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Written by Timothy Sexton
“Scottie, do you believe that someone out of the past, someone dead, can enter and take possession of a living being?”
In essence, this quote boils down the plot of Vertigo to its very barest and boniest of essentials. If Scottie’s answer is no and that answer genuinely reflects his authentic belief, the movies ends here. Whether Scottie’s answer is yes or no is irrelevant as long as he does actually believe that a scenario such as that posed by the diabolical Elster is possible. And if he does believe it possible, then practically anything is possible.
“It's because of this fear of heights I have, this acrophobia.”
The opening of Vertigo is a foot chase which provides all the backstory the viewer really needs about Scottie in order to apply his past to the future events for the purpose of explaining certain necessary actions for the coherence of the plot. What is most important about this quote that arise from that opening sequence and its backstory is that Scottie has been diagnosed with acrophobia…not vertigo.
“She'll be talking to me about something. Suddenly the words fade into silence. A cloud comes into her eyes and they go blank. She's somewhere else, away from me, someone I don't know. I call her, she doesn't even hear me. Then, with a long sigh, she's back. Looks at me brightly, doesn't even know she's been away, can't tell me where or when.”
Connect this line of dialogue delivered by Elster to Scottie with the above query and, really, you have everything you need to follow the resulting plot. Well, everything up to a point. But that point does tie back to question of possession of a living being and, as long as you are content to question anything that comes out of the mouth of the type of person people often describe as “old college chum” you can remain safely connected to the narrative no matter how bizarre a twist the movie might take in the middle. Not to suggest that a bizarre twist occurs in the middle of Vertigo, but on the offhand chance that something happens which causes you to become confused, just keep remembering that Elster’s conversations with Scottie may possibly go deeper than a mere catching up between old friends.
“Mr. Ferguson, being an ex-detective, would have seemed the proper choice for the role of watchdog and protector. As you have learned, it was an unfortunate choice.”
Mr. Ferguson, you must understand, is Scottie. The guy who has been having the rather cryptic and somewhat bewildering conversations with Elster. As far as the details of what the coroner is referring to here is concerned; doesn’t really matter as you will understand completely when you watch the movie and get to this point. From the point of view of scholarly study of Vertigo, the importance of this quote can be summed up a one-word description of a common literary device: foreshadowing.
“And the idea is that the Beautiful Mad Carlotta has come back from the dead, to take possession of Elster's wife? Ah, Johnny! Come on!”
Midge is one of Hitchcock’s standard woman-friends of the main male character who must be content with the status quo and only love from afar. After all, how can you possibly expect to compete with someone who looks like that actress—what’s here name—Kim Novak? Just like the typical woman could never hope to compete with a movie star for the attention of the man wh loves, so does Midge realize she can’t hope to compete for Scottie’s love with a beautiful dead woman who is a ghost! The supernatural does play quite a large part in Vertigo. Just not necessarily in the way that the viewer is led to expect.
“The only important thing now is that I love you, and I'm going to keep you safe.”
Spoken to Madeleine. Elster’s wife. The beautiful woman possessed by the Beautiful Mad Carlotta. Refer to the above quote regarding foreshadowing, watch the movie and wait.
“He is suffering from acute melancholia, together with a guilt complex.”
A similar diagnosis is made at the very end of Psycho. The twist here is that this diagnosis of Scottie, the main character of Vertigo, is made halfway through the story and the rest of the story movie is NOT a flashback!
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Vertigo Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Vertigo is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.