Vertigo Summary and Analysis of Part 3


Scottie picks up a call from Gavin and tells him what happened and that he'll bring Madeleine home soon. Scottie tells Gavin that Madeleine does not know what happened, as Gavin says that Madeleine is 26, the same age that Carlotta Valdes was when she committed suicide. Suddenly, Scottie hears the door close and goes out to investigate. Just as Madeleine is driving away, Midge approaches in her car, saying to herself, "Well now, Johnny-O, was it a ghost? Was it fun?"

The next day, Scottie waits outside Madeleine's apartment, following her in his car as she drives all around town, eventually arriving at his apartment. He gets out and greets her at his front door. She tells him that she just delivered a thank you and apology note, saying, "The whole thing must have been so embarrassing for you!" He insists that it was not a problem, accidentally intimating that he enjoyed taking off Madeleine's clothes and taking care of her. He invites her in for a cup of coffee, but she declines and gets in her car.

He follows her to her car and asks her where she's going. "I just thought that I'd wander," she says, mysteriously, and he tells her he was going to do the same thing. "But only one is a wanderer, two together is always going somewhere," Madeleine replies.

Madeleine and Scottie go for a drive together to Muir Woods. There, Scottie tells her the trees are 2,000 years old. As Madeleine ponders the lives lost in the trees' lifetimes, Scottie translates the original names of the sequoias to mean, "Always green, ever living." Madeleine says she doesn't like the trees, because they remind her that she has to die. They wander over to look at the interior of a tree that has been cut down, which maps all of the historical events that have taken place at the various widths of the circles within the tree trunk. Madeleine locates where she was born in the tree's history. "And there I died," she says, touching another part of the tree, adding, "It was only a moment for you. You took no notice."

As Madeleine wanders off, Scottie follows her, perplexed. He finds her leaning against a tree in a kind of trance. "Have you been here before?" he asks, but she resists. He questions her about why she jumped into the bay, but she begs him not to ask her, and he escorts her out of the forest.

At the water, Madeleine wanders over to a tree by the side of the road. "The Chinese say that once you've saved a person's life, you're responsible for it forever, so I'm committed," Scottie tells her. Madeleine talks about her episodes, comparing them to walking down a corridor with fragments of a mirror hanging on the wall, and that she knows when she gets to the end of the hallway, she'll die.

She tells him that she remembers the room that she sits in sometimes, and she has visions of an open grave, hers, that she sometimes stares down into. Then she tells him about a tower with a bell that seems to be in Spain. "If I could just find the key, the beginning, and put it together..." Scottie says, frustrated, which only upsets Madeleine. She thinks he is accusing her of madness. She runs down a nearby hill and Scottie grabs her. As Madeleine collapses into his arms, she tells him that she doesn't want to die, but "There's someone within me, and she says I must die." As the waves crash behind them, they kiss passionately.

The scene shifts to Midge, painting at home. Scottie comes to visit her and she gets him a drink. "Since when did you start slipping notes under men's doors?" he asks her, and she tells him, "Since I stopped being able to get them on the phone." He asks her why she was so desperate to see him, and she tells him she wasn't desperate at all. "I just thought if I gave you a drink and fed you some dinner, you'd be so grateful, you'd take me to a movie," she says.

Midge asks Scottie what he's been up to and he tells her he's been wandering. When he asks her what she's been doing, she tells him she's been painting, and offers to show him her new painting. "Matter of fact, I thought I might give it to you," she says, as he wanders over to the easel. It's a self-portrait, but she's put her head on the body of Carlotta Valdes in the famous painting from the museum. "It's not funny, Midge," he says, shaking his head and leaving abruptly. Midge is heartbroken, takes a brush, ruins the painting, and scolds herself for sending Scottie running.

The scene shifts to Scottie's apartment. He is awakened from a slumber on the couch by Madeleine buzzing the doorbell. When she comes in, she tells him she had the dream again, and he holds her and gets her some brandy. "It was the tower again, and the bell, and the old Spanish village...It was a village square and a green with trees, and an old whitewashed Spanish church with a cloister. Across the green, there was a big, gray, wooden house, with a porch and shutters and a balcony above, a small garden, and next to it a livery stable with old carriages lined up inside. At the end of the green, there was a whitewashed stone house, with a lovely pepper tree at the corner." Scottie recognizes this place as an old Spanish mission, San Juan Bautista, that's about 100 miles south of San Francisco.

Scottie tells Madeleine he will take her to the mission that afternoon, insisting that when she sees it she will remember seeing it before and it will destroy her delusions and her dream. He tells her to come to his house at noon and sends her back home.

That afternoon, they drive to the mission, which appears exactly as Madeleine described it. In the livery stable, Madeleine tells Scottie that the last time she was there, there were four horses in the stalls. Scottie tries to show her that there is an explanation for all of her visions, but Madeleine is completely entranced. He kisses her, and they each say "I love you," but Madeleine insists that there's something she has to do, and runs away.


Scottie's interest in Madeleine only complicates further his already complicated relationship with Midge. Just as Madeleine is leaving Scottie's house in her car, Midge drives up, and is perceptibly miffed by the fact that Scottie has been spending time with the beautiful woman. If Madeleine represents some type of archetypal seductress, a femme fatale and damsel in distress all rolled into one, Midge represents a self-sufficient woman, one whom Scottie always seems to overlook.

It seems that Midge does have something to worry about after all, as Scottie begins to treat his charge as equal parts investigation and affair. When Madeleine delivers a thank-you note to his apartment, he comes on strong, hinting that he enjoyed taking care of her the previous evening and taking a rather aggressive approach to spending the afternoon with her. Madeleine appears to resist at first, but eventually agrees to spend the afternoon with the detective. The line between investigation and date becomes blurred as the two become closer.

Hitchcock manages to take many iconic locations in San Francisco and turn them into bewitching and haunted settings for Madeleine's delusions. Madeleine and Scottie visit Muir Woods and admire the beautiful redwood trees. For someone more well-adjusted, the forest might seem enchanting and beautiful, a testament to the endurance and beauty of nature, but to Madeleine it is a haunting reminder of death, the fact that humans are outlived by their surroundings. Hitchcock shoots the forest in a way that highlights its primordial quality; with his perspective, it appears dark and hazy, like something out of a dream.

In this section of the film, we learn a little bit more about Madeleine's experience of her own mental instability. She compares her delusional state to walking down a corridor and knowing that when she reaches the end of the corridor, she will die. Madeleine speaks in vague images and metaphors for her experience, as Scottie desperately tries to understand her experience and perceptions, searching for a way to "explain it all away" as she puts it. The landscape surrounding the two of them in this moment of revelation is like something out of a dream: an overcast sky over the scrubby coastline of San Francisco, waves crashing onto the rocks in thunderous percussion.

Midge is a rather curious character, a detached and ironic young artist in the midst of an earnest melodrama. In order to win back some attention from Scottie, she hatches a plan to jokingly paint the portrait of Carlotta with her own face on it, but it has the opposite effect and sends an offended Scottie packing. In many ways, Midge acts as a foil for Madeleine. Where Madeleine is haunted, serious, and poised, Midge is self-aware, shrewd and clever. Where Madeleine is ethereal and mysterious, Midge is pragmatic and assured.