Study Guide

Vertigo Love

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Love in Vertigo isn't pretty. It's kind of sick, actually—it's based on deception, delusion, and obsession. Relationships end in abandonment or death. Elster murders his wife. Scottie falls in love with a phantom. Madeleine, the object of his obsession, is a fantasy, a fraud. When "Madeleine," really Judy, falls in love with him, she's loving a man who thinks he's in love with someone else. She has to become that someone else to get his love; how's that for a healthy relationship? Scottie can't ever love Judy for who she is; he has to turn her into Madeleine to feel anything at all. Can you even call that love?

The only person with any realistic capacity for love in this film is Scottie's ex, Midge. She's grounded, supportive, and realistic. Good luck with that, Midge.

Questions About Love

  1. How does Vertigo's ending deliver the film's overall message about love?
  2. Why does Hitchcock not provide an example of a relationship that's working out?
  3. What's the deal with Scottie's friendship with Midge? Why don't they ever become more than friends, despite Midge's attempts to win Scottie's heart?
  4. Does Scottie really love Madeleine, or is it just a sexual obsession?

Chew on This

Vertigo is organized around the idea that falling in love is like falling down, and not in a good way.

Vertigo undoes the cinematic conventions that lead us to expect romances to have happy endings.

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