|Vertigo: Barbara Bel Geddes, James Stewart. Please click to enlarge.|
A print from Universal Germany by permission from Universal City Studios.
Viewed at Bio Rex, Helsinki (a KAVI 70 mm special screening), 29 Nov 2015.
For the first time I saw a good print of Vertigo. This 70 mm print really is worthwhile, doing justice to the cinematography better than regular 35 mm prints of the same restoration. The image is more solid and the picture is of a high quality. The digital sound is also impressive, but there are the well-known issues of re-recording. For me they are not too jarringly obtrusive.
In July I wrote five articles on Vertigo based on the Bologna screening of the vintage Technicolor print from La Cinémathèque française.
Each time it's different. There was heartfelt laughter in the audience in the dialogue of Scottie: The color of your hair... Judy: Oh, no! Scottie: Judy, please, it can't matter to you. There was applause after the restoration credits. (It would be difficult to applaud right after the thundering final chord of Herrmann's score of the movie proper). The 70 mm image was magnificent at Bio Rex, a cinema perfect for Clint and Bond, and perhaps less so for a deeply personal film like Vertigo. The landscapes looked especially impressive now. Not for nothing is the format called VistaVision. There was always a touristic aspect in Hitchcock.
I now paid more attention to the dream sequence in which Scottie arrives at the open grave of Carlotta Valdes after which we see a silhouette crashing down on the roof of the Mission San Juan Bautista. But the silhouette is that of Scottie instead of Madeleine - visual proof to Robin Wood's thesis that Vertigo is about Scottie's identification of Madeleine as a personification of death.
A detail: in the first sequence of Scottie with Midge there is a demonstration of a new brassiere model with "revolutionary uplift" (see image above). The scene is the first contribution to the film's theme of the construction of the feminine image. Midge and Madeleine wear those things, Judy doesn't.
In my introduction to the screening I mentioned the 150th anniversary of Tristan und Isolde (1865), a turning-point in the history of music where Richard Wagner took the classic-romantic chord concept a step towards an unprecedented psychical tension. The Tristan chord became integrated in Hitchcock's sound of suspense in Vertigo. There is a sound sample of the Tristan chord in Wikipedia. The Wagnerian Liebestod (love death) theme is taken to an even more general level in Vertigo's theme of der Todestrieb (the death drive).
I also mentioned that having seen the Bologna screening of Vertigo last summer I have been thinking about Vertigo when Jean Sibelius's The Swan of Tuonela is playing. Madeleine in Vertigo is Hitchcock's swan of Tuonela. (Tuonela is the Land of Death). *
I argued that Vertigo is about an illusion which prevents us to face reality, and also about an illusion that leads us to discover another reality.
* Erik Tawaststjerna's magisterial Jean Sibelius biography in five volumes starts with the coincidence of Sibelius being born in the same year when Tristan und Isolde had its premiere. Wagner became a challenge which also Sibelius had to face but which he chose to bypass.
OUR PROGRAM NOTE BY HEIKKI NYMAN BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK