Love in the film Vertigo

Freshman (College 1st year) ・English ・APA

Love is characterized by a deep mental urge to form emotional bonds with others. It is believed that love and hunger and thirst are scientifically equivalent. Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock depicts love and romantic experiences that are important not only to the film industry but also to viewers' everyday lives. The video, in particular, depicts a society in which love, marriage, and family life are central human values. It also represents popular culture's dominant female ideals, such as feminist-based physical beauty and healthy sexuality. The core theme that Hitchcock wishes to express is the perplexity that may emerge from obsession. More specifically, the confusion manifests when Scottie makes attempts to hold Judy in the image of Madeleine Therefore, Vertigo subtly undercuts that puritanical society and presents their sinister implications. In this essay; there is an illustration that Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo reflects on the destructive nature of illusive romantic love.


Madeleine was a wife to Galvin Lester, a former acquaintance of Scottie. Madeleine felt that she was the reincarnation of Carlotta Valdes her great-grandmother that committed suicide when she was young. Scottie accepts to keep an eye on Madeleine with some reservations. Madeleine wanders around San Francisco with an idea that suicide is the only solution to her current situation of seeking to be Carlotta Valdez is to die, but she fears it. She attempts to drown herself in San Francisco Bay, but Scottie saves her. When they eventually meet, the two begin having romantic relations, without Madeleine knowing that Scottie was a spy (Eggert, 2008). Nonetheless, Madeline was not aware of somebody following her with a car and foot.

Madeline visits the museum, the art gallery, and other landmarks, around San Francisco. Scottie realizes that she is obsessed with Carlotta Valdes, and tries to make her become Carlotta. Her pot to become the real Carlotta Valdes include suicide mission. In one of her suicide attempts, she tries to drown herself in the San Francisco Bay but Scottie rescues her. Carlotta keeps having a recurring dream of a Spanish Mission Church (San Juan Bautista Mission). Scottie realizes that the church is equivalent to the building on the outskirts of the town. Because of love for her, he takes her there with hopes that it might take the nightmares away from her. The activities that take place in the tower lead to her death while Scottie watches helplessly. The court clears Scottie of murder charges, claiming that the death was equivalent to suicide. The death leaves Scotty depressed for a while, and Midge consoles him for a while. When he recovers, he revisits the places that Madeleine revisited frequently with the aim of meeting her. When he meets women that resemble Madeline, he thinks that he has met her practically but does not take an initiative to talk to any of them until when meets Judy.

 Scottie is obsessed with Madeleine that he tries to recreate Judy in the image of Madeline. Scottie discovers the dual nature of Judy such as wearing jewels similar to Carlotta Valdes. However, the girl protests frequently. Judy fights an annihilation of her ideal self, which is a kind of death and embraces it as the approach of claiming Scottie’s love. She says that ‘I don’t care anymore about me”. To enact the contradictory impulses, Scottie drags the lady to the top of bell tower with an intention of killing her. When she plummets to her death, Scottie reacts with horror.


Several elements in the film reveal obsession.  Judy and Scottie visit areas that seek to create the past romantic reality such as the museum, the ancient Sequoia forest, the cemetery and the mission. The two go and return to the places visited by Madeline to make Scottie perpetuate his cycle of obsession, eventually making her a bystander of her emotions. The places are linked to a woman that died many years ago, but the viewer can establish that the places are hardly linked with Madeline.

Scottie obsesses about Madeline through Judy Barton because of their uncanny resemblance.  In the long run, Scottie comes to the conclusion that Judy is not actually Madeline, but restrains his thinking to the past memories with the woman he loved. The revelation of reality sends Scottie to the height of obsessive rampage. Apparently, Scottie is possessed by a woman that took her own life willingly.

Nature of Appearances

The depths of emotion that are presented by facial expressions and body movements are hard to define. In Midge’s apartment, Scottie does not reveal trauma but with time, the viewer realizes that the individual is indeed upset. The facial expression is similar to a mask. Midge, on the other hand, appears unromantic, pragmatic and controlled in her responses when taking care of Scottie, the exterior picture is not her ideal self. It comes to the audience’s realization that it shields the soul of a passionate individual. She attempts to break into Scottie’s dream world by painting her head on Carlotta’s portrait but fails to convince him to love her. When she fails, she is filled with rage, which is demonstrated by flinging paintbrushes at her own reflection in the window. Midge typically shatters the mask that failed to transform her identity to make her appear as the person that Scottie wants.

 From the side of the viewer, Madeleine is not an ideal character but an illusion. Hitchcock presents her as a fabrication that is loosely based on a legend of a dead woman. Scottie makes an attempt to penetrate the image but instead meets his downfall and the downfall of Judy. Judy assumes the appearance of Madeleine when Scottie insists, thereby failing to penetrate her own mask. For instance, when Scottie drags her up the steps of the bell tower, Judy seems to have lost a firm grasp of her ideal identity. She alternates her words with those of Madeleine, further confusing Scottie.

Scott’s passions for Madeline extend despite that Judy’s love for him was genuine. It is the primary reason that he resorts to reshaping Judy to the haunting figure of his memories with hopes to make her appear as Madeline. He buys Judy the same grey suit that Madeline used to wear. He also demands that she should dye her hair blonde and style it in a particular manner. After the makeover is complete, Judy materializes exactly as Madeleine. When she puts on Carlotta’s necklace, Scottie gets more convinced that Judy is, in fact, the ideal Madeline and killing her was in the tower was a hoax. On the other hand, instead of Judy seeking to convince Scottie that she was not Madeline, she goes ahead to tell him that Elster had killed his wife and made it appear like suicide and revealed that she had posed like Madeline to seduce him. While confessing, Judy trips and plummets to her death.

Folly of Romantic Delusion

Hitchcock seeks to present an idea that obsession can lead to tragedies such as suicide. Madeline obsesses over Carlotta Valdes while Scottie is obsesses over Madeline. Scottie fools himself and agrees to be fooled into believing in illusions that gratify him romantically. On the other hand, Midge is a significantly sympathetic character hoping to convince Scottie to fall into her real love. She is an antithesis of romantic delusion because she makes attempts to offer Scottie a mature kind of love.  However, her attempts to woo Scottie are in vain, a scenario which makes viewers sympathetic for her. What is more, despite that she plays Madeleine, Judy attempts to lure Scottie to move out of the illusive Madeleine mentality and accept her ideal self but Scottie ignores it.  Scottie startles her, making her fall from the crest of bell tower. The decision to submit to the illusive love translates to the tragic ending of the film.

Madeline and Scottie are fascinated with people that take their own lives because of love. Judy pretends to be the actual Madeline that her husband was sued for murdering in order to win his love. On the other hand, when he is with either Midge or Judy, Scottie hardly realizes that the woman that actually loves him is with him because of such obsession. After establishing that Judy is not actually Madeline, he forces her to the ideal form of Madeline to that he can satisfy his thirst or obsession. Judy’s obsession with Scottie makes her allow him to change her into the image of Madeline. Apparently, the image of Madeline in the minds of both Judy and Scottie translated to Judy’s death.

Despite that Midge is a good hearted woman that is readily available to him, Scottie rejects her, claiming that she is a mother of several occasions. By consoling him after his breakdown, Midge has placed herself in the position of a loving and caring woman but Scottie prefers the fantastical Madeline to her. By recreating the portrait of Carlotta and showing it to Scottie, she reveals that she too can be a focal point of his obsession but the action managers Scottie, who wants the outright visual sexuality of Madeline. Scottie’s response makes Midge curse for trying and loosing, which further reveals the mental trauma associated with infatuation.


Alfred Hitchcock suggests that obsession, which is often confused with love, can translate to self-destruction as revealed by the complex relationships that Scottie has for women. Ideally, the protagonist persistently resists ideal love that brings contentment and resorts to search for the unattainable ideal. To him, a fantastical woman is a benchmark for love and he cannot let go of the thoughts. The audience can be concerned d about what could befall the ladies that were entangled in the melancholy of Scottie. All the leading ladies in the film were put in danger, humiliated and even killed in their effort to satisfy the man. Scottie indicates little patience and warmth to the women that come to his life. On the other hand, the women’s extreme efforts to please their lovers lead to their downfall. For instance, Madeline’s extreme love and consequent attempts to become Carlotta Valdes leads to her death. On the other hand, Judy’s attempt to suit into the shoes of Madeline perfectly leads to her death.


Eggert, B. (2008.November 26). Deep Focus Review: Vertigo. Accessed: 21 June.2017.

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