When I first looked over the entries on this list, I noticed a few movies that I was surprised to see. One of these films is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. This falls under personal preference as I watched many of Hitchcock’s movies many years ago so I had built up preconceptions well before I learned that Vertigo was voted as the number one film on this list. Personally, it is neither my favorite Hitchcock film nor is it my favorite James Stewart film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. All of that aside, Vertigo was voted as the number one greatest motion picture of all time so I watched it again. It is important that I clarify that while I would rather watch Rear Window, I am not saying that Vertigo is not a fine film. It is expertly crafted and the color in nearly every frame is wondrous to behold.
If you have not watched the movie, it is the story of John Ferguson, played by Stewart, who learns in the opening scene that he suffers from acrophobia and is forced to retire, and is soon hired by a friend to investigate the strange activities of his wife. We are treated to an interesting story of a local history that is applied to Madeleine Ester, played wonderfully by Kim Novak. As the story unfolds we see a series of coincidences and tropes leading to an early climax, which is where the story truly begins. Going any further into the story may have an effect on your viewing pleasure so I will stop here.
I need to start with the positives. The acting is perfect, exactly what you would expect from a Hitchcock picture. The cinematography is a master class of how to make a film look casually beautiful with Technicolor popping off the screen in every second of the movie. If this was a list of the best-looking movies ever made, I doubt I could argue with Vertigo’s placement.
That is not what this list is about, though. When I started my project I was intending on taking a look at critically acclaimed movies and trying to dissect story elements that could help to make me into a better storyteller. To be completely honest, and I doubt this will be a popular opinion, story is Vertigo’s biggest flaw.
The theme of acrophobia feels like it was pasted on after a different film was made. It feels like they used vertigo because they wanted to highlight some new film techniques, not because it served the story. It is difficult for me to not just look past this to try and experience what everyone else seems to experience, and I know that is not what I want, which is why I cannot just blow by it. Honestly, you will probably love the movie; if it were not for my hang-ups I would too. Or, you can watch Rear Window and then explain to me why I am wrong.