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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

8 1/2 & ________ & Meaning

At one of the most honest moments of 8 ½, Guido tells his wife’s best friend Rosella that, “I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it just the same.” There is a sense of nothingness, an absence of meaning and purpose to his film, Guido seems to be relating, but he nonetheless feels the urge to relate it. Guido has failed at accomplishing the high goal he set for himself for the film, wanting it to be “a film that could help to bury forever all the dead things we carry within ourselves. And now I’m the one without the courage to bury anything at all.”

To Guido’s credit, he is incredibly self-cognizant and honest about his failure, for inability to bury the past is exactly what we have witnessed over the course of the film—both Fellini’s film, which we are watching, and Guido’s film, which we are watching the production of—and what continues to occur until the joint conclusion. We watch as Guido’s neglects what he is “supposed” to be doing to get his film made and lets his mind wander to past memories and fantasies. Two primary instances of this departure into Guido’s mind, the Saraghina episode and the Harem fantasy, coupled with the self-reflexive, immediate assessments made by the film critic, can encapsulate the nature of the larger film itself and the thesis Fellini forwards about the process of filmmaking.

The Saraghina and subsequent public shaming recollection comes about when Guido first talks with the Cardinal and other members of the Catholic Church, discussing the possibility of appearing in his film. Guido discusses how the protagonist has “certain needs he can no longer process” and believes that a prince of the church would be a “depositary of truth” and could provide a “flash of understanding.” (On a side note: the idea of a filmmaker making a film primarily for himself rarely pertains as much as it does here, both for Guido and Fellini). So Guido meets with the Cardinal, after being admonished about mixing “sacred and profane love too casually” and being reminded that he has the power to “educate and corrupt”.
Becoming quickly bored with the Diomedeo bird that captivates the Cardinal, Guido sees a larger woman who reminds him of a lustful character of his past, and his mind immediately wanders. Guido does his trademark glasses-push-to-the-bridge-of-his-nose, signifying a lapse of the present reality, and we return to his school days, when Guido is being pressured by a chanting group of friends to go see the “Saraghina”, a woman who erotically dances for money on the beach. In an incredible high shot, we see a mid-decision Guido, framed in between the head and arm of religious statue in an ethical and righteous pose.

Guido is visually within the confines of the Catholic “rules”, but then he runs out, and, as such, the camera follows him to the right as he runs to quell his naughty wishes. After being caught at the beach, Guido is hoisted back to receive his Catholic punishment from a committee of stern religious figures. His mother watches and waits, sitting by a portrait of Guido, the sad reminder that he could’ve been a pure boy, that he was next in line and ready to join the ranks of the other religious leaders whose portraits adorned the hallway. Immediately after the daydream, Guido is talking with the film critic, who represents the nagging self-critical voice of Guido, and he questions the meaning and purpose of these flashbacks. He attacks Guido’s work, saying he needs a “higher degree of culture” as well as more “clarity and logic” to make it successful. Guido’s naivete is “a serious failing”.

This progression—from Guido in reality to his daydream to the critic’s assessment—is copied later when Guido fantasizes about his own Harem. While sitting with wife Luisa and dealing with her and Rosella’s disparaging comments about Guido’s recently arrived mistress Carla, Guido escapes this domestic nightmare by imagining the two talking honestly and then dancing together. This transitions into the elaborate Harem scene, involving all of the women Guido has ever had sexual thoughts about. Here, Guido is his own sort of Cardinal: he determines whether or not his first sexual fantasy should go “upstairs” or not. Guido does end up mixing the sacred and profane love casually, directly correlating the Catholic Church and who decides goes up to heaven to his erotic dancer who should go upstairs. After telling his table of women that, “happiness is being able to tell the truth without ever making anybody suffer” (yet another layer of self-reflexivity Fellini adds to the process of filmmaking), and watching Luisa accept and cope with his existence, the daydream ends. Immediately after, the hovering critic analyzes the work: “you called to solve a problem for which there is no solution.” Guido promptly imagines bodyguards hanging the critic.

The simple brilliance of the narrative, for which these two dream departures are pillars, is that, as we watch Guido fail to make his film, we realize Fellini has succeeded at his own. He has woven together those elements of the past that were condemned at not having meaning, with the present mission of Guido’s which is the same as Fellini’s, and has succeeded at creating a meaningful work about creating meaningful work. That’s not to say that there isn’t a sense of criticism about the filmmaking process here, because that’s essential to the meaning Fellini creates. This outlook climaxes with the critic’s final, extensive two and a half minute conclusion. The critic ends, saying: “And how do you benefit from stringing together the tattered pieces of your life? Your vague memories, the faces of people that you were never able to love…”

Guido’s response, to strip down its beautiful layers to the core, is, as he tells Luisa: “Life is a celebration. Let’s live it together.” Don’t bury the past or the memories. All art is personal, an extension of the self. Don’t suppress the urge to communicate, to tell, to relive. Instead, create.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Being There & Lacking Dasein

From a social commentary standpoint, the fundamental question that Hal Ashby’s Being There addresses is what it means to be a person in America. The film takes place in Washington D.C., the political powerhouse of our country, a city full of talking heads fussing over people’s pasts and what they can project for the future. And Chance, the protagonist, experiences that, and his interaction with this different meaning of “being” is comedic and ironic. At the start of the film, when the two attorneys come to the old man’s mansion and demand that Chance provide proof or identification that he has been a resident in the home, he simply replies: “You have me, I’m here.” It’s a moment that sets the tone for the entire film: Chance does not comprehend this other definition of self and identity. He is the gardener. He is there. But this is not enough for the modern world.

While others—the CIA, FBI, political pundits—obsess over his past and, by the end of the film, try to determine his future—the Presidency (!)—Chance simply lives in the present. He interacts with his immediate surroundings in a simple, factual way, assessing reality as he sees it. He tells the President that he’s “much smaller on television”. When the doctor sticks Chance with a needle, saying it won’t hurt, Chance simple replies: “it did hurt.” Chance’s simple viewpoint helps to quell Ben, and make it easier to accept death. Chance doesn’t think of death and seems to be immune to those sort of meaning-of-life internal monologues. Because, as Ben relates, the truth of death is that “no one knows what death is”. Chance doesn’t worry about an ultimate demise; actually, he doesn’t worry about anything at all. Martin Heidegger, in Being and Time says that one of the primary qualities of Daesin that makes it stand out is: “in its very Being, that Being is an issue for it.” Worrying about and questioning existence is essential to existence itself. Chance has no issues with his own existence, and therefore does not fundamentally have Dasein. This lack of worry, this weightlessness, is what calms Ben.

And Chance’s weightlessness is physically evidenced in the film’s final frame where he walks on water. On a repeated watching, this comes as no surprise, but at first sight, this visual has alarming effect, immediately drawing comparisons between Chance and Christ. Though the film clearly makes some biblical allegories. We’ve got the garden, we’ve got Eve (furthermore, we have Eve Rand or, “ever and”, a phrase just missing the second “ever”) and we’ve got the “old man” who may or may not be our assumed Christ’s father. Though these religious references operate to reveal how the political world of American society is its own sort of religion—visually represented by the Masonic pyramid in the frame as the pallbearers carry Ben’s coffin and discuss the Presidency—I feel reading too far into these religious connotations detracts from the main message that the film makes about existence. Chance, devoid of worry, reveals to us how, in the modern world, an individual’s existence has been conditioned to a set of rules, requirements and meanings that he may or may not agree with or believe in but must follow. And, since Chance is able to essentially rise to the top of the larger society deciding these shared meanings, this world is meaningless when faced with the unavoidable fate of death.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blade Runner & Being Human

“More human than human,” is the motto for Dr. Tyrell’s new experiment Replicant, Rachel. Rachel is a different make, because of problems Tyrell had with his former creations: “in them we recognized a strange obsession,” Tyrell relates to Deckard about the originals. “If we gift them with a past, if we create a cushion, or pillow for the emotions, consequently we can control them better.” This obsession of the Replicants is the desire to be human, to have meaning in life, to have experience. It is clear through these desires that the Replicants are dangerously approaching the obtaining of a fully human existence.

Blade Runner proposes the question of what it means to be human and addresses the possibility of artificially creating human experience. Renee Descartes would say that the existence of a mind is paramount to being human. Pris quotes the philosopher while in JF’s apartment: “I think, Sebastian, therefore I am.” And the Replicants do have powerful minds and thought processes. For example, Roy, while at JF’s apartment, plays chess against his maker Dr. Tyrell and ultimately beats him. Deliberately chosen because of its use in mind science studies, chess is a game at which machines and computers have notoriously become superior to humans. In 1997, when the chess program Deep Blue beat human chess champion Gary Kasparov, the world was forced to address possibility that machines have finally surpassed humans in terms of intelligence. What makes Roy’s victory even more impressive is that he defeated his creator.

However, Roy’s mind and power are not enough to satisfy him, and this speaks to the larger problem that he has with his existence. Jean-Paul Sartre, in “Existentialism as a Humanism”, explains the relationship between an artisan and his creation, a paper-knife, in terms of essence and existence. Sartre concludes: “[the paperknife’s] essence—that is to say the sum of the formulae and the qualities which made its production and its definition possible—precedes its existence.” The paper-knife’s purpose was predetermined by its creator, so it came into being with a set definition, a set purpose. Similarly, Roy and the rest of the Replicants were created with purpose in mind: they were engineered to be slaves. But Roy has a problem with this existence—and with his imminent death by technical failure, evidenced by his hand-clutching throughout the film—which has spurred him to lead the escape out of imprisonment and confront his creator. What Roy faces is what Sartre calls “the first principle of existentialism”, which is “Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself.” Roy feels the need to overcome his pre-determined destiny, a life of pre-determined length, and cannot let himself simply die before becoming more. He seethes for “more life” and more experience; he pains for a life that he can create for himself.

Rachel, who struggles with the reality of her Replicant-ness, adds an interesting twist to the debate on human vs. Replicant as well. In the scene after she saves Deckard’s life, the two have an intimate conversation that addresses the questioning of both characters’ identities. As the two sip liquor out of shot glasses, Deckard notes that the shakes they have are “part of the business.” Rachel corrects him, noting, “I’m not in the business. I am the business.” This moment of self-realization changes the dynamic of their relationship: she is his prey. But soon after, as Rachel presses Deckard for more information regarding her existence as a Replicant, she poses him a question that fundamentally calls into question his identity: “You know that Voigt-Kampf test of yours? Did you ever take that test yourself?” Ridley Scott, having employed still, controlled camerawork, breaks this precedent and uses handheld as he focuses in on Rachel. This moment bristles with electricity and sends the audience’s head spinning. What if Deckard is a Replicant as well? There is no way for us to be sure of his humanity; the Blade Runner units were assembled in response to the Replicant uprising and, for all we know, they could be technological creations as well. Whose human after all?

The answer of Deckard’s Replicantness is beyond the point. It doesn’t really matter if he is human or Replicant because both, as evidenced by Roy, suffer the same existential anguish. Though Roy’s suffering is more imminent than most everyone else’s—his life is about to come to an end, about to end without him having made sense of it—his struggle is a universal one. Every human must cope with a shared fate: death. Everyone struggles to break free from the ropes of the created world and make meaning of one’s existence. The true thesis of the film is that, in creating machines that are increasingly intelligent, we will endow them with the same, unanswerable question we all face: in the end, what does it all mean?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wings of Desire & Unifying Contrasts

It’s unfortunate to see that, in the English translation of Wim Wenders 1987 film Der Himmel uber Berlin, all we get is Wings of Desire. In it, we lose the most central character of the film, the ever-fascinating, ever-dualistically contrasted capital of Germany. Today, Berlin is a city of the old and the new. Then, it was a city of East and the West. And before, it was a city of the Jews and the non-Jews.

The film’s opening sequence maintains the theme of contrasts, which lasts throughout the film’s entire narrative, as it follows angel Damiel on an escapist tour of the city. Damiel and the rest of the angels, whom we meet later on, have superhuman abilities: they can hear the thoughts of every passerby and selectively tune to whomever’s mental narrative they chose, they can survive without eating or drinking, they can transport themselves to different locales. And, of course, they can fly. Damiel perches atop a Berlin church, transports himself into a plane overhead, and then weaves his way between different Berlin apartments. However, Damiel’s freedom and immorality are in great contrast to the thoughts of the individuals we come across: a husband arrives at his dead mother’s home and remarks how he has felt “no grief”; a solitary, lovesick man thinks to himself how his lover "never loved [him]”; a bored child sits in his apartment, wishing there was something good on TV. Even the more lighthearted Berliners maintain their mortality and a sense of being stuck: a car packed full of immigrants, a man complaining about how women ruin life, a couple in an ambulance racing to the hospital. All of these mini stories are coated in the pensive questions that the film’s narrator poses: “why am I me, and why not you?” he queries in his rhyme. “Isn’t life under the sun just a dream?”

Damiel, despite many of these depressing insights into these smaller characters’ minds, is still fascinated with what it means to be human. When he meets up with fellow angel Cassiel, they compare the day’s story highlights. Cassiel tells morbid and bleak tales of suicides while Damiel relates the small moments, especially lighting up when he speaks of a woman who could feel his presence. But Damiel is “fed up with his spiritual existence” and longs for a human body, a more real life where he can have thoughts and feelings of his own. He wants the “now”, not the “eternity”; he wants the pleasures of small experiences, like “blackened fingers” from the newspaper and the satisfaction of a meal. Damiel is frustrated with his omniscience and perfection as well; he would like to guess from time to time, and to be wrong. Cassiel is tempted by the darker aspects of humanity: to be savage and to draw evil out of others.

This contrast between the two characters deepens as the story develops. The two eventually get involved with Marion, the acrobat who often is dressed as an angel herself, and Peter Falk, an American actor who is the star of a World War II drama set in Berlin. Marion, much like the passengers on the subway that Damiel encounters, poses large questions to herself while embroiled in her own thoughts. “How should I live?” she wonders. She desires to love and to be loved, but doesn’t know if there’s someone out there. As Damiel, unseen by Marion, sits by her side, she stares right at him. He is immediately enraptured. This infatuation with her, coupled with his ever-persistent desire to shed his wings and become human, leads Damiel to “enter the river” of the “ford of time” and cross over to the mortal side. Cassiel aids in this help but doesn’t join him, despite his sobering failure to save a man from jumping from a high building, the film’s most haunting moment.

Now, Damiel and Cassiel are visually contrasted as well: Damiel can see color, so now we, the audience, see color when following him. He pulses with excitement at these basic human experiences which he had only know about, but never experienced first hand: to bleed, to see color, to feel cold, to sip coffee. Damiel echoes the famous subject of many philosophical queries, Mary the colorblind scientist. Mary is a scientist who is trapped in a world of black and white, but knows everything physical there is to know about the color red without actually being able to experience it. When released into a world of color, she learns and experiences something new with her interaction with the color. It’s this subjective truth and understanding that Mary learns. Damiel’s understanding of color, therefore, represents the joy of subjectivity, of experiencing something for oneself. Simply put, it’s the pleasure of being an individual.

Damiel has been reborn, and this theme of newness surges through the final act of the film. “Other wings will grow in the place of old ones,” Damiel relates, making a strong commentary about the politics of Berlin at the time of the film’s creation. Damiel’s ability to move on, to advance, to jump from one world to the next—and from one wall to the next, as he wakes up right next to the Berlin wall when he is reborn—is part of the large push that Wenders was a part of to create a new Berlin, a new Germany. From the cab driver’s lecture about how there are more borders than ever to the depressing idea of “extra people” that Falk makes about the film’s Jewish extras all lead up to the final, encapsulating speech of the film that Marion gives. In a blatantly religious ceremony, where Damiel passes a cup of wine to her, she proclaims a call for action, staring straight at the camera, into the audience: “we are deciding everyone’s game,” she states. “I am ready, now it’s you. Now or Never.” She, and Wenders and Berlin and Germany, ache for unity.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Easy Rider & "Freedom"

Easy Rider defined the term “freedom” for a generation. The image of Wyatt and Billy driving motorcycles on an open road, the desert landscape behind them, has become so symbolically and ironically representative of what it means to be free. But that opening visual is simply that: the first look, the surface view of what ends up being a counter-cultural thesis, thoroughly entrenched in existential philosophy.

The means and the way by which the two riders, played by Peter Fonda & Dennis Hopper, traverse the American wasteland, set in motion the film’s definition—or, rather, commentary—of the state of freedom. They are drug runners, jumping the border to Mexico to score cocaine, and then carrying it to LAX for delivery. With the money made, they embark upon a trip without a destination: they simply have money, drugs, motorcycles and a general dissatisfaction with their current surroundings. They reject time, evidenced by Wyatt’s tossing of his watch on the desert ground. At a broader level, they are rejecting structure; director Hopper visually connects this theme by employing an alternating jump cut between scenes that creates an appropriately jarring rhythm to the narrative.

And the two aren’t the only ones joining together in this rebellion. Along the way, they make a pit stop at a farm run by a white man with a Mexican wife, with whom he has what could be described as a litter of children. They pick up a similarly jaded, city-bred passerby that just wants to be “a long way away” from his hometown. They also stop at a self-sustaining hippie commune that, ironically enough, has to reject visitors because there are simply too many people and not enough food. Finally, they pick up a third traveler, George Hanson, who becomes, one could argue, the voice of the duo, providing the thoughts of the often-silent Wyatt. “This used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it,” Mason muses.

The structuralized society the duo, as well as many of the people they meet along the way, rejects also rejects them. One of the film’s first moments is the two being turned away from a run-down motel. While riding through a small town, Wyatt & Billy get thrown into jail for illegally participating in a parade. Jail is where they meet the well-connected-but-alcoholic Hanson. Later, a small town diner refuses to serve them, its customers ignorantly insulting them for their dress and demeanor—though the girls do flock.

Thus, on this trek, all three men find those that grasp for the same strands of freedom as well as those that are too afraid of addressing life’s deeper questions. By mere image, mere surface, our heroes frighten those in developed society. Hanson relates that they are “scared of what you represent to them…what you represent to them is freedom.” Hanson continues, making a larger commentary of society: “it’s real hard to be free when you’re bought and sold in the marketplace.” A core message of the film, this highlights the main struggle of the characters: to be free in a world that doesn’t easily permit it. Mason, perhaps because of these beliefs he holds, meets a horrific fate when locals from a small, ignorant town come to the group’s campsite and beat him to death in his sleep.

This connection between the morbid and the free exists throughout the film. By Hanson’s logic, he was murdered by those who are scared of his freedom. One of the early campsites is at an Indian burial ground. The trio drives by a cemetery in the middle of their journey, prompting a music change and ominously alluding to what is soon to happen. Near the end of the film, when Wyatt & Billy finally make it to New Orleans, the intertwining of freedom and death becomes even stronger. The “right place” to do the acid that Wyatt has held onto for the majority of the film, is in a cemetery. This trip spirals into an avant-garde, chaotic combination of visuals and music. The characters partake in a bizarre and horrifying mix of sexual escapades, religious prayer, and crazed moaning. Amidst the madness, director Hopper provides a glimpse into the fatalistic end of the film. Freedom has climaxed in a place of death.

So it’s no surprise, then, that our heroes have a tragic trajectory. When they are uselessly shot and killed by a hillbilly in a game-like fashion, it finally cements the notion of being free with one’s mortality. “They only wanted to be free,” the music croons at the film’s close. The society Wyatt & Billy were a part of, however, not only left the two at odds (“we did it,” proclaims Billy; “we blew it,” proclaims Wyatt), but also was one that restricted an ideal of freedom.

Monday, June 21, 2010

High Noon, Men & Fate

In the classic Western, there are men and then there are boys. This is supremely evident in High Noon where being a man means looking fate and nothingness in the eye and refusing to back down.

For Marshall Will Kane, fate has a time stamp. It’s at noon, better known as the time when his fearsome enemy Frank Miller, whom he brought to justice, arrives on the train. This news comes directly after Kane was just married, ready to leave the small New Mexico town and open up a store with new, pacifist Quaker wife Amy. Kane tries to leave with his beautiful bride, but duty ropes him back into town; he is a man of honor and, to the dismay of his wife, his obligation to justice is too great.

On Kane’s return, however, he finds the town he dedicated so much of his life to hesitant, and even openly hostile, to the idea of supporting him. The local bartender and hotelier hate Kane for driving away business as outlaws attract attention (and drinkers), and Kane’s locking up of Miller puts them in dire economic straits. His second in command Harvey harbors jealousy for not being made Marshall and believes that Kane holds a grudge against him for shacking up with former flame Helen Ramirez. Kane’s friend hides away in the comfort of his own home, sending his wife to fabricate a lie when Kane comes a knockin. When Kane interrupts a church service, he finds some willing to help, but they are quickly dissuaded by impassioned speeches made by the minister and a churchgoer. “You’re asking me to tell me people to go out and kill, maybe gets themselves killed. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say,” the minister relates. The only person jumping at the chance to help Kane is, ironically enough, a 14-year-old boy.

Miller, a man who hasn’t even arrived controls the entire psyche of the town. This power is shown by the frequent shots of an empty chair in Kane’s desk. Director Fred Zinnemann zooms into the empty chair, giving this nothingness, this mere presence, the thematic reigns of the film. If Kane wasn’t already feeling permanently abandoned, staring at an unavoidable fate, his trip to former Marshall Martin Howe’s home does absolutely no better. Martin gives his existential, meaningless outlook on existence, further sending Kane into a crisis: “You end up dying alone on a dirty street. And for what? For nothing,” Martin tells Kane. “Deep down, they don’t care. They just don’t care,” he adds. Zinnemann visualizes the town’s abandonment, the lack of care and compassion, when Kane steps out into the middle of the street and the camera, in a masterful crane shot, pulls back to reveal how alone he really is. The streets are abandoned. It’s a ghost town: no people and no beliefs. Except for Kane, of course.

Against all odds it seems, Kane soldiers on, symbolizing the ultimate “man”. As Helen tells Harvey: “when he dies, this town dies.” Of course, after the huge production is over, the town rushes out, all having been safely watching the production from the buildings surrounding the gunfight. Kane refuses to say a word after saving his wife from the gunpoint of an outlaw, and simply leaves. This time, it’s the town that stands around, perplexed, abandoned and, as an entity, alone, looking like children who just lost their father.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vertigo & The Illusion of Fact

Vertigo has such a tightly wrapped psychological narrative that, at the film’s close and during the process of revisiting it, it’s difficult to place yourself in the shoes of Scottie Ferguson at each of his different psychological stages.

The best place to start, it seems, is when Scottie is given the task of finding Madeline. His old school friend Gavin Elster calls him in, and, after relating that “San Francisco is changing” and that he “wishes he lived in the old days”, Gavin proposes a mystery for Scottie to solve: he must find out whether or not Gavin’s wife, Madeline, is being possessed by her dead great grandmother.

So off we go on at the helm of an odd request, and follow Scottie as he follows Madeline around the city, amassing a set of facts and clues and reporting back to Elster. His first real day is eventful: it takes him first to the flower shop, then to the graveyard and to the museum. Along the way, he—and we—begins to compile a list of hints about this possibly possessed woman: flower bouquet, Carlotta Valdes, portrait in the Legion of Honor. Hitchcock’s camerawork often parallels Scottie’s point of view at these moments, intertwining Scottie with us, making us feel the same heat of the case Scottie does. In the museum scene, for instance, as Madeline stares up at the painting of Carlotte Valdes, the camera zooms into Madeline’s recently purchased bouquet of flowers and then to the bouquet in the painting; it then moves from the bun in Madeline’s hair to Carlotta’s bun in the portrait. Scottie’s eyes control the camera. He and we take note of the clues.

But even as the facts build, there is an unnerving sense of unease to all of it. Everything is falling too perfectly into place, everything almost too controlled. The details spill too easily at Scottie’s feet. Scottie falls in love with his prey, but she promptly commits suicide, in sight for him to see. This launches Scottie back into an even deeper psychological hell than he first spiraled into at the film’s open. And, much to the dismay of the ever-motherly Midge Wood (a perfectly rigid and desexualized name if there ever was one), the only way Scottie can fully recover is to solve the mystery, to re-involve himself with everything Madeline. He begins to see her everywhere he goes, in every woman he sees; he obsesses over the facts that made up the case.

After all, Scottie is a detective, a policeman. “There’s an answer to everything,” he tells Midge early on in the movie. At his core, he is a man of facts. Likewise, Vertigo, at its core, is a film of facts. So when, after Scottie meets Judy and Hitchcock immediately reveals to the audience—and not Scottie—that Judy was pretending to be Madeline, that it was all a huge setup, everything immediately changes. The facts that were presented, cloaked in that eerie uneasiness, are now seen in an entirely new light. Before, as Scottie tracked Madeline down, we felt intelligent, we felt investigatory, we were hot on the case. But, in remembrance or on second viewing, we truly feel the anger Scottie feels for having been duped. As Judy divulges the truth into the letter to Scottie, the facts are now more than facts: they are instructions. These instructions have been relayed twice: first from Gavin Elster to Judy, then from Elster to Scottie. Elster sets two individuals in motion, timing their staggering perfectly in order to pull off the crime. And it all had gone to plan.

From here on is a far different mystery. This is the second layer of the film, the second investigation that Scottie undertakes, but this time around we know more than he does. So we watch Scottie as he puts the pieces of the puzzle back together. Perfectly ironic is the fact that Scottie’s instinct drives him to undergo a similar act of creation Judy did before. He recreates Judy into Madeline. With this action, Scottie does exactly what Gavin did. The facts build up and Scottie brings his ghostly beloved back from the dead, only to hit another roadblock when his set of facts overflow and he realizes he’s been duped. Again, he follows his instinct, bringing Judy back to the scene of the crime, leading him to witness the death of yet another.

Though it might be tough to recreate the original psychological impact of the first viewing of Vertigo, there are facts and details Hitchock sprinkles into the first two acts, his own little clues that foreshadow what’s to happen. My personal favorite occurs in the bookstore Scottie and Midge visit. He tells them of the old days of San Francisco, and the actions of Carlotta Valdes’ husband: “He kept the child and threw her away.” This time, he kept a copy and threw away the original.