Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"I talked to the woman in musical therapy, and she said that Mozart's the boy for you."

Film: Vertigo

Starring: James Stewart and Kim Novak

Synopsis: A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.

This week my finance class is messing with my mind, so I haven't been able to watch or re-watch any Hitchcock to review. Lucky for you I recently found my notebook from Intro to Film (oh how I loved that class) and a paper I wrote on Vertigo. So instead of a current review, I give you a paper I wrote in 2005 discussing the use of sound to enhance a theme. Be warned it is a bit of a spoiler and I may or may not have kept my tenses consistant.

In the film Vertigo, a police officer with a phobia of heights has the assignment to watch a supposed mentally ill woman so that she does not hurt herself. This film carries the theme that if a problem comes along it should not be fed by fear, but should be confronted head on. This themes in presented through various techniques of sound, such as nondiegetic music, synchronous sound, and internal diegetic sound.

After the main man has his issue with heights, he experiences moments of dejavue whenever he looks down from extreme heights. There is music that accompanies along with these moments. Right as he looks down, the music spikes to a very fortissimo note. As he gazes longer down from his high position, the music plays in a way that gives the dizzy sensation. The sensation was caused by a repetition of a few notes being played in a circular rhythm. This nondiegetic music helps the audience get more involved with the movie and have a similar sensation to the man experiencing the actual sensation. If the main guy had faces his fear early on in the movie, then he would not have had as many moments of scary dejavue and there would be no need to hear the dizzy music as often. Plus, those ladies would not have died if he would have faced his problem with heights and not fed it with fear.

While the main guy was wandering around with the mental lady, they had a few magical moments. The first magical moment occurred while they were at a beach. While at this beach, the mental woman made a dash to the beach and the main man followed because he thought she was going to dive in and try to drown again. When they got together right at the shore, they looked into each others eyes. As the two were going in for the kill, the music began to crescendo. Then a huge wave crashed behind then and they commenced to suck face. The synchronous sound of the wave correlated perfectly with the climax of the love scene. Also, the music played while the two were together has the same undertone every time they were together, but variations added to make the tune applicable to the mood of the scene. While the main guy was following the mental girl's car, this music played with a haunting tone to it. While they were on the beach together, just the undertone played and it was bright and love-y dove-y. While they were in the tower at the mission, the music played with a scary tone to it. All these variations of the same song gave the audience hints to what was going to happen with these two characters. Had both of these individuals faced the college friend/husband guy, then they would not have had to play as ponds in his crazy game and fall in love.

When the main guy sees a woman who looks like the one who died, he follows her with the intent to relive and finish his love story with her. He was unaware that the woman was actually the one he fell in love with. She agrees to go on a date with him, but as she gets ready for their dinner, she hesitates and begins to write him a letter. As she is writing the letter, she thinks about the events that led up to her "death" in a flashback. Her thoughts were heard as an internal diegetic sound. All the sounds of her thoughts play the audience through what really happened and let the audience in on the reality of the night the mental girl dies. After writing the letter, she tore it up. She feared that if the main guy knew the truth about what had happened that he would never love her as she loved him. Had she faced this problem and not fed her fear, she would not have died in the same manner as the real mental girl.

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