Study Guide

Vertigo Falling

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Why do we say people "fall in love"? Not for nothing, answers Vertigo. The film is interested in falling in all its forms, literal and figurative.

Characters are always falling off buildings in Hitch's flick: Scottie's colleague, Elster's wife, Judy Barton, Scottie himself in his terrible, no good, very bad dream midway through the movie. However, the main fall, the one the whole film depends on, is Scottie's falling in love with a woman who's obsessed with death.

Is falling in love just as dangerous as falling from a roof or a tower? Is love just as deadly a force as gravity? The Germans have a word for it: liebestod; it means "love death", and it can refer to moments in a play or opera when lovers commit suicide. Think Tristan and Isolde, or Romeo and Juliet, and you'll get the idea. Bernard Herrmann, who composed Vertigo's score, references the liebestod aria in Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde many times in the score.

Is falling in love really a wish for death, then? Get back to us on that one.

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