Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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It is a mix of lovely and cruel music. Sometimes it feels a little bit romantic. But suddenly it is dangerous. The film could be about a woman, who doesn´t know what to do in her life. 

 

The most powerful image, is when she widenes the eye , shortly before the lissajous figures start. It fears me a bit. Is it good, if i can see into her mind? 

 

In a way it feels like the music also makes curves -cooperating the image. like it is a dance. 

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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. 

 

By only watching the opening credits sequence you think that this film is about mind control and possible hypnosis and possession.

 

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

 

The eye image is probably the most powerful due to the fact that everything seems to revolve around vision. The whole image turning red before and after the spirals gives it important information which again comes back to possible hypnosis and mind control.

 

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 fits perfectly with the titles sequence and sets the mood just right for the audience... it also gives you a chill factor which I'm not sure a different score would achieve.

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wow... getting that video clip to work was harder than buying a house with no credit.  But I was so interested in the subject that i felt it was worth it

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The title sequence from Vertigo hooks you from the start. You feel yourself becoming hypnotized as the music and images work together. It's amazing how many aspects and themes of the film can be encompassed by these few images. The woman's eye and the colorful repetitions of spirals hint at many things to come. It is difficult to imagine not knowing what the film is about, because it has made such an impact on me. Each time I see the title sequence I am reminded of the reason why. The music is startling, disturbing, dramatic, and the images are haunting. This film really impressed me when I first saw it in my early twenties. I thought about it for days afterwards. The title sequence really grabs you, and the film never lets you go.

Some of the themes indicated by the title design include the woman's facial features (an important element of the story), the theme of obsession and repetition, the feeling of a dream-like or hallucinatory state brought about by the endless spirals, and the terror indicated by the widening eye. The spirals also remind us of falling down a spiral staircase. I know I have had a falling dream where I never seem to reach the bottom. The spirals overlaying the woman's eye have the impression of entering into the deep psyche of a human being. It feels that we emerge once again by the end of the credits, as once again the spiral is placed over the eye. I feel that the spiral is the most powerful image of the sequence. Its many forms, colors and patterns hint at the depth and breadth of human psychology. The images have a kaleidoscopic effect. I can't say enough about how great I think this film is.

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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.

As mentioned in the lecture video, if one had never seen this before, it would be safe to say that the film seems very abstract and avant garde simply based on the opening credits.  Knowing that vertigo is a sensation of dizziness, and seeing the various swirling and circular drawings of the credits, it is safe to say that someone is going to placed into a vortex of emotions from which something sinister, evil, or certainly out of balance would emerge.  The mood or atmosphere would be one of apprehension and confusion.

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

I find the first spinning motions that emerge from the eye to be the most powerful image.  Hitchcock clearly states through this image that what we see may actually be a distortion of someone else’s reality, and that we cant always trust what we see.  Just as one gets dizzy and disoriented when he or she spins around quickly, these characters and their reality may become strangely twisted and out of balance.

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

I wish I could articulate what I am hearing and viewing better, but it seems that Herrman’s score heightens the sense of apprehension and confusion we are already viewing on the screen.  I hear in his score certain notes played over and over again in a circular fashion similar to what I am seeing.  Accenting this is a constant stroke of horns that blare and interrupt the circular notes, which increases my dread.  I think you certainly could change the mood with different music, even making it seem more like an introduction to a fairy tale.  It is a masterful marriage of visuals and scores.

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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.

 

Based on the sounds and images, I would think this film would be about someone's psychological problems.The way that it focuses on the woman's eye and zooms in, it's as if we enter her mind. The images give it a very science fiction vibe. The music sounds threatening and a little frightening so we know the psychological issue can't be good.

 

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 music just fits so well with the images! The last couple of opening sequences from this week's daily doses have had lighter music that puts the audience at ease and makes us believe everything is fine at the beginning. The opening score of "Vertigo" sounds threatening, frightening and full of despair. Along with the images, it gives the audience a feeling of having no control over what is about to happen.

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Got to see it Chris!  Very enjoyable and odd how well it fits!  

 

 

 

[this is a partial quote of my daily dose on Saul Bass' credits for Vertigo.]

 

I became so intrigued thinking about the relationship between Bernard Hermann's wonderful score for Vertigo and Wagner's 'Liebestod' from Tristan and Isolde that I made a video (just for fun) replacing Hermann's music in the climactic transformation scene with the Wagner.

 

https://ccoombs1964.wixsite.com/cinemachris/homework

 

In Wagner's Tristan and Isolde the two characters' love remains unfulfilled until First Tristan and then she (Isolde) dies and their love can finally be 

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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. This film is a psychological thriller. The visual tells the viewer that this movie represents a twisted plot line.

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. The most powerful is the twisted figure that appears on top of the eyeball. This makes the eyeball more intimidating. You wonder what is going to happen and you know it will be scary and leave you unsettling.

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 always sets the scene and the graphics allow you to visualize that music. If there was change in either, than the feel, sound and visual would give a completely different impression.

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This opening sequence is really not much different than other openings!  

 

Hitchcock has used wheels from trains, clocks, cars, and records to not only convey movement/action but also, to convey disorientation!

 

What makes this opening stand out is its vivid color and now, Hitchcock can use special effects like spirals and curves he could not use in the past!  And, of course, Novak's lips and eyes!  

 

In all the films we've highlighted, there is a point when our hero is made to doubt his/her own senses or sanity!  Am I really seeing what I'm seeing, feeling what I'm feeling, knowing what I know!  Can I be wrong?  Does perception equal reality?

 

Hitchcock was on to the post-modernist dilemma before it was cool!  Can our mind play tricks on us? Can we get lost in our own minds, thus making up our own realities!  Is there a "true" reality?  

 

All the characters that mirror each other or shadow each other reflect how our human nature, senses, intuition fail us on so many occasions. What makes a killer snap? I'll just use one example from Strangers on a Train.  Guy wanted Mariam dead, but did not have the courage of his convictions or outrage!  BRUNO is our ID, the seething caldron of desires that will do anything to get what it wants.  BRUNO has no boundaries; morality, shame nor fear of being caught will stop him! There is no filter of any kind with BRUNO; what is in his head comes out of his mouth, down to his hands and onto Miriam's throat!  He lives in his own reality or morality and cares not one wit if anyone disagrees with it!  Think about it; did anyone one of us really care that Miriam is murdered  She is an awful woman.  If the two guys from Rope want to kill someone, Miriam should have been their choice. If she had been, Rupert/Jimmy Stewart might have let them walk; hell, he might have even helped!  

 

I've only seen the second half of Vertigo, so I want to see the whole film to know if I'm right about Hitchcock as a bridge from Modernist thinking that right and wrong exist, but are twisted and often not recognized because of human failings to the postmodernist who believes perception and reality are one in the same.  There are no universal truths or "truth"!  There is only what we believe is real or true. Truth depends upon our worldview and is not independent of it!  We can all live in little realities of our own making and if we're not careful, our mind can forget what is a part of a real world experience and become lost and live in a mind altered, created, deluded world of fantasy, which becomes our living experience!  Hitchcock sees "Virtual Reality" long before it becomes a part of our everyday lexicon or existence!  

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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 MARRIAGE OF BERNARD HERRMANN's score and Saul Bass's computer animation in the title sequence tells me this film is going to be a mystery of complicated--spiraling, "twisted"--psychology. The hypnotic, swirling, multi-colored designs tell me I will find myself in a Hitchcockian world where appearance is not always reality. Herrmann's crescendos have the sound of doom. (Although a first-time viewer can't know it at the time, those crescendos foreshadow Scotty's perverse--and doomed--obsession over a woman, a woman who, in fact, doesn't actually exist.)
If doomed obsession could be turned into music, it would sound like Herrmann's title sequence score.
Despite their hypnotic and bordering-on-nauseating repetition, the music and animation make me sit up and, despite the nervously fluttering butterflies in my stomach, get ready for a journey--as it will turn out, a journey like no other.

 

 

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

I WOULD HAVE TO SAY the single most powerful image is the woman's full-screen eye enlarging, apparently in shock and disbelief at what she's seeing.
Immediately the title--VERTIGO--comes out of her eye. We zoom beneath the title and into a dark and disorienting recess as the slowly spinning images take us ever deeper.
The spinning designs married to the music are a mesmerizing magnet drawing the viewer into a web of obsession. You might find yourself wanting to get off the elliptical merry-go-round, but because it's so hypnotic, you can't. You are trapped--but, at the same time, fascinated, intrigued. Before you can even ask yourself, "Am I losing my grip on reality?", you have been sucked down into...an abyss.

But in the midst of all this, the woman's eye is the nexus, the exact point where the human connects/intersects with the unknown--which is where we, the viewers, are on the verge of going as the movie is ready to begin.

 

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

HOW DO THE IMAGES and the music work together? In two words--hypnotically and beautifully. The music s-o-u-n-d-s like the images look. The images look like the music sounds. For me, they are inseparable. Are they moving toward me, or am I falling into them?
Because of the hypnotic nature of Herrmann's score, I have the sensation of slowly going under--being hypnotized, if not anesthetized.
The title sequence is an abstract summation/foreshadowing of the movie's key plot points: the mission staircase may not be a spiral staircase, but "Scotty" (Jimmy Stewart) does "spiral" upwards, just jaggedly, with right angles preventing a smooth progression; the same "jagged spiral" is the shape of the route he takes in his car while following "Madeline" through San Francisco's streets; but the most powerful manifestation of the spiraling is the 360-pan around Scotty and Judy embracing after she comes out of the bathroom and finally, to his satisfaction, has transformed herself into "Madeline"--a woman who doesn't really exist. 

I don't think any composer--then, now...or ever--could write music that would be as effective as Herrmann's is from the beginning to the end of VERTIGO. I've said for many years if I had to take only one movie to that proverbial deserted island for the rest of my life, hands down it would be VERTIGO, just as it is.

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Focusing just on the sounds and images of the opening credits, there is an overwhelming sense of dread, and of a haunted soul.  It's interesting that that the score includes a blast of horns when specific credits appear, almost to suggest that people are at the root of the pain.

 

 . 

  1. To me, the the single most powerful image in this title sequence is the closeup of the eyes with the red tinting of the frame.  With the score, there a suggestion that there is something terrible in the mind behind those eyes.  

 

  1. The Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together seemlessly to create this sense of foreboding? The spiral graphics suggest life spiraling out of control.  Having seen this film a number of times, it is always a riveting experience to hear this opening portion of the score, and I can't imagine any other.

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

 

This course has taught me that I have been watching opening credits in the wrong way! Previously, I would tolerantly watch the opening credits, impatient for the movie to begin, and just look for new (to me) typefaces and to see if any of the actors listed in small font at the end of the credits later moved up the ranks and became stars. I had never looked at the opening credits hoping to find some clues as to what the movie story would be about or noting what mood they were setting.

 

In this case, I watched Vertigo ​for the first time about two weeks ago. My memories of the opening credits are that I was surprised to see that Natalie Kalmus was not listed as the Technicolor Consultant (I had thought she was the consultant on ALL of the Technicolor films), and I wondered what the deaths would be, as one of the credits stated that the film was based on a French novel called Between the Deaths. But I had no expectations that the opening credits were there for any other reason than to credit the people involved in making the movie. I was not thinking about how opening credits might be used to establish a mood or to provide clues about the story.

 

After reading the lecture notes about how Saul Bass created the title credits with an intent to convey the dizziness of vertigo, I saw the opening credits entirely differently. I focused on whether the Lissajous curves gave me a feeling of vertigo and on how the close-up views of parts of Kim Novak's face (and the music) generated an ominous mood. From now on, I will watch opening credits in an entirely different way, although I suspect I will continue to look in vain for credits to the unsung heroes of the movies (the Foley artists) who always seem to be relegated to the bottom of the credits totem pole, even lower than the catering companies that provided food service during production.    

 

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

 

I suspect that most people will focus on the eyes of Kim Novak and the spiral in them or even the blood red color used. However, I am color-challenged, so I tend to ignore colors (even the ones I can see), and the spiral in Kim's eyes did not disturb me in the least. For me, the most powerful image(s) were the gigantic Lissajous curves that were shown starting about 2:25 and ending about 2:42. These spirals best conveyed the feeling of vertigo to me, and kudos to Saul Bass (and Alfred Hitchcock) for that accomplishment.    

 

 

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

 

I tried imagining using the light-hearted music from the opening scenes of Rear Window ​in place of the score written by Bernard Hermann. That didn't work. Then I imagined the use of the Looney Tunes soundtrack. Ditto.

 

Bass' images and Hermann's score work perfectly together to convey a sense of dizziness and an ominous foreboding mood.  

I second your comments regarding being oblivious to the nuances of the opening credits. Last year I became the yearbook advisor for my high school - no one else wanted the job so my lack of any qualifications was not an issue - and one of my first tasks was to work with my editors (this was also their first year) to choose font, colors, theme, folios, cover design, etc. that would have meaning and unite the yearbook. Previously in my life, I had never considered any aspect of how these elements impact readers; therefore, I struggled on how to advise my editors so as to help them make meaningful choices. What I am learning now in this class, I will take to my students next month as we decide on our new yearbook theme.

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Can I ask Dr. Edwards, what your  intial impression of VERTIGO was when watching in your 20s? You didn't expand on that in the video lecture. I'm still in my very late 20s and it does seem to me that the movie does strike me a bit different than it did at first, though I'd have trouble articulating it. Perhaps some of it is being more romantically experienced than I was when I first saw it in high school as well as knowing more about the plot and seeing this film a few times later than when I first saw it when I was 16 or so.

 

1. First, that the, presumably, woman is fixed and trapped. The camera moves over her, stopped on her mouth as it purses and freezes on the first title credit (a male name), then scans her, almost as though she appears unwilling, then it zeroes in on her eyes first to the rightt hen the left  and stops. To me, this viewpoint, locks one into someone looking from afar. The title credit of "in Alfred Hitchcock's" flashes before the camera moves further into the eye as the eyelids expand and signal fear and the color changes to red (blood, passion, etc.), before somewhat settling...and then the spirals ensue. 

 

2. Very tough to pick just one. I'll stick with what most jumped out at me before, it's that first green/teal spiral after the first pink spiral in the eye is enlarged to engulf the frame. I'm not sure if it's the most impactful visual, but it always stood out for me, even early on, in terms of continuing to burrow into the eye, spiraling in, zeroing in on a subject of interest, the female gaze and the woman's eye, and just continuing to focus, obsess if you will, which ends up as key to Scotty's character and the film. How much is a fetish? What more is there to a fetish beyond looking at the thing? How about obsession? All things I think about when trying to grapple with VERTIGO.

 

3. The spiraling circling together is so heavily re-enforced, it's difficult to imagine a stronger score to emphasized more of how circling and repeated and fixating also kept burrowing deeper, particularly the trance-like effect in certain moments.

I find the topic of watching movies at different ages similar to reading novels at different ages. As a high school literature teacher and starting this fall, a high school film studies teacher, I would appreciate more comments on this topic in the hopes that it will help me help my students.

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Until today, I just saw the opening credits as safe time to be getting popcorn. Last night my husband and I watched a movie at home together; he kept insisting I sit down and watch - because according to him, it mattered. I, in ignorant bliss, asked him not to to pause it because I would be back before it starts.

Another way this class has changed my viewing habit is now I want to take notes as I watch. So I had my tablet out and was trying to record (via voice to text) my impressions. Hubbie found both the lit tablet screen and my whispering so annoying, I desisted.  

I couldn’t wait for this week’s airing, so last week, I checked out Vertigo from the library and watched it with my mom. We both enjoyed it much more than we expected - we typically like movies that provide escape into better, funnier places - not dark, suspenseful, movies where bad things happen. (I wonder if my life were more “idyllic” I would enjoy scary movies with bad people doing bad things) I am delighted to learn that by focusing on analyzing the cues that create suspense, instead of avoiding the feeling,  (my typical strategy is to mute the sound and / or pause the action and return when my shoulders go down - I have been known to even go so far as fast forward through sections), I am moving from abhorring that feeling to an almost scientific curiosity regarding my angst.

 

The most powerful image in the opening is the first focus of the eyes - especially the right eye - because of the blackness in them. Eyes should have life and light and color and their absences makes me think of dead eyes.

 

The first few notes of the music strikes me as a little, playfully creepy but then the deep musical note coincides with the growing letter V from VistaVison to give me a ominous, foreboding feeling. The V is the shape of diabolical eyebrows over sinister eyes. These black and white tones reflect my own vision of the colorscape of hell. The lower notes drop off but the lighter ones continue, repetitively, but not complete, leading - leading where? Not a happy place. Recognizing my own limited understanding of scoring, I found this link

https://cinephiliabeyond.org/strangers-train-technically-perfect-psychological-carousel-one-hitchcocks-best/

Among other interesting bits, about 2/3rds of the way down iI found an insightful vimeo clip titled

THE SOUND OF HITCHCOCK

Join Academy Award-winning sound designers as they reveal how Hitchcock employed sound to make audience members leap from their seats in fright or crawl under them from excruciating suspense.

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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. 

1. The first shot of the woman indicates to me that it will be centered around a female.  As the shot tightens to her lips, the actor’s name appears. Since the name is above the lips, it indicates that this will be the love interest of this woman. Moving towards the eyes, the female lead’s name appears.  Here we also see the eyes moving from right to left, indicating a criss-cross and double as used in other Hitchcock films. The shot then moves to the woman’s eye and the color is changed to red as the title appears.  This is a definite indication that there will be death or blood concerning the lead characters.  As the spirals start, it is reflective of the title: Vertigo; however, we don’t know in what way the vertigo will present itself.  The circles continue through the remainder of the titles and each circle comes out of the previous one and it ends with going back into the eye. Most of them give the illusion of an eye, which is a central theme of the film because of the obsession of how she looks.

2.    In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. To me, the single most powerful look is when the black and white changes to red and the eye opens wider when the title comes out of the pupil and leaves the screen and the circle starts.  It gives so many clues as to what the movie will be about:  vertigo, death or blood, and mental illness or obsession.

 

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 music and images are synchronized completely.  It is a tune that gives the illusion of being off balance and a lack of equilibrium.  It reminds me of a tune that would be used to hypnotize people.  Another musical score would not work hand-in-hand with the images. It is perfection.

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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. Even if one has not seen the film, the title "Vertigo", by its definition, already communicates that the film will somehow be about 'verticality', dizziness, a spinning sensation and probably a fear of heights.  The film, of course, delivers on all points.  The Lissajous figures are a great choice, as their design is 'spun' in the colors that will perpetuate in the film, and they spin themselves in the blackness of the background.  I like Saul Bass' minimalist design on the black background, like floating in an endless, nightmarish space.  The typeface Bass uses also reminds me of faces used in eye charts, as the title sequence opens on extreme closeups of an eye.
  2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. The extreme closeups of the face, panning from mouth to eyes and lingering on the right eye of the model.  This personally makes me a bit uneasy, being this close to one of the most expressive points of a human face, looking into the blackness of the pupil, from which the title of the movie, the spiral graphics and the director's credits emerge.  
  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 reactions of the models face and certain points of the transitions in the spiral graphics coordinate beautifully with transitions and crescendos in the music.  Herrmann alternates from grand brass and full orchestration during spinning graphics to a simple harp repeating the theme, during which Bass stops the spiraling and shows static graphics -- shown smaller as well, as if lost souls just floating in space.

Additional observations -- I have read where a main theme of the music, the two-note high to low, is reminiscent of the fog horns sounding in San Francisco bay.  This motif is accompanied by a series of triplets, alternating from low to high to high to low notes.  Accordingly, Bass' graphics alternate to fading away from view to zooming in to view.  The loud blasts of brass followed by the simple triplets of a harp in the blackness are particularly powerful.  A simple, beautiful sequence, I can't watch it enough.  A great piece of entertainment on its own.

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The movie is about fear from what is focused in the sounds and images. The most powerful image is the eyeball because it shows calmness and then it being paranoid or afraid. Bass's images and Herrmann's score work together beautifully. The score sounds thrilling along with the great images that fit well.

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It's difficult to see this sequence with fresh eyes, having viewed the film numerous times. But feigning amnesia, I would have to say that, from the title art and opening music, I expect to be dizzied and confused; and I am not disappointed.

 

Most relevant comment in this course so far: the fact that Vertigo is perceived quite differently as one ages. As a college and graduate film student in my 20's, I saw this film as "artsy-fartsy" and didn't really "get" the themes. Forty years later, Scotty's psychological foibles are not so foreign to me. But it's still frustrating at hell, now as then, that he doesn't drop the whole dumb Madeleine thing, and just cuddle up with adorable Barbara Bel Geddes.....

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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’s hard to divorce my answer from my multiple viewings of this movie, but I’m trying to recapture my feelings from the first time that I saw it. The music is eerie, but the images are even more unsettling. You know that something ominous is coming.

2.    In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. There is a moment in the series of whirling, changing images when one appears that is turning left to right instead of right to left. It is the only one to do so. When I see that, I have to close my eyes to escape the nauseous physical response. If anyone has never experienced vertigo, that image gives you a personal introduction.

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 cadence of the musical score stays even and almost soothing underneath the stab of discordant notes that accompany the more jarring images. It’s hard to imagine another score, but the images would be lost in a less dream-like auditory experience. It’s important that this score be almost tuneless. You aren’t going to walk away whistling this one

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1. The atmosphere established is eerie and evocative of a journey through the unknown. The camera takes us on this journey, beginning with the visible means of sensual perception--eye and mouth--and slowly works its way inward through the pupil of the eye to the intangible subjective world of the mind as expressed through mutating graphics. The music echoes the motion of the spiral and it is the shape of the eye from which all patterns emerge.

 

2. Definitely the close-up of Novak's eye with the the graphic spiral seemingly emerging from her pupil. It is a visual manifestation of "the mind's eye" which is at the heart of the movie's subject. This image brings the realistic (photographed human eye) and subjective worlds together to evoke the distorted perception and depersonalizing effects of vertigo.

 

3. They work seamlessly together to add an emotional dimension to the haunting, rotating, and repetitive rhythm of the spiral. I began answering these questions before watching the daily lecture video; when Prof. Edwards pointed out the hypnotic effect of the introduction I yelled out "of course!!". Why wasn't I seeing that before? Guess I was too busy being hypnotized ;)

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1. The music is scary and repetitive and is synced to the spirals. She seems afraid.

 

 

 

2. Kim Novak eyes darting from side to side. This is giving me the notion that she is uneasy. Maybe even paranoid. She is not in a normal state of mind.

 

3. The music and the title sequence works seamlessly together. The repetitive music and spirals are evoking an uneasy, not in control sort of feeling. The character will be on an unending journey that may never stop.

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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.

If I had not seen the movie & just watched this opening, I believe I would think (also due to the film title) that it was a psychologically-oriented movie, a psychological drama, if not a thriller.  The music intimates the same thing.  I might wonder by it showing the face & focusing in on the eye then the spiral pattern if it could be about a person who sort-of goes crazy. 

 

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

For me, I would say it is when the picture of the eye turns all red and then the first spiral pattern appears there.  It is powerful because it is the first glimpse of color then dizzying spirals originating in the eye.  It also resembles a hypnotism taking place. 

 

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

Each one works with the other to support the idea of someone's psychological state and will-it or won't-it fall apart?  It feels like a kind of psychological journey will take place, at least.  The symphonic music tends to sound ominous, foreboding.  Without it, it might not feel as heavy and foreshadowing of the horrors to come. 

 

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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 visuals and the music evoke a sense of mystery and dread. I like the word Bass himself uses: unsettledness. The music has a certain cyclic and repetitive rhythm to it that is consonous with the spirals in the visuals. The title sequence tells you from the get-go that this will be a tense, psychological thriller.

 

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

 

The moment I find more powerful is the closeup on the eyes, how the model is trying not to blink, particularly the moment the screen turns red and the eye opens wider. I think it's a way to convey the essence of unsettledness that Bass speaks of, maybe the insomnia he experiments during the film, or perhaps that you have to keep your eyes open to not lose yourself.

 

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

 

Like I said in the first question, I think the cyclic and repetitive rhythm of the music goes perfect with the spiraling. Herrmann goes crescendo in certain moments to instill that tension and dread. It's tough to figure out how another composer would've handled this sequence, but I think Herrmann works perfectly.

 

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Adding a bit more thoughts to this... up to this point, we've said repeatedly how Hitchcock liked to instill humor in his films, and how he and many critics consider his films as "dark comedy" above anything else. However, I don't think that's true of Vertigo. One of the films that I like more about the film is how dark and tragic is. There's few, if any, hints of comedy/humor here.

 

I've read arguments of critics and audiences stating that this film was an attempt of Hitchcock to be considered as a "serious" artist as opposed to a populist. What do you all think? Does any of his previous films have a similar, dark tone? The Wrong Man maybe?

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Vertigo is easily in my top three Hitchcock films (along with Rear Window and North by Northwest) this opening title sequence sets up the film nicely. As stated in the lecture video it helps to create the fever dream experience of the film -- Bass' trance inducing visual design combined with Hermann's tense sound design create a strange reality for the viewer both calm and anxious at once.

 

As the viewer begins to be lulled into this fever dream, as the viewer focuses on Kim Novak's eye, with the score screeching in the background, the first of computer generated spirographs appears, almost as if created by the subconscious -- an excellent metaphor for Scottie's actions throughout the film. 

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