Screening on Film
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
With James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes.
US, 1958, 35mm, color, 128 min.
Print source: HFA

Perhaps the most masterful achievement of a highly celebrated career, Vertigo (the director’s personal favorite) is a multi-layered summary of Hitchcock’s prime obsessions: the fear of physical and psychological intimacy and of mortality. Set in San Francisco, the film stars James Stewart as a retired police detective suffering from a severe fear of heights who is hired by an old friend to keep an eye on his wife (Novak). In the process, he becomes obsessively attached to his ward and is drawn further and further into a web of guilt and deception. One of Hitchcock’s most poetic films, Vertigo opens onto questions of identity and illusions as it weaves a powerful visual document of psychological states. The film’s technical innovations include a startling opening sequence in which the viewer is exposed to the vertiginous point of view.

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Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: U–Z

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Masterpieces of World Cinema

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The Complete Alfred Hitchcock