Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #15: Lissajous Figures (Title Design Sequence from Vertigo)

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The opening sequence tells us that someone is going to see something that changes and takes them inward. A woman is very important, and she is beautiful and almost devoured by the eye. The spiraling is scary and disturbing and yet also exciting because it produces so many variations. The colors are intense and seem mechanical rather than natural, like they come from the world of science and technology. Is someone being manipulated or subjected to a process like hypnosis? Along with the images, Herrmann's score suggest that we will see romance and danger and something relentless.

 

The eyeball with spirals coming in and out of it is so scary to me that I have to fight to stay with it. But I do. I have almost the same fears that I do when I see the eyeball and the razor in Bunuel's Andalusian Dog. However, the images in Vertigo keep moving and the impetus of the unfolding spiral keeps me engaged. The color red, strangely does not seem as disturbing as the eerie green that seems lit from within.

 

Bernard Hermann's score is wonderful! The love theme is haunting, suggesting both love and longing. The percussive opening sound is almost like a dentist's drill, relentless and powerful and clearly in league with the spiral. Because Vertigo is such a poetic movie, music is so essential to bridge the rational and subliminal parts of our brains. The music allows us to connect to feelings that we cannot articulate or explain. There is also something overblown, maybe even decadent, about the score that I wish I could explain better.

 

I noticed that our class videos today included some discussion about whether the film is real or a dream. It is certainly unstable in its meaning and affect, but emotionally, it seems very realistic to me. If you have lost someone you love, if what you want most is exactly what you can never have, the experience can make you crazy. It does haunt you. I also want to say how thrilled I was with Martin Scorsese's comments. For years I have thought about the driving sequence where Scottie pursues Madeleine's car.It should be boring since it is mostly a series of closeups of Stewart's face, with a particularly strong focus on his blue eyes. Yet,as Scorsese explains so well, it makes a deep and lasting impression.

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Daily Dose #15  High Anxiety inspirations  :D

 

"Round, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel,[/size]

Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel....[/size]

 

Pictures hanging in a hallway or the fragment of a song,[/size]

Half-remembered names and faces but to whom do they belong?[/size]When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware,[/size]That the autumn leaves were turning to the colour of her hair...[/size]

 

A circle in a spiral, a wheel within a wheel,[/size]

Never ending or beginning, on an ever-spinning reel,[/size]As the images unwind, like the circles that you find,[/size]In the windmills of your mind......"[/size]

 

 

 

  • Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 
  Clearly, this is meant to be the enlightening biographical film of the life of British Engineer Denys Fisher, inventor of the Spirograph Art Toy....if only he hadn't invented it after this film came out  (Toy was first offered for sale in 1965)...

 

attachicon.gif300px-Resonance_Cascade.svg.png

 

So what we have is a woman, a title, and some artistic spirals.  From which we can deduce the following.  

The woman is either the lead protagonist or the female lead.  She will be at the center of the film in some capacity.

The title is Vertigo, which most folks at the time probably didn't know the meaning of (until they watched the film)

The spirals can represent rings, but they seem to have a hypnotic effect.  Is hypnosis involved?  Brainwashing?  Will this be Hitchcock's version of the Manchurian Candidate?  (except the Manchurian Candidate doesn't come out until 1962, damn.)  Add to this the music and we have suspense.  What is Kim Novak's role in all this?  What do the spirals mean???  The movie hasn't started yet and already I'm on the edge.  What if I fall?  

 

"It’s just that I recall

Back when I was smallSomeone promised that they’d catch meAnd then they let me fall...

And now I’m fallin’Fallin’ fast againWhy do I always take a fallWhen I fall in Love’...."

 

2.  In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

There is a blue spiral that begins at the 2:00-minute mark and last for about 15 seconds before another spiral appears within it.  The spiral is eye shaped and is symbolic of the movie looking at the viewer looking at the movie which is looking at the viewer...

attachicon.gif2017-07-19 (1).png

 

3.  How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

As I have mentioned before, the combination of the music and images sets up a feeling of suspence and, dare I say it (dare, dare!) a feeling of anxiety that other music wouldn't do.  Imagine the titles with "Windmills of your mind" playing with it.  Different movie, different feeling of what to expect.

 

Walt3rd

 

p.s.  Did someone say Anxiety??

 

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1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

 

We see a black and white close-up of a woman’s lips, slightly twitching, and then we see a close-up of both her eyes looking left and right.  This woman is nervous about something.  Move to a close-up of one eye as the image becomes tinged with red.  Red maybe signifying danger, or red could possibly represent love but with fear underneath.  Something white appears in her pupil as her eye opens wider.  Her anxiety is growing.  The white enlarges to display the word Vertigo.  The title floats away to reveal a spiral circling over the pupil and expanding outward, maybe to represent confusion in her mind.  The black center of the spiral eventually outgrows and replaces the black pupil, and then the eye image disappears.  Repeating spirals continue to display.  The music is slowly hypnotic but with moments of loud intensity (when titles appear on screen) and a haunting undercurrent. 

 

Just based on this clip, my general assumption is the film is about a frightened woman who possibly is in love with the wrong person and spiraling out of control.

 

2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

Seeing the woman’s eye become overtaken by the spiral.  That hints at the woman not being what she seems.  Something expands beyond what is seen on the surface.

 

 

3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

The images and the score are well coordinated and play off each other nicely.

 

A different musical score would not convey the film’s themes as well.  Particularly, the abstract graphics in this opening might not have the same meaning to the story.  Just for kicks, I played the Shadow of a Doubt score while watching this sequence.  It sort of worked, up until the spirals appeared.  The spirals lost their significance and became pretty background images blending with a slow tune.

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Coinciding with the affirmed by Spoto, in this presentation is summarized the entire film. Images and sound are leading us to the interior of the mind, the unconscious, traumas and fears that will then appear in the film. And the gateway is the eye,.


This is a film where the dialogues are less important than the visual and music. Image and sound give us that hypnotic sense of vertigo, hallucination. Time slows, we are immersed in the story as the protagonist feels it.  For me, the most powerful image is the close-up of the eye, as a gateway to the unconscious. The eye, is an element that is also important in other Hitchcock films.


 Without any doubt, with another type of music, the feeling would have been different. The combination of Bass and Hermann is impressive, generate us the feeling of oppression, of grief, uncertainty and fear that does not abandon us throughout the film, that is, for me, the darkest of those made by Hitchcock.

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If the title design of Vertigo is so designed to make us feel what the main character is feeling than count me as being in his shoes. All those spirals f would make even the best of us dizzy.

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The musical sounds in this opening title scene are strong, mysterious and repetitive. We see a close-up of a woman's lips then her eyes. Suddenly a red tint covers the image and the music increases in intensity. The spiraling graphic and winding music give this introduction an unsettling effect to the viewer. I honestly could not stay focused on the spirals. I got dizzy. Great graphics though especially the juxtaposition of the eye on the spiral and vice versa.

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  1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 
  • Much of the opening title focuses on a girl. Seeing this, I automatically assume that a women is going to be a focus of the film. It stars a man and a women and a women is when we see, I see the film focusing on her from the males perspective. The spirals and colors give me the illusion that things may get out of control but I've probably already guessed that considering it is a Hitchcock film. 
  1. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.
  • The colorful spirals are the most powerful image because I cannot look away. When you consider the rest of the film, this is the beginning of your journey. This is where your focus begins. It is hard to look away from the spirals and it is rare that a title sequence does that. 
  1. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?
  • When you hear the title score my mind goes to two places. One I see a spy thriller and the other I see a sci-fi film. In away Vertigo can fit into both of those categories once you reach the end. It has many elements of both and sci-fi doesn't always have to be about truly out of this world things. To be honest, I've never been the biggest fan of this film but it is a great film to study. The spirals and imagery pull you in. The music makes you stay. 
  • The score and title sequence work well together because they mesh perfectly and are working to evoke the same feeling. 

 

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I was privileged to see this film in a movie theatre on its reissue in the 1980s, and was completely blown away - by the story, the acting, the look of it, and the ending - everything.

I saw it again (in a theatre) a year or so later, and while the shock of the ending wasn't as powerful, this title sequence was still amazing. I've just watched it closely on a 20-inch computer screen, and it's still effective!

 

The spiral/circular graphics fit so well with Hermann's repeating figure in the woodwinds that it's uncanny.

 

Looking at it now, the striking moment when the music hits a harsh chord, and the colour red (blood) runs down the woman's face, it seems a little over the top; the movie is entirely without grue. But overall, it does give that "unsettling" feeling that marks so many of Hitch's opening sequences.

 

We are meant to feel uncertain about many things throughout the movie. It plays brilliantly against Jimmy Stewart's well-established "everyman" persona, instead portraying his Scotty as, well, a sick man, in more ways than one.

Or, you could take it all as a kind of "fever dream," as Wes Gehring suggests.

But I would remind you that there were several movies that came out in the late 1940s and 1950s that explored the minds of war veterans - especially many films noir - and this is surely one of them.

 

Go ahead and check out those references to Lissajous figures and John Whitney; I found them quite informative, though I can't say I understood all of the technicalities.

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1. Sound and images - It is hard to separate one from the other in this sequence because they reinforce each other.

- Sound - Bernard Herrmann's score has a haunting, tinkling melody that ebbs and flows as plays contrast with the ominous sound of deep, bellowing horns. The tinkling sound would sound almost child-like if there weren't interjections that rumble to our core and spell danger.

- Images - These spirals can signify a trance or hypnotic state. They can also mean madness. We use the phrase "spiral out of control" because we can't really tell where the spiral's beginning or end is...it keeps melding into each other. Even the Wizard of Oz's Yellow Brick Road starts with a spiral which gets bigger and bigger as one travels. So the spiral can be the expansion of Scotty's case and the inward turn to his obsession. He can be on the outside as an investigator and then be sucked into the spiral and end up in his own nightmare. Lastly, we always have the spiral staircase. It has been used in many films because climbing up and down are not as easy as it appears. We get funny shaped stairs, odd angles and a dizzying perspective. It's the perfect environment to pray on a man's weaknesses.

 

2. The eyes are the windows of the soul!

While the spirals are interesting, they're not what grabbed me when I first saw this film. I loved the eyes. First in black and white and then being washed in red. First we get both eyes and then we get just one. Hitch takes us close in. The eyes are totally non-descript. We can't tell the color. We don't see any pupils. They seem one color which is not how eyes appear in nature. They are the eyes of a woman so I didn't feel threatened but I didn't feel comfortable either. I couldn't tell if she was dead or alive. Hitch has words coming out of her eyes. He has spirals coming out of her eyes. He turns the film red but it doesn't change the color of the eyes. Choosing red signals STOP...it signals danger...it's the color of blood. We will see the importance of the eye again as the spiraling water going down the drain dissolves into Marian's dead eye in Psycho.

 

3. As indicated in question 1 above, you can't have one without the other. I have tried to watch opening credits of various films with completely different pieces of music playing. It gives the images a different impact but always seems like a mismatch. The problem with trying this is that once you see and hear them paired and they work effectively and brilliantly, you will never be able to separate them and no other musical score will work.

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1. I feel that the mood and atmosphere in Saul Bass’ title design for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (1958) is that it is presented in a grim, eerie and suspenseful mood (judging from Bernard Herrmann’s score). With the spiraling (animated) Lissajous motifs, there is a “hypnotic” tone.  My guess is that this sequence might also put the audience in the perspective of James Stewart’s characterization of John “Scottie” Ferguson.

 

2. Aside from the early computerized animations of the Lissajous motifs, I think the close-up of the eye (with the red filter) would be the powerful images in Saul Bass’ opening credit sequence for Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”  Though it has been awhile since I’ve seen “Vertigo” (on TV), I feel that this would give the viewer a complete early “warning sign” of a dangerous moment in the film (w/Bernard Herrmann’s score). 

 

3. Bernard Herrmann’s “source music” orchestral score and Saul Bass’ images for “Vertigo” go hand-in-hand.   The computerized animations of the Lissajous designs and the suspenseful orchestrations fit in.  All I can say is this opening sequence it totally flawless in terms of graphic design and music.  

I’m not sure if this sequence would work with any other film composer’s music styling, it might be less dramatic and unappealing (if Herrmann’s score was omitted).  

 

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Vertigo's title sequence is Hitchcock's most experimental opening scene. Again, Hitchcock is a filmmakers relying on pure cinema, visual storytelling, on the development of the narrative. As in past opening sequences, the only common quality VERTIGO has with these, is the building up of action, movement, and momentum. The titles depict the hallucination within the narrative, the spiral feel of the film, as if falling down or falling in love– the various dimensions, possibilities, and identities. Saul Bass' spirals have to ends, perhaps it tells us where Vertigo will lead, the possibility of identities and perceptions. 

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Herrmann matches the graphics in that his music spirals as well. There are two musical lines at the beginning. The upper line starts high and moves low and back again. The lower line uses the same chord notes (with one exception), and it starts low and moves high and back again. These lines happen simultaneously and together create a spiral that repeats many times. This musical motive also is a great way to depict obsession as well as vertigo. These repeating melodic patterns (ostinato) mirror the kind of circular, repetitive, relentless thoughts that you can't get out of your head when you are obsessing over something. Your mind goes over the same patterns and seems to be just doing circular thinking. So the visual images of swirls, spirals, and circles are also very present in the score.

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  1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and "the story" (or if not "the story", the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. The atmosphere and the mood of the story will focus on Scottie's obsession with a character that he would encounter with Kim Novak's character. It conveys the mystery and bizarre circumstances that will dominate the story.

     

  2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. It has to be the spirals and various shapes in the title sequence. It has a hypnotic and dreamlike quality that makes the viewer entranced into some distant fairyland that shows off their innermost dreams. Almost like something out of Svengoolie.

 

How do Saul Bass' images and Bernard Herrmann's score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? They give the viewer a dreamlike and hypnotic stance that makes the viewer look as if it was both mysterious and entrancing. If it worked with a different musical score, it would look dull and boring. Not to mention, out of context. If it was a cartoonish score, I would see this film indefinitely.

 

Edited by BLACHEFAN
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The camera pulls the black and white face that fills half the screen to center; focus on the mouth; pan to eyes, and hold on anxious glances to screen left then right; extreme close-up of her eye.  Red wash of color, then a sudden discordant low brass blast as her eye widens alarmingly while the title moves out and up.  From her pupil, the spirals begin.  The ten-second sequence from the red wash to the first magenta spiral pushed me back in my seat. 


We are given no comfort by a screen divided into thirds.  The spirals move unrelentingly from center; they loom and push, the music climaxing with the spirals’ widest apertures.  There is something almost hypnotic in the combination of music and images.  Almost. Because there is nothing soothing or calming.  Rather, the incessant low brass, flutes, and strings heighten anxiety.  The repetition of the dissonant musical theme intensifies the feeling of vertigo.  With three minutes of opening credits, Hitchcock leaves us feeling anxious and uncomfortable from the barrage of Saul Bass’ images spinning the wrong way.  Add Bernard Herrmann’s score and we are reeling.


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From the sounds and images in this opening credits I would tend to think the film would be about intrigue and suspense, here on earth.  Maybe.  I think it a superb title design and sound for this film. The mood and atmosphere I think they are establishing that this sequence is communicating to the audience is that there's a whirlwind time ahead, like fasten your seat belts, it's gonna be a dizzy ride.

In my own estimation I think the most powerful image is the eye close up, the red, then going inside the eye and the pupil swirling effects coming on out as the swirls and spins continue.  I think it is a fierce title opening, and making you want to stay there and keep watching.

I think the score is awesome, appropriate: suspenseful, bold, sharp, edgy, powerful and welcoming. Mystery awaits. I think any great masters in their trade would create the perfect score for the sequence they are working on, as Bass and Hermann did. So I think the sequence would definitely be different according to who did the score, their own creation, and so then it would be fit for that sequence or scene. 

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Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.

 

Visually, I feel like there's a level of detail expressed in the opening, followed by a disorienting component (due to the spin). The music is haunting, so all these qualities are certainly expressed later in the picture.

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

The sound is the most powerful part to me - it demands attention and is scary. But since the question was the most powerful image, I think of the eye often. The closeness of the face, the detail. The camera purposefully shifting around. The spinning is the final component to the sequence, but perhaps I'm biased nowadays compared to earlier viewings (now that I have a better understanding of clinical vertigo, whereas when I watched this as a teenager I had no clue what vertigo actually was).

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

They work so well together for me. Both have a clear quality to them - in that we are shown very specific images - a mouth, an eye, a spin, and musically we are getting very defined notes. Much like the film, we are deliberately shown very specific things to follow. A different score may not have had this haunting quality, and that might have taken away from the seriousness, obsessiveness so central to the film.

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I listened to this clip without visual. Based on sound alone, I'd say this film is going to be both dreamy, and haunting. The continuous melody rising, and falling, suggests twists and turns to the film. Some surprises followed by the ending of the clip, lots of drama. Non-stop.

Looking and listening to the clip, the sensation is further enhanced.

 

For me, the single most powerful image is the spiral rolling out of Madeline's pupil midway and then again at the end, where the spiral rolls back into her pupil.

 

I couldn't imagine a different score for this sequence based on my answers above. The shots work so well together with the music. 

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Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.

 

I have seen Vertigo and it is my favorite of Hitchcock's films, but I think the title sequence elicits the dizziness of vertigo (something I have experienced). I also think that paired with the images the musical pattern that develops with the repetitive scale played by the strings and the trepidation caused by the base of the trombones causes tension for the audience as suspense builds.

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

The single most powerful image in this sequence is the straightforward placing directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I find this to be very powerful as it brings us back out into reality and tells this that Mr. Hitchcock is leading us down his chosen path.

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

The images and score together work very strongly I watch this again without the sound and actually became very bored very quickly.

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Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.

 

From the sounds and images, I would think this film would be about hypnosis. The music seems to go in circles, getting faster as the credits progress, and the images are spinning around in circles. This all seems hypnotic to me.

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score

 

The single most powerful image in the sequence is the closeup on the right eye, the screen turns red and the eye opens widely. The music is soft and lilting and then all the instruments strike a jarring note. The images and the music make me think of danger. I don't think I would think of danger without this music, so this sequence, for me, could be quite different with a different musical score.

 

I can't seem to get my IPad to cooperate, so that's it for me.

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Though discussing the opening, this post has SPOILERS.

 

Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.

 

This opening is one of the greatest openings ever! The film starts with the Paramount logo, followed by the Vistavision logo, but in Black and white. The music starts with the Paramount logo, and not AFTER the Vistavision logo at the start of the credits. This is unusual, and to me starts tension from the first second the film starts. (I will discuss the music in great detail answering question #3)

 

We see a mouth, a pair of eyes, and a single eye. But it’s not as simple as that. Notice where the credits lie in this sequence:

 

  1. We start with the mouth  over which we see the credit for ‘James Stewart’. The story being told is HIS story. And, in the tradition of detectives, he EXPLAINS many important things in the film – like the denouement when he confronts Judy in the tower.
  2. We move to a set of eyes. The eyes look left, and right, and back, which to me represents two things:  It suggests the idea of something that has to be watched out for – something dangerous. It also suggests the DUALITY of Kim Novak’s part in the film – Madeline and Judy.
  3. We then move to a single eye. Alfred Hitchcock’s credit is placed over this image. Hitch is the eye through which we see the film – the author.
  4.  

The camera moving from mouth over nose to eyes and finally a single eye also represents the obsesssion in the second half of the film, where Scotty is trying to ‘recreate’ Madeline through Judy by CHANGING those details – hair color, make up, dress, jewelry, shoes… everything.  So close to the face it’s also an INVASION of her, which again is what Scotty eventually does to her – he enters here apartment, then enters her life, then changes her, and all forcefully, in the sense he doesn’t even consider Judy’s feelings.

 

There is only one ‘non-swirling’ design, and this comes at the editor’s credit. I have always remembered the name ‘Tomasini’ because this one image stood out so much. To me, that design resembles an eye, like from the opening.

 

COLOR starts as we enter the eye, and the swirling designs start. The first color is RED. In the article  “Verdant Vertigo: Dreaming in Technicolor” by Jim Emerson (linked  in Monday’s module)  he states that “red suggesting Scottie's fear/caution/hesitancy when it comes to romance, and its opposite green, suggesting the Edenic bliss”. Red is a warning.

 

The swirls come AT us, giving the effect that we are falling INTO the abyss.  As one comes at us so far it disappears the next comes from INSIDE, again we are going deeper into the abyss. They don’t just swirl, some morph and change, like ‘living spirographs’. The idea of ‘changing’ is introduced – as when Scotty tries to transform Judy into Madeline.

 

The COLORS of the swirls alternate in color, between GREEN and PURPLE. In Jim Emerson’s article (quoted two paragraphs above) indicated, Green is Scotty’s desire for Madeline, and Purple is Judy trying to assert her own Identity. This alternating of two colors again reinforces the DUALITY of Kim Novak’s characters in Vertigo.

 

They look like cobwebs, which is significant because Midge says after Scotty’s traumatic loss of Madeline “Mozart is the music that sweeps the cobwebs away," Does Midge sweep away Scotty’s trauma, or sweep away Scotty’s obession with Madeline? That line now has an ambiguity due to the credits. Were it not for the images in the credits the line ‘cobwebs’ would make no connection to obsession. We have seen Midge trying to get Madeline out of Scotty’s mind (the painting she paints, which is of Midge – Midge wants Scotty to drop Madeline for her).

 

The swirls all go counter clockwise (except one). The counter-clockwise motion suggests going back in time. In the film Madeline is obsessed with the past life, and often tries to ‘re-live’ it. Scotty is obsessed with recreating Madeline, whom he lost in the past. Even Midge regrets she never married Scotty, which begs the question “If  Madeline is obsessed with a past life, and Scotty is obsessed with Madeline, is Midge obsessed with Scotty? She tends to him, almost in a motherly way, even though he will never return her affections. And in a fantastic close up, where Scotty says ‘We were engaged once’, the camera cuts to her,  and she looks up with only her eyes – something Scotty could never see, and in that moment we know Midge loves and mabye obsesses over Scotty. I mention this because of the ‘eye’ iconpgraphy in the opening.

 

I said all the swirls go backward except one. After many green and purple we see one GREEN swirl going CLOCKWISE. To me it means that Scotty’s desire for Madeline (the color green) will effect Judy’s future.

 

FINALLY We see a different color swirl. And guess what color it is? It is YELLOW. In  Jim Emerson’s article he tells us that “Midge is associated with soft, pastel shades -- yellow”. But what happens to that swirl? It is the ONLY swirl that changes color, and it turns to RED, which in the article was called “a cautionary color, suggesting Scottie's reluctance to get involved with members of the opposite sex.” That one moment in the credits hits at Scotty’s reluctance to commit with Midge.

 

We see a second yellow swirl, and it GOES AWAY from us, the only one to do so. Is it because Midge loses Scotty into the abyss of his obsession with Madeline?

 

At last we end up on the single eye over which for a second time Hitchcock’s credit is put, reinforcing that it is through Hitch’s directorial eye that we will see the story.

 

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

The single most powerful image in the title is THE SINGLE EYE, which starts the journey into the swirling abyss, and is the last image in the credits. This film is about obsession – about looking for something that’s lost. It is about trying to recreate that, so you can see it again. The eye also represents perception: Scotty perceives Judy and Madeline one way, but we find out that perception is entirely wrong. It is when Scotty finally SEES this that he solves the mystery,  purges himself from guilt and trauma, and is finally free.

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

The music score in this film by Bernard Herrmann is one of the greatest films scores in history.

 

The music starts the second the film starts, not at the credits, but at the Paramount logo. There is an ostinato (a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm) of a fallling-rising arpeggio in the violins, and at the same time the  woodwinds play an upside down rising-falling arpeggio.  The piece is in e-flat minor (which I write in text as ‘eb’).  Of importance is the notes in the two figures: In the violins we have D Bb Gb D Bd Db (7 5 3 7 3 5 in the scale of eb).  In the woodwinds we have the arpeggio in an opposite direction playing Eb Gb Bb C Bb Gb (1 3 5 6 5 3).

 

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The notes in a chord are 1, 3, and 5. The 7th is called a ‘leading tone’ because melodically and harmonically it wants to resolve to the tonic, or 1. It is the single most dissonant note in a scale, because the need to resolve is the strongest of any note away. Think of the ditty ‘shave and a haircut’

 

                Shave and a hair cut, two---

 

If you DON’T say ‘bits’ you never resolve the 7th, which is the word ‘two’ in that song.  Sing it to yourself to see. Yes, we are used to the words finishing a coherent sentence, so try humming just the NOTES and stop again on the penultimate note. It leaves you hanging because that last note desperately wants to resolve UP to 1, or the tonic. (a scale is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 )

 

I mention this because that D natural in the violins by itself creates incredible musical tension that never resolves.  Wagner’s famous Tristan and Isolde opera was famous for using music that never resolved, representing unfulfilled longing and desire. The music in Tristan and Isolde ONLY resolves in the end of the Opera when the two are ‘joined in death’ and can finally consummate their love. (Liebestod).

 

The mention of Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from ‘Tristan and Isolde’ is by no means arbitrary. Herman was clearly influence by this monumental moment in musical history, when tonality started to break down.  And Vertigo has so much to do with unfulfilled passion and desire: Scotty desires a married woman he cannot have. Scotty loses her when she dies and cannot give up this longing. Midge has unfulfilled love for Scotty, and she loses him, both to  Madeline and after she’s gone to his trauma. Judy has unfulfilled longing for Scotty who will not love HER as JUDY, but wants to change her into MADELINE.

 

The CLIMAX of Vertigo is one of the single most powerful combinations of the visual and the musical ever put of film. (Think of the final moments of the Spielberg film E.T., told almost excursively with visuals in music barring the two short lines ‘Come’, ‘Stay’. If you watch this scene and you are familiar with the Wagner piece you will definitely see the similarities. The climax of the Wagner is on a downward resolutions.

 

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(the above music is a piano version of the Wagner in C major.)

 

This downward resolution is also found in the Bernard Hermann music. It is a passionate, sighing musical phrase with the resolution a release of tension, even, and exuse the term, and almost sexual climax sense in the piece, both in the Wagner and the Hermman Vertigo score.

 

If you haven’t heard the Wagner, I earnestly ask you to listen to it, and compare it to the Herman moment from Vertigo’s climax. You can find it on Youtube under ‘Wagner prelude and Liebestod’, or follow this link:

 

               

 

                (The place in the link I posted to start listening is the 15 minute mark, with the ‘climax’ occurring at 16 minutes 35 seconds)

 

OK, WHY am I talking about the END of Vertigo when the Daily Dose is the BEGINNING of Vertigo? The answer is because the SEED of the themes, the love theme, and this climax are in the music in the very first second. In the example 1 above, the bottom part (woodwinds) contains the notes: Eb Gb Bb C Bb Gb (1 3 5 6 5 3). The C to Bb resolution IS this part of the love theme.

 

Over this ‘swirling’ arpeggio ostinato are played dark noted and chords in the brass. Two notes, again, resolving DOWN one step, just in the climax I mentioned. Is it a coincidence? No as we see what that brass line becomes. We are seeing the first two notes of a 4 note falling theme.

 

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This ominous theme suggest ‘falling’ paralleling our journey into the abyss of obsession. But it is something more than that, it is the second half of ‘the LOVE THEME of Scotty for Madeline’. OK, if it is the second part, then what is the first part? THE SWIRLING OSTINATO in the violins. Let’s put the two together:

 

20156058_1610854952278867_18107400487750

 

Therefor we can hear, perhaps subconsciously throughout the movie, that this LOVE is born from and OBSESSION, a ‘falling into the abyss of that obsession.

 

Going back to the first picture and the ostinato figure. I said it was two mirror opposite arpeggios. This also suggests the DUALITY of the Kim Novak character. It also resembles ‘swirling which is in the visual design representing ‘descent into the abyss of obsession. This duality is heard also during the dream sequence: after some percussion in a ‘Spanish’ rhythm , tremolo violins play both the falling and rising melody at the same time. So the music is constantly reminding us of the DUALITY, established in the opening seconds of the score.

 

The interval between the 7th and the note above it (1) is a half-step, which is a VERY dissonant combination when played together. Since the upper arpeggio starts on 7 while the lower arpeggio starts on 1 – played at the same time, right from the start is a slightly disturbing musical sound. This ‘half-step’ interval is exploited in the dream sequence. I described the percussion ‘Spanish rhythm, and the tremelo violins. The violins alternate between playing a few bars of tremolo notes to another musical figure where the 1st Violins play an octave (1 up to 8 [and 8 is also 1]) and the second violins play a major 7th (1 up to 7). This results with 7 and 8 (which is 7 and 1) being played at the same time. It is an almost ‘screeching ‘, FAMOUSLY used by Hermann in the SHOWER SCENE in Psycho.

 

These dissonances are used on strong beats, and syncopated beats, which emphasizes that dissonance.

 

Speaking of the climax, the Falling Brass note chords (decent into the abyss) is used in tremolo violins in the huge musical build up to the climactic moment of the film, repeated, rising each time, step by step until the musical ‘descent into the abyss’ culminates in a near org-asmic fulfillment of Scotty’s desire for Madeline: She is back alive again!

 

So we see how seeds of the music in the opening represent ideas of falling, an abyss of obsession, out of which is Passion and unfulfilled love, tension, as well as setting up the Love theme and the final Musical and filmic CLIMAX of Judy’s transformation into Madeline.

 

It is in this CLIMAX that not only does the music resolve (as in the Wagner)  but it also triumphantly ends in a huge long MAJOR chord as the scene ends. The music up to this point has been mostly in very dark, minor keys ( like e flat minor) This switch to MAJOR at that moment adds to the glorious moment at that scene, when Scotty is finally fulfilled in his desire – he FINALLY has MADELINE  all to himself!

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1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.

 

Good question! And congrats, I'm afraid the only other lecture or curated day that will better today's is Psycho's! Of course Scorsese had to have a say :) loved it! I'm sure DePalma would have a thing or two to say about Vertigo as well. That said I agree with Wes, and Richard that it felt like we the audience were seemingly placed under a trance or some sort of hypnotic state from Bass's credit sequence including the trippy spirals, seductive and wonky Hermann score, and the brilliant colour. Sold on this being my top three just for its obscurities and un-mainstream qualitiesalone. Thumbs way up!

 

2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

Well, I'd say it's the title and directors name flying out of the eye with the inclusion of the red gel/saturation extreme CU on the unidentified woman's right eye. The reason I say that is not just from the strength of that sequence alone but because the invasion and/or study of our image forming organ of sight in question is being assaulted which seems the whole point of such an effect (subjectively anyway). I think this particular effect has affected many genre filmmakers or otherwise (the attack on the eye or in metaphor for example the eye being the window to our souls etc all has relevance in my opinion to such a strong connection)

 

3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

They work more than adequately to my eyes and ears. This has to be one of the coolest openings both for the visuals and music in the history of cinema. I think the power and excellence is still having an impact on young folks even today. Meaning just as Rear View Window is timeless so is Vertigo possibly more so for the dreamlike logic you can attach to this movie in my opinion. Again, we can pause and study Vertigo much more in depth than many of Hitchcock's and still only scratch the surface. Let the psychologists have a crack at it also...

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This eye-popping (duh-huh. Puns are fun ) opening is exquisitely and powerfully scored. I find the music draws me in more than the imagery itself. What's the question? I remember. The feeling the score and the imagery produces is one of indeed been hypnotized. The opening shot of the woman and of course close into her eyes is mesmerizing. Clearly this is an obsession , but first I don't know if the obsession is from the woman or on the woman. Because I'm an idiot. OK OK so! I found it interesting when we first get the close-up on The woman's Eye her eyeball shows shock. So therefore we must be in for some ride.

To me the most powerful imagery because it denotes "what is happening here" is the close-up on my eyeball and the shocked expression of the eyeball. Along with the score powerful baby. And we are drawn into the colorful vertigo images that are within the eyeball. Apparently I'm really in the eyeballs.

Again the marriage of the score and the visual is exquisite powerful perfection. I'll give it two thumbs up.

Excuse my goofiness today. I am loving this course.

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The sounds and images in these opening credits make me think of messing with your mind all those hypnotic shapes and images with that psychedelic like music in the background. The close up on the eyeball is also interesting when it registers shock giving the audience the clue that we're in for quite a ride. With the shapes going back seemingly into the eyeball at the end, it gives us the impression that we were inside that eyeball's mind and seeing those shapes and images as they saw it. 

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1) Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

 

In the case of the opening credits, the film is not going to be your typical attack of all five senses. It is obviously going to be a truly unique experience that doesn't offer an easy watch or explanation. Judging by the images, you are going to be put inside the main character's psychosis, where you feel what he feels and sees what he sees. We, the audience, are going to be thrown for a loop when we think that the film is going to be about one thing, and it ends being something else entirely. Based on the many times I have seen the film, my thoughts and analysis does tend to shift. It is still a pretty bold way to start a film.

 

2) In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

The image that grabs me the most is obviously the spiral that forms in the eye of the woman at the beginning of the opening. It also reappears when it comes back to her. The spiral seems to represent the twisting of the mind; manipulating bending and confusing it. That particular spiral spells something sinister and diabolical, and it's ironic that the color of it is red, well almost. The color of 'red' always symbolizes evil.

 

3) How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

Bass' images and Herrmann's score add a level of organic mastery that was probably never attempted at that time. It is genius because there is that sense of anticipation of not realizing what's in store, especially if you've never seen the film. With a different score, it would seems out of place and confusing. It just wouldn't mesh well, and you would probably feel hollow instantly after hearing it. 

 

However, it did actually work in Mel Brooks' clever and affectionate tribute to Hitchcock, his hilarious 1977 'High Anxiety". Basically if you want a proper parody of any classic film, just ask Mel how he does it.

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  1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

     

    It has a very science fiction sound and feel to the images and music together.  I can't help seeing slinkys and spirographs from when I was a kid.  Very trippy 70's designs.  

     

  2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

     

    The eyeball that we look at is very frightening.  You want to look away but are mesmerized by the looking eyeball.

     

  3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

     

    The two do complement each other and I can't imagine another score that would really work for the images.  It grounds the images and doesn't make them too silly like the toys I described above.

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