphony of sinister threat and romantic impossibility.

As soon as Hitchcock’s credit has passed, the action begins with a criminal pulling himself up into our view. He runs across the rooftops of San Francisco being hotly pursued by a uniformed policeman and by John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart). Their quarry manages to leap across onto a high-angled roof and escapes. The police officer manages the jump too but Scottie slips and is left dangling high above the ground from a rusty gutter.

Hitchcock uses (invents?) a DOZI camera technique (Dolly Out, Zoom In) to create the disorientating vertigo effect when Scottie unwisely looks down. His perilous state of mind is not improved when the police officer falls to he death trying to pull him up. We have no idea how Scottie was rescued – Hitchcock leaves him there dangling; aptly, since he remains in a suspended broken state for the rest of the film.

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