A Discussion about Mise on Scéne in
V E RT IGO
Throughout Hitchcock’s award winning (Sight and Sound 2012) masterpiece; Vertigo, Hitchcock uses various aspects of, amazing, Mise en scene to generate a deeper meaning, exploring themes and ideas. Mise en Scene is a piece of cinema terminology, french for BLANK. It is used to create a deeper meaning. To do this the directior, in this case Alfred Hitchcock, will use anything at their disposal to create this deeper meaning, this includes props, shot composition, aspect ratio, colour mode, lighting, sound dialogue, diagetic and non diagetic sound etc. Hitch’ also used Mise en Scene to exaggerate Scottie’s phobia, which happens to be a severe fear of heights, also known as Vertigo, for the duration of the film. He also uses mine en scene to convey this to the audience and exaggerate Scottie’s fear,
lust and depression. Vertigo, 1958, is a film adaptation from the mystery novel by Boileau and Narcejac. The authors also wrote books such as Les Diaboliques-called D’Entre le Morts. The two novels follow a similar format to Vertigo, that being a surprising and brilliant twist towards the end. Hitchcock also decides to disregard the original ‘plot’, which you would assume be a murder-mystery, trying to discover the cause of death for Madeline Elster. Instead, Hitchcock focuses on Scottie’s depression, stress and
nightmares, his Vertigo. The reemergence of his beloved Madeline in the form of Judy.
Right from the start of the film, we see towers in the background, throughout the Police rooftop chase sequence, where Scottie loses his footing on a tiled roof, following a leap between buildings; this becomes a key image throughout the film. This varies from towers, tall buildings, visible in the background of the on-location San Francisco set. In addition to this, on some of the sets there are tall tower like structures, Hitchcock would often use a low angle shot on a tall vertical structure, which would exxagerate itâ€™s height, making it appear taller than it actually is, more dominating and poweful. An example of this would in the graveyard (top right image). The tower is used as a metaphor for Scottieâ€™s fear of heights, his vertigo, a constant reminder that he is trapped in this past, the moment where he was hanging from the gutter where he watched the Police Officer fall to his death The influence of the past, which is a key motif throughout the film.
Another example of mise en scene that is used in the film would be the colour scheme, more specifically Hitchcock’s use of the colour green and red, more so green than red. The colour green is associated with an eerie, ghostly quality; Hitchcock uses this in the film to foreshadow the death of Madeline, up until the first tower sequence where Carlota Valdez throws herrself from the bell tower. For example, Madeline’s car is a dark green colour. Scotty follows this seemly normal, on first viewing, car around San Francisco, whilst he was in persuit. And additional example, and the most distinct example of foreshadowing using mise en scene is the first time we see Madeline, in the restraunt, following the side shot of her face, which is repeated throughout the film as a motif, we see her wearing a green dress, in an entirely red room, the red representing blood. Similar appearances of the two ominousc colours continue throughout the picture, up until the point of Madeline’s death. However, the
colours do not disappear, they continue to appear. Since they’re no longer foreshadowing the death of Madeline, they must be a reminder of her death, the influence of the past, trapped, suspended in Vertigo. The best use of the ominous green colour scheme comes following the ‘transformation’ sequence, where Scottie takes Judy out and buys her the same clothes as Madeline, then colours her hair to look like Madeline. Finally, he asks her to pin her hair like Madeline’s hair. Following this, after her transformation into Madeline, she emerges from the bathroom, bathed in a green glow from a neon sign outside, as seen in a previous shot, with smoke infront of her, making her look almost translucant, like a ghost.