Composition Of "Vertigo" Essay

1666 words - 7 pages

When making a good film, many key elements such as lighting, color, editing, visual design and sound, come into play. Another very important element is composition which refers to how subjects are arranged in relation to each other and to the sides of the frame. Framing, mise-en-scene or staging, and photographing all play a significant role in the composition of films, thus creating a desired meaning of the film creator. Through the unique composition of the Alfred Hitchcock film, Vertigo, the audience is able to gain a deeper understanding of what is happening without it being directly presented to them through the characters actions or dialogue. In this suspenseful film, every frame, line and scene is filled with meaning from beginning to end. The names of the director and the two leads appear in front of an extreme close-up of a woman's face and the rest of the cast and crew are listed while spirals rush towards the audience. Because of this approach, the audience knows that this woman known as both Judy Barton and Madeline, played by Kim Novak, is going to be of great importance throughout the entire film. The credits are followed by a rooftop chase in which Scottie, played by James Stewart, comes close to death when he does not quite make a jump from one roof to another and is left dangling on the side. Scottie's vertigo is revealed through a point-of-view shot in which the camera zooms in and out from the roof creating a sense of extreme height and fear of falling. The vertigo that Scottie is afflicted with and the visual representations of falling by the very high angle shots at key points throughout the film, helps the audience to understand the happenings that are to follow. For example, when he first tries to conquer his fear by simply climbing a small step ladder, there is another point-of-view shot in which the audience feels Scotties fear because, though he is probably only about two feet off the ground, Scottie feels as though he is very high up and could fall. Then, when his twisted relationship with Madeline begins, there are many aspects of composition that reveal the warped storyline just by unique shots, placement of the characters to the setting, size of the characters on the screen and so on. For example, when Scottie first starts following Madeline, he sees her at "Ernie's," a restaurant implemented constantly throughout the film. The camera pulls back from Scottie across the diners and moves in on Madeline. The view cuts to that of Scottie but as Madeline moves towards him, he hides his stare, and the audience stays focused on her. She pauses right next to him and both are separated, in profile, in their own frames. Following that first sitting which foreshadows their relationship, he is constantly watching her from afar, the view always from inside his car, either from his point of view or a reaction shot of him. The two characters are rarely seen on screen together and thus there is never the feeling that...

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