Vertigo Literary Elements


Alfred Hitchcock

Leading Actors/Actresses

James Stewart, Kim Novak

Supporting Actors/Actresses

Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones


Mystery, Romance, Noir, Psychological Thriller





Date of Release

May 9, 1958


Paramount Pictures, Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

Setting and Context

1957, San Francisco

Narrator and Point of View

Tone and Mood

Dark, suspenseful, unsettling.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Scottie is the protagonist and Gavin Elster is the antagonist

Major Conflict

There are two conflicts. Scottie's first major conflict lies in keeping the woman whom he was tasked to follow, Madeleine Elster, alive. When she dies, a second conflict arises for Scottie, which is trying to heal from this error and also understand the mystery of Madeleine's death, which turns out to have been a complete deception.


The climax occurs when Scottie takes Judy to the bell tower and reveals that he knows he was deceived. In the midst of this, Judy falls from the bell tower to her death.


When Midge tells Scottie that he can cure his vertigo by re-traumatizing himself, this foreshadows his eventual conquest of his fears. Gavin Elster's discussion of Madeleine's obsession with the past foreshadows Scottie's obsession with the past.


Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques

The shots from Scottie's perspective when he is suffering from vertigo are innovative, as well as the nightmare sequence and Hitchcock's use of color and light to tell his story.


Allusions to San Francisco history


Scottie is in love with Madeleine, who is actually Judy, but he cannot love Judy as herself, and must reconstruct the woman he once loved. Paradoxically, Madeleine was always a performance, never a real person. Thus, Scottie is trying to fall in love with a character as well as a ghost.


The second half of the film is something of a reconstruction of the first half, with Scottie turning Judy back into Madeleine. Many places and people are revisited in disorienting and mysterious ways throughout the film.