Palettes of Sight and Sound The Auteurist Aesthetic in Vertigo and The Magnificent Ambersons

Both have influenced generations of filmmakers with the idea that film can be as expressive as painting or literature. Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons are notable examples of how a director can affect a film’s style and tone. Welles’ painter’s sensibility and Hitchcock’s feel for shape, angles and architecture make Ambersons and Vertigo two of the most unique and artistically enriching films the genre has to offer. ‘Vertigo’ – Alfred Hitchcock No director has combined the formalist elements to create an impression of intangible mystery quite like Alfred Hitchcock. Music, lighting, mise-en-scene, even graphic elements and special effects all combine to create extraordinarily atmospheric effects that merge the best of the film noir, mystery and horror traditions. Vertigo is considered by many the apex of the Hitchcock canon, a masterpiece of mood and ambience that eschews traditional elements of narrative and suspense two-thirds through the film in favor of impressionistic representations of vulnerability and death (Cook, 1981). Hitchcock’s predilection for symmetry in form as well as function hovers over the story. A kindred symmetry of formal elements leading finally to dissonance and dissolution is enacted in Vertigo’s narrative line: in the way its action doubles back upon itself, constructing and deconstructing its own discourse on matters of similarity and Name 2 difference, innocence and guilt, past and present, illusion and reality (Gottlieb and Brookhouse, 2002). Hitchcock meshes a characteristically taut storyline with suggestive imagery that evokes what Gottlieb and Brookhouse call an uncanny feel, the manifestation of a story that hangs just on the edge of believability (2002). Scottie moves within a darkened world, ensnared in a web of diabolical deceit that appears to have no rhyme or reason until revealed late in the story. Scottie is a helpless victim of his own vulnerability as well as the machinations of Gavin Elster and his doppelganger female accomplice. The persistent themes of height and of falling reinforce Scottie’s vulnerability and the impression that he is a hapless dupe, a feature that is entirely within the tradition of Hitchcock’s wrongly oppressed or unjustly accused protagonists. Vertigo’s power lies in the feeling of the unknown manifesting itself in the life of a uniquely prone hero. In one of the film’s most eerie scenes, Hitchcock takes us to the Redwood forest, symbolic of a mysterious and distant past that lies beyond our ability to fully comprehend. Here, Madeline appears to disappear, wraithlike, leaving us to wonder for a moment if she was simply a product of our imaginations, or of Scottie’s. The ominous music and dark setting leave us feeling, if only briefly, that the story may be completely illusory as we lose sight of Madeline. Hitchcock’s unique visual form immerses us in something that we seem to recognize and yet remains something we can never truly know. Vertigo pulls us into a world of longing and fear even in seemingly innocuous scenes, such as that in which Elster convinces Scottie to follow his wife. A wealthy shipping tycoon, Elster holds confers with Scottie amid a web of industrial buildings and machines, a spider Name 3 spinning a web he knows will tempt and easily ensnare Scottie. Vertigo evinces Hitchcock’s fascination with architecture and the geometric quality of buildings, and with the ways in which shapes and angles can augment dramatic effect. The old house (McKittrick Hotel) to which Madeline leads Scottie establishes that Scottie has been led