Vertigo: Herrmann’s Use of Forms

by Matthew Raley One of the visual abstractions we noticed in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo was his evocation of famous paintings. We saw that his shot of Madeleine floating in the Bay alludes to the painting of Ophelia by Millais, and that references like this give an unconscious emotional atmosphere to the film. Bernard Herrmann uses... Continue Reading →

Vertigo: Herrmann’s Abstract Score

by Matthew Raley I've given several examples of Alfred Hitchcock's abstract visuals in Vertigo (here and here). But Hitchcock also created a sound-world to match, and he found a collaborator in Bernard Herrmann. Together, they raised the score to the level of co-narrator with the camera. The term “Wagnerian” is often used to characterize Herrmann’s... Continue Reading →

Vertigo: Hitchcock’s Abstractions

by Matthew Raley To start exploring why Vertigo has been called one of the greatest films of all time, let's look at Alfred Hitchcock's use of abstraction. The word abstract is used freely to describe artworks, but the meaning of the word can be difficult to specify. Abstraction in art is usually contrasted with representation,... Continue Reading →

Vertigo: The Ink-Blot Problem

by Matthew Raley Interpreting art has always been a problem. Can a painting have a theme? When does a novelist cross the line between portraying wrong actions and endorsing them? Can you be morally or spiritually corrupted by listening to a song? These questions are more emotional when they involve cinema, partly because of its... Continue Reading →

New Series: Hitchcock’s and Herrmann’s Vertigo

by Matthew Raley This month, the British Film Institute's journal Sight and Sound announced the results of its poll of film critics, distributors, and academics asking, "What is the greatest film of all time?" For the last 50 years, the answer has been Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941). But this year, the 846 panel members... Continue Reading →

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