Study Guide

Vertigo The Supernatural

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The Supernatural

ELSTER: Scottie, do you believe that someone out of the past, someone dead, can enter and take possession of a living being?

Elster's question is meant to be shocking both to Scottie and to the viewer. It's meant to jar us out of our comfort zone and get us to ask ourselves: "do we believe that?" It sets up the audience to believe we're going to see a story about spirit possession.

SCOTTIE: You'd better take her to the nearest psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist, psychoanalyst, or plain family doctor. And have him check you both.

Scottie's a skeptic; he thinks there are simpler explanations for Madeleine's behavior and he thinks Elster is nuts for believing her. This exchange is the setup for a major plot development: Scottie's transformation from skeptic to believer.

MIDGE: And the idea is that the Beautiful Mad Carlotta has come back from the dead, to take possession of Elster's wife? Ah, Johnny! Come on!

These early, dismissive words of Midge's turn out to be even wiser than they sound the first time around. Only after we've seen Vertigo once do we realize how prophetic Midge's "Come on!" is. Right off the bat, Midge is presented as the grounded, sensible one.

MIDGE: Well, now, Johnny-O … Was it a ghost? And was it fun?

When Midge speaks these lines, she's just seen Madeleine leave Scottie's apartment. Assuming the two have had a make-out session, Midge sees this as a 100% human encounter. She's also covering up her own hurt with sarcastic humor.

WOMAN WITH CAR: Oh! You know him! And his wife? The poor thing. I didn't know her. Tell me—is it true that she really believed—

Evidently Elster has spread around the story that his wife thought she was possessed by a spirit. It's a juicy story and a perfect cover-up.

POP LEIBEL: Sad Carlotta. Alone in the great house... walking the streets alone, her clothes becoming old and patched and dirty. The Mad Carlotta... stopping people in the streets to ask, "Where is my child? Have you seen my child?"

An authority on San Francisco history, Pop Leibel relates the story of the woman whose spirit is possessing Madeleine. At this point, Scottie's gone from a skeptic to someone actively looking for evidence to support the supernatural hypothesis. What changed? Is it his growing infatuation with Madeleine? It's like he's possessed as well.

SCOTTIE: Those beautiful phony trances!

After Scottie's been carried along by Madeleine's story of possession, he's furious that he was strung along. However, he'd been haunted himself—by the memory of Madeleine, which was as powerful as any belief in the supernatural.

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