Dr. Rich Edwards

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

207 posts in this topic

1.  Describe what you think this film will be about from the opening sequence.

 

The focus on the woman's face in the opening sequence starts to give me the impression she is being examined - especially when she looks to first one side then the other - moving only her eyes.  Then her eyes open wide and the music suddenly gets louder.  The spiraling  Lissajous figures start and the music (that are like musical scales going up and down) become faster and you imagine the music Is spinning with the Lissajous spirals.  You get the feeling maybe the woman's is spiraling out of control. Right away there is a mystery about the woman and you want to find out what the mystery is.

 

2.  What is the single most powerful image in the title sequence? 

 

For me, it's the woman's eyes becoming wide and frightened and the spiraling within her eyes - exactly when the word 'Vertigo' appears on the screen. - along with the dramatic music.  The music gets louder right as her eyes widen - which you don't expect and it gives you a little jolt.  You're left wondering why she's scared and the mystery is intriguing.

 

3.  How do the images and musical score work together.

 

The spiraling images together with the music which is a repetitive up and down scale that seems to be spinning around and around, faster and faster - along with the visual spirals go hand and hand.  If a different musical score was used, it would simply be music and visual art not an emotional and psychological effect with the two put together.  Different music I think would just make the spiraling Lissajous figures just look strange.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1)  As much as I love this film, I really don't care for the opening.  In fact, all the spiral designs make me think about my Spirograph set I had as a kid.  I spent hours playing with the crazy thing.  

 

I guess if I try to forget what this film is about and focus on the opening alone, I would assume that either the female in the film is hypnotized by something or she is hypnotizing to someone else as indicated by the spirals over the eyes.  The spirals also give a dizzying effect and for anyone familiar with vertigo, that is how you feel - like your surroundings are spiraling around you.  The eyes also look back and forth then show surprise indicating there is some hidden aspect that will shock us.  The score also wavers from downright creepy to an almost haunting, heart wrenching melody and back to creepy which would indicate to me there is a romantic heartbreak but with a creep factor.

 

2)  I guess the image that strikes me the most is the change of color from grayscale to blood red.  If that doesn't tell a story, I'm not sure what does.

 

3)  I think the visual cues along with the score tell us quite a bit.  The score tells us there is a romance which we certainly wouldn't know from the visual cues yet the score wouldn't give us the clues as to the acrophobia and the hypnotic aspect as the visual cues do so both are needed and work well together.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1)  The opening of the film title says just what it is. The strange green glow spirals and the very slow repetitive of the music gives a sense of being hynoptic under a spell. Certainly the extreme close-up of Kim Novak's eyes and mouth is very intimate as well the darting of the eyes as credits come forth. The close up is so tight that we see her pores is bit overkill obsession on the borderline of creepiness. Hint of the future mental state of the mad genius later on.

 

2) I have to say the detailed close-up shot of Kim Novak's eye. The eye which we have seen in Spellbound through the lens of Dali is very direct. It is saying the eye is the window to your mind and how you interpret what you see. The continual spinning spirals coming from her eye is more or less a statement of being entranced in a dream. Throughout the opening the spirals spinning is meant to put the watcher into another space and time. The inhabitations of the watcher is heightened to a level of fear, anxiety and confusion.

 

3) The synchronize relationship between Saul and Herrmann is by-far the most effective here. The timing of the eerie score juxtapose with the continual spinning spirals is enticing. Catnip for the film goers. It sucks you into that trance-like state. I find myself in that state as the film unfolds!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

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.

John Whitney's book Digital Harmony, a treatise on music, images and computer animation, is a fascinating articulation of his experiments with, and passion for, the combination of music and film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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. 

 

You definitely have the impression that this film will focus on something to do with psychology and the way the mind works in general. Also possibly the relationship between what the eyes see and what the mind perceives. (Dreamy, subjective, abstract images and text swirl out from and back into the staring eyes in both the beginning and end of the sequence.) 

 

Vertigo is far and away my favorite Hitchcock film, so I've seen it many, many times. Even if I hadn't though, I'd still realize other emotions like fear, apprehension, and anxiety would probably also figure into the plot and subject matter just based on the title sequence. The tonality, melody pattern, and general style of the accompanying score both underline and confirm this, in my opinion. 

 

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

 

I think it's the close-up of the eye from the very beginning. As we zero in on it, everything turns red and the eye widens in fear or apprehension. Just before that, the eyes were looking from side to side as if the mysterious woman they belong to is on the lookout for something (or someone). She's afraid of whatever it is and when her eyes widen and everything turns red, you get the impression it's found her and she's not sure what to do.

 

Then the dreamy spiral shapes start to drift out of her eyes, making the eye image even more powerful. Are these her thoughts we're seeing? Her motivations? Her worries, doubts, and fears? Or are they representative of qualities and motivations someone else has assigned to her? You don't know for sure, but you know they probably have little to nothing to do with reality as they both exit from and enter back through the pupils of the eyes. The spirals represent things of the mind that it's a lot harder to put a finger on or define. They are spinning, making them appear even more unsettling and mysterious -- a lot like real thoughts or fears. Definitely an appropriate way to open a film called Vertigo.

 

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 sequence really wouldn't work the same or give as clear an impression of anxiety and apprehension without Herrmann's score. At all. It's the score that really confirms what you think you might be seeing in the images as far as their meaning and significance -- kind of like the captions underneath the photographs in a newspaper or magazine. It both complements the imagery by adding additional depth and confirms what's clearly already there. 

 

If you felt like it, you could probably use a wildly different score to make this title sequence feel like it belongs to a completely different kind of movie. Add a silly, upbeat score and you could be looking at the opener to a screwball comedy about a psychologist with a stalker or something. (Maybe. I might be reaching or exaggerating, but hopefully it's clear what I'm getting at.)

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It has been many years since seeing Vertigo, but the opening sequence brought some memories sweepingly back to the present.  I recall being impressed then, as now,  with Saul Bass' creativity as it set the tone for this very involved, convoluted and suspenseful film. The sounds and images suggest something psychological, with the woman's eyes - which I consider the most powerful image in the sequence - positively riveting. As a viewer, you can't stop watching them. Seeing her eyes move and the gaze shift give me the impression that she is someone being analyzed - or perhaps hypnotized - and that HER story is the cornerstone of this film. The mood is unsettling, because I feel she is someone who is being analyzed perhaps against her will and therefore she is possibly being victimized in some way. Second only to the eyes, are Bass' mesmerizing spiral graphics that are moving, changing color and shape, as the credits animate over, around and within them. They seem distinctly modern, much more than one would expect during this time period. The compelling graphics, along with Hermann's score, work together to reinforce my feelings about the psychological underpinnings of this film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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 such a fascination with the title sequence from Saul Bass because of my history in Graphic Design and Art Direction. The first image, a close up of a women's face hits stride with the eerie sounds that begin the segment. There's tension in the face, and as the girls eyes move from left to right, almost frantic-like. The music melds with the sequence, and sounds diabolically haunting. The added red overlay filter also tells the audience that there's potential danger, violence and maybe even death ahead.
 
Once the spinning graphic come toward us, we are being shown something mesmerizing. It continues to feel dizzying, hypnotic and almost like a dream state. The music only adds to wonderfully to this effect.
 
giphy.gif
 
In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.
 
I think it's when the female's face/eye becomes overlay with red. It immediately tells the audience that we should start to worry about either this female or something soon to come. It's a very powerful use of color and sound in order to create a feeling of danger within the audience.
 
I also like in the lecture notes how it was mentioned that Bass was fascinated with Lissajous Curves. The curves definitely make an impact in the opening sequence as well.
 
LissajousCurves_851.gif
Lissajous curves are the family of curves described by the parametric equations.
 
How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?
 
The designs of Saul and the score work together like two skating couples performing their act to a classical piece of music. They go hand and hand, and with a different score, we'd most likely feel differently about the title sequence. Perhaps it wouldn't have been as powerful. We honestly don't know for sure.
  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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 will be something that mesmerizes and captivates one or more of the characters. But it will also be about something that becomes intense. 

 

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

 

I think the sequence of when the woman's eye becomes overtaken by the red. Before the red appears, she is looking from side to side, as if she's trying to watch her back. When the camera focuses on one eye and the red appears, her eye widens and shows a tenseness or fear about her, like she knows something will happen sooner than she believes. 

 

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

 

I don't think it would be as powerful of an opening sequence if there were a different score. Bass and Hermann are paired just right. The score gives the extra intensity of the mesmerizing Lissajous curves. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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. 

 

For me, the opening credits suggested the story would pull me into the psychological and perhaps spiritual processes of a woman’s mind. Saul Bass’s slow moving Lissajous Figures combined with Bernard Herrmanns lush hypnotic score as the Lissajous Figures spiraled into the women’s eye never give any specific indication of what is to come. Only that the story promises the audience they will have no choice but to be hopelessly involved before being returned to the state they were in at the start of the movie, which is indicated when a figure spirals back out of the eye.

 

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

 

The single most powerful image for me would be the Lissajous Figure spiraling out of Kim Novak’s eye. That combined with Herrmann’s score at that moment gave me chills and hopes that this would be a story equal to what I’d come to expect from Hitchcock. At the point the figure centers over and covers the pupil the viewers attention becomes completely focused on the screen.

 

First place for a sequence would go to the opening at the very start of the titles starting with the Paramount logo in black and white, then preceding to Kim Novak’s face shown in a color pallet so muted it almost seems like we are looking at a grey scale image. This opening creates a pause in the audience making them wonder if this will not be a color movie. That palette continues until the screen goes completely red and the title Vertigo appears from dead center in the eye. It grows larger and larger, pauses for a second, then continues to enlarge as it flies upwards off the screen. Try not paying attention to that.

 

3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? 

 

Both attempt to hypnotically draw the viewer in. To me Herrmann’s score is more successful and overwhelms Bass’s Lissajous Figures. I realize the technology was probably state of the art for it’s time but even on my first viewing when Vertigo was first released (yes, I’m that old) I felt as I do each time I watch Vertigo that the figures were too rough and/crude and at times static in their execution. I can’t help but think that if Bass’s computer graphics had been given to a studio like Disney, they could have been enhanced by hand to a point where they’d rival todays animations. 

 

3b. How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

I can’t imagine any other score but Herrmann’s for this sequence, the movie or most movies Herrmann wrote for. Herrmann’s scores stand out and enhance where as someone like Dimitri Tiomkin’s music will often go over the top explaining what action is taking place and telling the viewer what emotion is intended.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It’s very late and I’ve had a long day, but instead of going to bed I’m posting my reaction to the title design sequence for Vertigo. This is a compliment to your wonderful course, Prof. Edwards!

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. 

I think the film is about mental illness if I’m focusing solely on the sounds and images (I’ve seen it several times – trying to put that aside). The sounds are eerie and the extreme close-ups of a single human eye are jarring and yet you can’t look away. The swirls in motion evoke a sense of confusion.  It’s a very compelling opening.

 

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

See above – the extreme close-up of the human eye.  If it’s true you can see into someone’s soul through their eye, up close at this range, it feels as if you could almost dissect who they are, what makes them tick, and hear what they’re thinking (unhealthy thoughts?).

 

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 score is brilliant. When the names of the actors pop onto the screen in a sudden motion with the music equally jarring (I’m tired and can’t find another adjective just now) it’s a perfect pairing.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

  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 one word: haunting. The camera is uncomfortably close on a woman's face, making sure we see every detail and flaw. The various colors, shapes and music are unsettling and chaotic. All of the elements set the tone of the film for the audience. 

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. The tight shot of both of Kim Novak's eyes is so powerful to me. You see them shift from side to side as though she is making sure she is not giving herself away or that she is not being watched. The theme of secrecy and paranoia will manifest itself later in the film by multiple characters and this opening sequence establishes those themes. 

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? Between the dreamlike images and chilling music, the two collaborators work incredibly well in creating a haunting tone. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. Red lips- shifty eyes of a female are images of impending deception. The riveting blood red eye -the hypnotic swirl again implying the woman is somehow involved in death or causing suffering. This intro creates and fans the flame of curiosity.

2. Watching the distorted eye figure as a connection to a distorted point of view. They spring they gyrate then they turn red again. This reminds me of more blood more suffering maybe a prolonged suffering. The figures are a photo of Succumbing to the confusion or loss of self .

3. The music itself spins and whirrrs. It whirls with the shifty eyes. It abruptly starts and stops giving the air of uncertainty. Then the eerie sounds go to and fro leaving a lump in my throat. Also the most powerful image to me is not the obvious. The obvious is the vision of the bloody eye. To me it is the "Spirographic" image. It reminds me of a childhood craft using colored pens. Could this insanity pull me in ??

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The title sequence opens on close-ups of the perfectly formed facial features of a woman, from her eyes a series of rotating forms, circular, helical, and oblong, move into view, the sequence ends on an    eye of the face from which forms the directorial credit.   This sequence seems to be forecasting a story focused on a woman's features and that the features will be unstable and contorted.

 

James Stewart's name appearing just above the lips, that are shown in a the frame-filling close-up, is an odd and unsettling image.  The name is clear, but diminished, by this juxtaposition.    

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) From what I saw and heard in the opening credits I was under the impression that "Vertigo" was a French made futuristic science fiction film.

2) The opening credits show the extreme closeup of the face of an uncomfortable or perhaps frightened woman filmed in B&W. The camera comes in closer focusing on her right eye with the words "In Alfred Hitchcock's" appearing under her lower lid. The camera comes in so close we can see her eye dilate and the screen is awash in blood red. Spinning out of her iris and growing larger is the word "Vertigo".

That opening sequence scared the hell out of me at the age of ten when I saw this at our local public library and it still scares the hell out of me more that forty years later. Answer defended!

3) It works and works well because it is a ballet. The beautifully choreographed images and colours of Mr. Bass' Lissajous figures in time to Mr. Herrmann's score are worth the price of admission.

Yes, certainly the resulting credit sequence would be vastly different if Miles Davis had scored it (Think of "So What" from 1959). The visuals would be the same but the atmosphere would be drastically different.

We could also play this game and ask if "Vertigo" would be different with Cary Grant in the lead instead of James Stewart. Most times the answer will be yes, it's just a matter of the degrees of difference.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. I think it's difficult not to be influenced by having seen the movie, but the close up of the woman's face really feels like obsession, combined with the swirling graphics, it also evokes mystery, and delusional and disruptive imagery, you certainly feel the taut psychological influence. The color shifts add another layer of juxtaposition to the images.

2. Right at the beginning, the close up of the woman's face with Jimmy Stewarts name just above her lips. As a graphic designer, It just seems like the perfect image.

3. The imagery is unsettling by itself, but you add Bernard Hermann's score, the dreamy high notes, offset by the deeper notes of the horns, again juxtaposition, that keeps you off balance. It all comes together perfectly, and sets the tone for an unsettling film.

 

Bernard Hermann is so distinctive, and just right, it's hard to imagine a Hitchcock classic without his "touch".

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bass' title design and Herman's score are choreographed better here than in most modern programs for screen savers and such that sync sound and images automatically. When a new, more complicated spiral design appears, another layer of circular melody sounds. Some may argue that the focus on pieces of the woman's face is objectification, but the overall effect of the sound/visual syncopation, the extreme closeups of the woman's face, and the steady zoom on the camera is more complicated than objectification. It is desire for intimacy, ever thwarted so that it becomes an obsession, which is the central theme of the film.

 

Objectification is present in the film. Elster treats Scottie as an object to dispose of his wife, and Scottie treats Judy as an object for the resurrection of Madelyn. To stop there, though is a shallow reading of both the title sequence and the film that follows. The camera in the opening sequence, like Scottie making Judy over, does not zero in on one part of the woman's face to objectify or serve as a metonymy (substitute of the part for the whole). The camera zooms in on separate parts of the woman's face seeking an entrance. Like Scottie later in the film, it craves intimacy and connection, to be let inside of the illusory woman who takes shape before him. Because she is an illusion, he cannot gain intimacy or connect.

 

Whether Madelyn becoming Carlotta or Judy becoming Madelyn, the woman he falls into obsession over is in a state of untouchable flux, never solidifying because the end of the transition doesn't exist. When Scottie has Madelyn's confessed love for him at the mission, "Carlotta" steals her away from him. When he has transformed Judy into Madelyn in her apartment, the reality is too good to be true and he finally sees the truth of the scheme by considering her perspective instead of his own (What would make her allow him to remake her so, unless it had all been an elaborate plot?)

 

Likewise, the camera in the opening sequence seeks intimacy and entry with the woman's face. But it is stopped by the closed mouth, by the cheek, by the nose. Not until the camera attempts her eye (her perspective) does it gain entry. But then, just as Scottie holding Madelyn at last in Judy's apartment only to piece together the lie of it all, the opening sequence camera passes through the eye into a void or further complicated spirals without connection. In the end, it must retreat and escape through the same perspective, foreshadowing the film to follow.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. We see Novak's face and her eyes glaring around. deciding whether or not she will fall into the trap of desire and obsession. Then, there's a close up shot on her eyes (red) and a circular shape figure that comes out from her eyes drawing our attention, maybe she could have fall into that obsession, or maybe she is drawing a man into "the obsession and desire" I think the film is about the obsession and the desire for women in the lives of men. I believe we are seeing from a man's perspective in the opening scene. As the shot was close up to the eyes of Kim Novak, the color of the shot changes to red. She is a victim for man's desire and obsession, and she is drawn into that desire and obsession as well. When the circular spiral shaped come up from the eyes. We are slowly drawn into her eyes more and more, the soul of Kim Novak's character. More circular spiral shaped comes up, we are more obsessed and attached to the woman's character. It depicts the transition of Stewart's character from being naive to become more and more obsessed and attached to Kim Novak's character. Stewart is falling into a deep trap caused by desire and obsession, a trap where he might never escape from. A trap where he doesn't know that he is actually " one of the victim", a victim that was manipulated by the desire and obsession in himself, making him naive of what's happening to him.

 

2. For me, it's the close up shot where it's on Novak's eyes and the color changes to red and the circular spiral shape figure appears. It draws the attention of the audiences in such a vivid, profound manner. It seems like we are seeing from a corrupted, distorted, and kind of morally wrong point of view. The use of red color with a spiral spinning indicates that something unpredictable and dangerous might happen to the characters, the danger is occurring to character who draw us into the trap and the one who's being drawn into this dangerous trap caused by obsession. The use of color and the shot was pretty powerful, but at the same time, mesmerizing. It's like putting and luring the audiences into the trap, just like how hypnosis works.

 

3. The use of music score and the images worked and synchronized almost "perfectly. The music gives us a feeling of uncertainty as it was intense when Novak's face appear, and at the same time luring us into the trap.It has a different tone as more spirals appear. Some could have really loud music, some could have minimal to no music, it certainly draws us to the trap really well. The lack of certainty can be seen. The image provides us with a sense of danger going in to the movie, and how that danger would lead us to the obsession that makes us fall into the trap, same to the music that lure us in with different tone of uncertainty. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good Evening...

1. The image of the eye, the iris and the spinning graphics: some spin to the left, some spin to the right combined w/ the colors and the repetitive sound of the violins/flutes (?) and the booming horns create an eerie, melodramatic, ominous mood. I am scared and at the same time intrigue. I want to close my eyes but don't dare look away. The music pulls me in spinning I am in the eye. Love me some Hitchcock Touch.

2. The EYE has it. It begins and ends w/staring into the EYE. The red hue over the EYE coupled w/ the music is striking; (we will revisit the image in Psycho) Once we are transfixed on the EYE, there's no looking away. Then we are pulled even deeper by the spinning of the geometric images and the powerful music. Kudos Hitch! Kudos Saul Bass! Kudos Bernard Herrmann!

3. I think I answered this above. I can't image what Vertigo would be like w/o Mr. Bass & Mr. Herrmann as collaborators. Hitchcock is a master at getting the right people to convey his ideas to his audiences.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.      Pretending I don’t know the film, the opening images and music suggest that it will be about a close examination of a woman’s face, about swirling, about eyes and looking, that it will be worrisome (from the first music), that something horrible will happen (when her face is bathed in red). Sometimes the harp music and shapes swirling against the dark seem like heavenly bodies in outer space.

2.      As many have answered the eye bathed in red. The close-up of the eye suggests both looking deeply and being looked at – it’s uncomfortably close – and the red suggests passion and blood. All of these will come to play in the story, though interestingly we never see blood.

3.      The combination of Bass’ images and Herrmann’s music create the mystery and danger to come. Without the swirling and minor keys of the score, some of Bass’ swirling images would look primarily lovely – pretty colors spinning out like a Spirograph. With romantic music, for instance, the close-ups of the woman’s face might suggest voyeurism or deep passion, but probably not danger and obsession, as they do with Herrmann’s music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's interesting how the emphasis on opening credits evolves over time. It seems to take decades for this portion of a film to become more than just words on the screen. In the film's so far in this course, the first title sequence I remember that was more graphically interesting was in Saboteur. It was just an image of an elongated shadow of a man against a sort of corrugated metal background, but it establishes a sense of foreboding and mystery appropriate for the story ahead. Are there other opening credits in the Hitchcock films that stand out in the films before the title designs from Vertigo and North by Northwest? I seem to remember that Murder used some expressionistic title cards but I need to go back and review.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. The figures spiral and twist and transform in color and shape. I think they represent changing kinds of confusion: dizziness and confusion that evolve and don't resolve into calm. They aren't puzzles to solve. If you read them as puzzles, they are puzzles meant to confound and torment. The focus on the woman's eye (Is that really Kim Novak? The mouth doesn't seem right.) leads to the iris with all its flecks and changing colors and finally, the pupil of the eye, the blackness you can fall into. The window of the eye. The source of the confusion.

 

2. I think the most striking and important image in the opening is the overlay of the red followed by the wide open eye of fear. If that is really Kim Novak in the title sequence, we know her character has something to be afraid of. If she is just representing the story, maybe we, as audience, will be afraid of something or maybe fear is the story itself and it shows the fear that spirals out of that wide open eye is the same fear that we can read in each other's eyes.

 

3. The score is a spiral of scales turning upon themselves in different dissonances and different degrees of loudness but always the same tempo. It mirrors the twisting and spiraling of Bass's images. With another score, the images wouldn't have been reinforced to  lead in so strongly to the theme of the movie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.     Well since I’ve seen Vertigo a couple of times, it is hard to answer this in a guessing manner, either way I’ll echo back to when I first saw it. As an artist and art teacher I am naturally very responsive to abstract visual cues, but a I am also a huge Saul Bass fan. By title alone, Vertigo automatically suggests that there is an imbalance of some sort and that something in this plot won’t add up. However, the deeply psychological mood or atmosphere created wouldn’t be the same without the wonderful counterpoint of Bernard Hermann’s score to Bass’ graphics. Both question 1 and 3 go hand in hand. On one side we have a hypnotic repetition of 6 note articulation layered against the contrast of what starts as a building but calm, sustained-note instrumentation or instrumental chords. There isn’t a repetition or a predictability in the back drop to Hermann’s 6 note pattern. The backdrop continues to build in and gain force as we continue deeper into the visual representation. Bass counterpoints this and accentuates our psychological exploration with the Lissajous figures. These figures serve to visually represent the pattern we hear in Hermann’s soundtrack but the symbolism is in the suggestion that we are diving into an abstract world of the human mind. A place where the subconscious and the conscious meet but don’t always agree. So there is an order and structure to the world within our mind like the Lissajous figure precision, but that structure doesn’t behave according to the same logic of our waking world. Therefore, the figures we see are changing and morphing; what we see at first is no longer what it was, but still somehow the same. Again, that same sort of familiar but different aspect is what Hermann gives us in the score. We are diving into the mind of someone and know that perceptions of reality and balance will be questionable at best.


2.     The most powerful image is when, after we have zoomed in on the woman’s eye, everything turns red, a symbol of some sort of death or damage being done whether physically or psychologically. However, alone, this image isn’t quite finished as we see toward the end of the the title there is a Lissajou figure that is in the shape of the upper and lower lid of her eye and soon, behind it comes a spinning iris. This juxtaposition suggests that there will be an attempt to put some mathematical certainty into the abstract nature of the human mind. 


  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The feeling I get from the opening scene in VERTIGO, is both a combination of hypnotism and falling. Even though the fall itself feels long, slow and peaceful (as if we are traveling to another space and time), there is an element of danger. The shocked look in the close-up of the eye let’s us know something is threatening. The fact that we as the audience cannot see what is frightening her increases the suspense. There is also the sense of danger as the first spinning object we see looks a bit like a stretched fingerprint of sorts. The long spinning opening here reminds me of the opening scene in REBECCA where we are walking down a long dark driveway. They both feel to me like we are going down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. The sound assists this hypnotic feel in that there are many repeating arpeggios (giving a slow circling effect). The fact that the music is in an augmented key offers the sound of forward danger. Finally the rapid trills speeds up this circling effect creating the sense of dizziness. The sound also goes from slow to fast, and from soft to loud, then soft again, so tempo, pacing and volume all contribute to this dizzying effect.

 

The most powerful image to me is the eye, shot in close-up with the red filter. We get a glimpse of Judy’s beauty here and it is the only view of any real character in this opening sequence. All else is abstract graphics which is less threatening. The red symbolizes danger (blood) and the sudden shocked look on her eye also contributes to this sense of danger. The close-up of the eye functions as the port at which we fall into the hypnotic and surreal imagery. Not to mention the obvious foreshadowing to the close up eye shot in PSYCHO.

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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. 

 

Actually, with the opening bold and quiet music build up, I think the film is going to be a dramatic story; the close-up of the face showing the lips; lips that are not smiling and the eyeballs that are moving, searching, and become wide as if the person is in fear or shock and in a trance-like state; just staring at the camera at the viewer while the eyes turn red as the spinning circles and designs appear making me feel a sense of mental confusion.  Are the eyes watching me or am I looking into the brain of this person through their eyes?

 

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

 

I think the most powerful image from the immediate start is actually the Vista Vision title design itself; the crisp white V approaching forward at a quick speed from a black and white background of a mountain peak towards the viewer is pretty powerful in itself. I can tell at that point this movie is leading up to something mysterious and intense.

 

 

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 score and images work very well; they are synchronized perfectly; enhancing the movement of the eyes and the spirals with bold musical tones as the spirals get closer and milder tones as new spirals appear.  I wouldn’t pay much attention to the images and would lose the dramatic feel of the movie if the music was different by being light and airy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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," then the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

 

Fantasy, possibly a dark and uncontrollable fantasy.

 

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

 

The close-up of the woman's eye is shot through a red filter as the movie's title blasts out of her iris 50 seconds in. Simultaneously Herrmann sounds a profound and discordant chord under his undulating nursery rhyme theme. The spiraling hypnotic graphics begin. Absolute perfection.
 

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

 

See above.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us