Vertigo, 1958

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Sequoia tree scene

This video clip is one of the most memorable scenes in the thriller, Vertigo which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The main character, Scottie, and his girlfriend, Madeleine went to a forest full of sequoia trees in one of Scottie’s last moments with Madeleine before her “death”. During this moment in the movie, Scottie tells Madeleine that the scientific name for a sequoia tree actually means “always green, ever living.” The significance of this scene is that the sequoia trees remind her of her own mortality. Her immediate response to Scottie was that she said, “I don’t like it, knowing I have to die.”  The couple then looked at the cross-section of a felled tree, which shows how old the tree was when it was chopped down and suggests that the tree would have gone on living forever had it not been for human interference. This scene was slightly unclear yet very important because she appears to be both afraid of dying and scared to embrace life. Perhaps she knows her life will soon come to an end and she has no way to avoid it.

A reoccurring image that was seen throughout the film and is a symbol of the movie is a bouquet of flowers. The first time the audience was exposed to this symbol was when Scottie followed her to the flower shop and then to the art gallery. At the art gallery, she had a bouquet of flowers on the bench to her left while she was looking at a picture of Carlotta Valdes, who was holding a bouquet of flowers too. The meaning of this scene is to reveal to the audience as well as Scottie the similarity between the two women. The fact that they looked similar and carried the same bouquet of flowers foreshadows future events. The most notable occurrence of the bouquet of flowers was when Madeleine was standing at the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The plucking of the petals represents Madeleine’s fixation on self-destruction as she prepares to drown herself. Later on in the movie, Scottie has a dream in which a bouquet of flowers appears in a colorful, animated form. The bouquet swirls about and then violently disintegrates which symbolizes Madeleine’s brutal death.

 Flower shop scene

 Carlotta Valdes’ Bouquet

A motif in this movie is an idea of power and freedom. Power and freedom were thought of as privileges men had in the past but seemingly does not exist in the present. While discussing his nostalgia for the San Francisco of past years, Gavin Elster tells Scottie that he misses the times when men had “power and freedom.” In another scene in the movie, the audience is presented with this recurring idea again. Scottie is in a bookstore and is searching for information about Carlotta Valdes. The bookshop owner, Pop Leibel, told Scottie that the man who abandoned Carlotta and kept her child was able to do so without being reprimanded because he had the freedom and the power. It can be inferred that Scottie longs for the power and the freedom he once had in order to be the master of his own destiny which was before his near-death experience of falling of the top of the roof.

 Bookstore scene

 Near-death experience


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