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OUGD401 Context of Practice 1: A Brief History of...

For this brief, I'm going to study a brief history of mise en scene in the films by Alfred Hitchcock, more specifically Vertigo, his masterpiece. I feel like this would be best thing for me to look into, as I have a deep interest into cinema and the study of cinema - you could call me a cinephile. I've written serval essays about Vertigo, one of which I'm revamping for this publication, which was '[A Discussion] of Hitchcock's Mise En Scene in Vertigo'.Which I wrote during my time of A-level Film Studies at York College.

Discuss Hitchcock's use of Mise En Scene in Vertigo

Throughout Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo, Hitchcock uses various aspects of, amazing, Mise en scene to generate a deeper meaning, exploring themes and ideas, also exaggerating Scottie’s phobia, which happens to be a severe fear of heights, also known as Vertigo, for the duration of the film. He also uses mine en scene to convey this to the audience and exaggerate Scottie's fear, lust and depression.

Right from the start of the film, we see towers in the background; this becomes a key image throughout the film. This varies from towers, tall buildings, visible in the background of the on-location San Francisco set. In addition to this, on some of the sets there are tall tower like objects, for example, in the grave yard scene Hitchcock cuts to a low angle shot of a tombstone, which from the low angle looks like a tower. The tower is used as a metaphor for Scottie’s fear of heights, his vertigo, a constant reminder that he is trapped in this past, the moment where he was hanging from the gutter where he watched the Police Officer fall to his death.

Another example of mise en scene that is used in the film would be the colour scheme, more specifically Hitchcock’s use of the colour green and red, more so green than red. The colour green is associated with an eerie, ghostly quality; Hitchcock uses this in the film to foreshadow the death of Madeline. For example, Madeline’s car is green. Scotty follows this ghostly car around San Francisco, the colour green is used a lot, an addition example would be a scene in Judy’s hotel room, where Judy is bathed in a green glow from the neon-sign outside of her window. The Green colour foreshadows the death of Madeline. However, late on in the film, there’s a distinct shot where Judy emerges from her bathroom, this shot is after Scottie takes Judy out and buys her the same clothes and Madeline in attempt to transform Judy into the woman Scottie is obsessed with, Madeline. She emerges dressed as Madeline, however when the door opens, she’s bathed in a green glow, with smoke overlaying her, making her appear like the dead Madeline, her ghost.

The theme of spirals, and spiral shaped imagery is clear throughout the film, we see a spiral used in the opening titles, inside the pupil of the eye, and we see imagery throughout the film, an example of this imagery would be the style Madeline Elster, and Carlota Valdez’s hair is, it’s tied in a spiral like shape, which, in the art gallery scene, where Scottie is following Madeline for Gavin Elster, we see a close up of the spiral, where Scottie is comparing Madeline and the painting Carlota, which is where he becomes convinced that Madeline is possessed by Carlota. Another example of the spiral would in be Scottie’s driving, when he’s following Madeline in the San Francisco roads, Scottie always turns left, whilst traveling down a hill, like a spiral, continuously traveling the same way, trapped in a continuous pattern, circling down the streets of Scan Francisco. A spiraling motion is a continuous motion, circling, never ending, trapped in the same motion forever. This relates to Scottie in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, for example we see the spiral in the eye of the woman in the opening titles, then it moves onto the roof-top scene, when the Police officer falls, he falls in a spiraling motion, even when the Police officer has landed, his limbs are depicted in a spiral like shape, it can suggest that the events are spiraling out of control; this foreshadows the coming events; Scottie, falling into Gavin Elster’s plan, another example of this would be during the scenes where he is following Madeline, it show’s he’s trapped, following her, falling into Gavin Ester’s plan. The key example of spiraling would be at the scene where both Madeline and Judy die – The Church tower. The winding stairs of the bell tower form a spiral. As scotty chases Madeline up the stairs, In attempt to stop herself from committing suicide, we get one of the most dominating point of view shots in the film where we see the famous Vertigo shot shoot down the centre of the winding stair case, as his Vertigo takes over, and he’s victim to the staircase, the spiral. The spiral structure could symbolise Scottie falling in love with Madeline, being trapped in a cycle: Loves Madeline, she dies, Loves Judy (Madeline) again, she dies. Falling in love ‘til death.

In a particular scene, where we see Madeline in the florists, surrounded by flowers the mise en scene here suggests the idea of a funeral, death, this ties in the with plot, on second viewing we know that Madeline, the real Madeline, is going to die, on the hands of Gavin Elster, and that the fake Madeline, Judy will no longer exist. Another example of how the Bouquets of flowers tie in with Madeline’s death would be at the scene in San Francisco bay. In my research, which I didn’t pick up on my most recent viewing was that Madeline was stood ripping petals from the flower, destroying it, this then correlates with Madeline’s own self destruction, as she drops herself into the water, pretending to drown. The flowers become a representation of Madeline’s death. Later on in the film, following the death of Madeline Scottie has a nightmare, where we see the same flowers, in bright colours, which then destroy themselves, adding to the idea that they are a representation of Madeline’s death.

Another example of mise en Scene in the film would be the Sequoia tree, Scottie explains to Madeline that the name of the tree means “always green, ever living” the tree could be depicted as a metaphor for life. To which Madeline responds “I don’t like it, knowing I have to die” as she realises she needs to die to complete Elster’s plan.

In the graveyard scene there are various aspects of mine en scene, such as the tombstone from various angles look like towers, adding to idea of Scottie’s vertigo. There’s also a tower-like gravestone, which has Scottie’s Christian name on, which can also foreshadow Scotty being trapped.

My research has also lead my to discover that an additional mise on scene theme of corridors tunnel is also used. Hitchcock uses corridors and tunnels to depict the passage of death. The first suggestion of the tunnel theme would be at the start of the film, whilst Scottie hangs from the gutter, when he looks down the camera shoots down the, in Scottie’s point of view, creating a tunnel effect. Another example of the tunnel theme would be when Madeline is describing one of her dreams. “…down a long corridor” following this theme, we would understand that at the end of the corridor lies death. Another example of this theme would be the scene, in the sanatorium, where Midge walks down the long corridor for the last time, and we no longer see her in the film from this moment on. This could be seen as the death of Midge, because as she walks away, leaving Scottie behind she is convinced she can never re-ignite her love with Scottie.

Hitchcock then adapts this motif, in the scene, after Judy’s transformation to Madeline, at the beauty salon, they head back to her apartment. She walks up the corridor, from the stairs to her apartment door, almost as if Madeline has been resurrected, back from the dead. Another example of this would be when Scottie is taking Judy back to the location where Madeline threw herself from the bell tower. When they’re in the car, driving there, the backdrop almost looks like a tunnel, with the tall trees each side, enclosing them. That with the gloomy-post-sunset lighting looks similar to a tunnel.

To conclude, Hitchcock uses and amazing arsenal of mise en scene designed to depict an image in our minds, and foreshadows coming events. Especially the use of spirals to cast the idea of Vertigo during the film, holding Scottie back, leaving him trapped in a life of repetition, falling in love with Madeline, watching her die, and falling in love with Judy and watching her die, trapped in a cycle. Also using other aspects of mise en scene to foreshadow Madeline’s death, such as the flowers, and how Madeline destroys them, foreshadowing her own self-destruction, then in Scottie’s dream when he sees the abstract colours flowers which violently destroy themselves, also symbolizing Madeline’s death. Using the eerie colour green to represent the ghost, the death of Madeline Elster. Foreshadowing, originally, then suggesting how Scottie is trapped in the past, stuck, obsessed with Madeline Elster.
Then using the tunnels to represent the death of characters, walking down a corridor to meet death, such as Midge walking away, and how Scottie looks down onto the Policemen, who feel to his death. Also, how Hitchcock reverses that, which someone comes towards us, out of a corridor it could suggest that character’s resurrection.

I plan to bind the book using a saddle stich method, you can see the process below, instructions taken from here


The essay will form the body copy of my publication, to accompany the essay I want to use a selection of images, I don't want to use screen shots from the film, as such, I was to use my own variation of them. I'd love to create some images with use blocks of colour, almost like the poster for Psycho, a sort of Saul-Bass-influenced style.

Below, are screen shots of parts from the file which I wish to include.

Green for the ghost.

The confusion of reality 

The Spiral

Red for blood

Vertigo Shot + The Spiral


The Opening Chase

The Spiral

The Spiral

The Noose

All of these screen shots help me express a specific point, complementing the essay. However, I need to change these images, and I plan to do that by using a method in Adobe Illustrator CS6 called 'Image Trace'. 

To image trace, we first take our image in Ai, and make sure it is selected.

You then go to Object (on the top bar) > Image Trace > Make 

Initially, it will give you the result, below. This is the default present, and it looks nice, but it's not the look I'm going for, I want colour.

So, on the menu at the top, you'll fine a preset drop down menu, you can select which mode you would like to select, for this I'm choosing the 16 colours option, as I want to include as much colour as I can, to convey my point about colour in Vertigo. 

And below, we get the final result, Kim Novak in 16 colours, in the restaurant scene in Vertigo. 

The advantage of having these images is they're made from Vectors, so they can be expanded to any size and still maintain their quality, which is perfect for printing. 

Using layouts, as seen below, I implemented these into InDesign to create the inners for the publication.

Combing the images and the text together to create the spreads below

I then went down to the digital print resource, to get the highest quality physical copies I can.

I then bound the book using a saddle stich method, as seen earlier in the post

To create a sense of synthesis, I've decided to include a DVD copy of Vertigo to accompany the booklet, which will be bound in a sleeve, as you can see below.


Selecting a font for the project, I wanted a bold header font, which stood out. So, as suggested in the crit, I've decided to use Saul Bass's font. Searching the web lead me to find this website. Which contained a download for the Hitchcock font, which I hope to use throughout. 

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