My Favourite Film: Vertigo

Kettle Mag, Alice Wolff, vertigo, hitchcock film, emily murray
Written by wolff_alice

People may not have a favourite food or book, but something everyone has is a favourite film due to the fact that cinema is something everyone can enjoy. So, here at Kettle we will be running a weekly feature on our editors, and some regular writers, favourite films.

This week is a regular correspondent and Kettle’s own women’s editor Alice Wolff. Be aware of spoilers.

– Emily Murray: Film Editor

What is your favourite film?

Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock.

When, and where, was the first time you saw this film? Was it a particularly memorable day/company/experience?

Actually, the first time I saw this film was in a film studies class back when I was in sixth form. It fascinated me then and still fascinates me now. I remember being amused at what a joker Hitchcock is. He’s great at using classic tropes to make you think one thing is going happen and then at the last moment just completely turning that on its head. I can totally imagine him laughing at his surprised audience from the shadows.

Favourite character and why?

Madeleine. It’s a testament to how meta this film is that even within the world of the film, she – spoiler alert – doesn’t actually exist. Plus her impossibly perfect and mysterious character is clearly a nod to the unrealistic ideals promoted by Hollywood women, which makes the feminist in me pretty happy. She’s gorgeous, but she’s also quite literally not real, a fantasy character designed very carefully to trick and enthral Johnny.

Favourite scene?

The ridiculously melodramatic transformation scene in the hotel. No joke, I’ve literally written a whole essay about this one scene. At first it comes off as this super-romantic climactic moment, but it’s just so over the top that it starts to feel unbelievable. For a split-second you feel clever because you think that Hitchcock ruined the moment by getting too carried away. You congratulate yourself for realising this, because of course you think that you could have done better. And then it dawns on you that he made it over-the-top on purpose. Yet again I can just imagine him cackling away in the shadows as he completely messes with the audience’s heads.

Favourite quote?

– ‘What’s this doohickey?’
– ‘It’s a brassiere. You know about those; you’re a big boy now’.

The fact that this is said to a grown man who often acts childishly makes it at once mildly creepy (given the weird mother-complex tendency that a lot of Hitchcock films have) and fabulously sarcastic. Go you, Midge.

Who would you like to be in the film?

It would have to be Midge. She’s self-possessed, sarcastic, and the only sensible character in the whole film. The rest of the characters lead ridiculously overly-dramatic lives (major spoiler alert): Elster carrying out an unnecessarily complicated plot to murder his wife; Madeleine having fake flashbacks and swooning a lot; Scottie falling in love with an illusion and then trying to force a real woman he meets to transform into that fantasy woman; and Judy thinking that nothing could possibly go wrong if she starts dating the guy who she previously tricked into falling in love with her (in disguise) then into thinking that he watched her fall to her death.

Meanwhile, Midge just hangs out in her apartment designing adverts for bras and giving the male protagonist very sensible advice that he never follows. She’s the symbol of normality and female independence.

Why is it your favourite?

Because it has so much replay value. Some might say it’s a bit long and overly-complicated, but I just love that every single time I watch it I notice something new. And it pokes fun not only at Hollywood but also at sexist notions of femininity in general. Both of those are major plus points for me.