Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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1. I get the feeling that the movie is going to be about fear and a sense of helplessness.

2. The eyes. The main reason is that eyes can show one's emotion right off the bat, and in this case, we see the actress is uncomfortable and nervous, especially when her eyes start moving left and right quickly.

3. Saul Bass' title sequence and Bernard Herrmann's score practically go hand in hand in that they both give the feeling of being unsettled, fearful, and distraught. 

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1. Sounds and images in these opening credits as a story: 

If you only watched the opening sequence you might think the story was about hypnosis, mind control, or psychoanalysis.

 

2. The single most powerful image in this title sequence? 

When the B&W eye image turns to red, then the eye becomes the spiral motif. Reinforces the hypnotic elements of the entire sequence.

 

 

3. Images and score working together:

 

The score has a repetitious quality that is hypnotic, working nicely with the hypnotic graphics of the sequence. There are dark notes juxtaposed with whimsical notes that presuppose 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. 

The woman’s face makes me think of obsession. When it turns red, I can think of tragedy, doom. When the spirals come to the screen, I think about falling, being trapped, entering a labyrinth. From then on, I only feel dizzy, like I’m falling into a pit without the chance of saving myself.

 

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

The eye turning red. It is a surprise to see a regular eye turning blood red, and then the title coming from inside the eye. Then we enter the eye, with all the spiraling going on inside the woman’s mind. I see it as a sign of tragedy, as if the story between the characters was doomed from the very start – from the title itself.

 

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 itself is hypnotic. Before we see any image, when all we have are the black and white logos, we already have a hypnotic feel. We can hear a “spiral” thing in the score: it goes on and on, again and again. It’s repetition, but it is effective.

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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. 

 

To me it is communicating with the music a much darker tone for the film and the eye images almost seem to evoke that someone sees of views something frightening.

 

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

 

​I would defiantly say the eye close up.  The music and spirals making a hallucinogenic effect, but the eye I find most powerful an image.

 

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

 

 

They honestly fit like a glove.  I don't know how they worked on it, but the titles and music really work together.  I love that Bernard Herrmann's scores are very distinct, I think they set the tone for the films in a cool way.  

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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.

 

From the extreme closeups of Kim Novak's face at the beginning, two words emerge for me, sex and obsession. Then as we move to her eye and the filter turns red, and I get the sense of danger. When the swirl appears, I think that about there being something mysterious behind the eyes in the mind. The swirls seem both organic and artificial at the same time, like there is something going on in the mind that is impossible to understand.

 

 

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

 

My first inclination is to say the eye, but the eye is not a single image but an amalgamation of multiple effects and images, so that seems to be cheating. There a lot of tricks going on with the eye that take you through a number of thoughts and emotions. I would say the white swirl that appears with Edited by George Tomasini credit is the most powerful single image because it looks vaguely like an eye and hearkens back to all that was going on with the eye the first time.

 

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 don't see anyone else doing the score as well as Bernard Herrmann here. I never really thought about this before but, it seems that most classic film scores, create music to support the action, there is emotion there too, but that seems secondary. With Bernard Herrmann at his best (in particular, Vertigo and Psycho), it almost seems like it is the other way around. The emotion is primary and the action is secondary.

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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 music immediately conveys to me that this is an "otherworldly" film - on the order of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. The repeating flute sequence puts the audience on guard because we are about to plunge into the unknown. The close up of the various parts of the face convey a psychological thriller. The mood is unrest, discomfort, and a mesmerizing or hypnotic experience.

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

    I'd say the most powerful image is the Lissajous figures because you can't take your eyes off them. When at the end of the sequence you see it in the eye of Kim Novak, then her eye opens wide, you know you're in for one heck of a ride.

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

    There's something symbiotic between Herrmann's score and the rhythm of the Lissajous figures revolving. It's mesmerizing and suspenseful because of the length of time they revolve with the repeating musical sequence. It's almost telling us to stay calm, but we know better!

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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. Both the sound and images gives the impression of troubled uneasiness. The music reminds me of Sci-fi films and the feeling of the unknown about to be revealed.  Will it be threatening or an instance of beneficial revelation?  The swirling images contribute to the uneasiness.

     

  2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.  The close-up of the eye, opened wide with pin-point iris', and bathed in red, enhances the image of volatility.  The spiral originating within the eye could give the viewer some sense of vertigo.

 

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 music score are in sync. They play off of each other and create an unsettled edginess. A different score would've probably destroyed the whole effect.

 

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1. From the opening, you gather that the film is about swirling passion over a woman and the tricks that go on inside a person's head. It's a heavy trip, like they would have said 10 years after this film was released.

2. The deep penetration into Kim Novak's eye and the hurricane-looking spiral. Very indicative of stormy passion and destructiveness.

3. The images and score are a perfect combination. It is hard to imagine or appreciate one without the other. And if either element was paired with something else, I don't think that it would work.

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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. 
  2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.
  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 extreme closeup of the woman's face is uncomfortable and unsettling. Combined with the score, which is both intoxicating and jarring, you get the sense that something frightening will occur. The Lissajous figures are fascinating but I felt myself afraid to stare at them too deeply for fear that I would be lost in them. The overwhelming feeling i get from the opening sequence is unease. 

 

The single most powerful image in the sequence is the closeup of the woman's eye, particularly at the moment when it widens in fear. The hypnotic spiral figures have a quieting, lulling effect but the eye, combined with the loud, jarring parts of the music knock you out of that pretty quickly. It feels too intimate. It's an invasion of space and privacy for the audience to see her so closely, when the eye widens and she seems to flinch, we feel violated with her. It's visceral.

 

I think the score and the titles work brilliantly together. It's hard to imagine them separate from one another. They each support the other's artistic purpose. The images alone, if set to a more upbeat and lighter score might not seem so intense and frightening. The score without the images/titles would only be vaguely ominous but would not hint at the psychological aspects of the story.

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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. 

 

It makes you think the film is going to be about mystery and people lost in their own mind or running in circles without figuring out what really is going on at the time.  Though the beginning shot on the female and the end shot on her, leads one to think the film will be about her losing her own mind in an unease and mystery setting. 

 

 

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

 

The swirls leading in and out of the female's eyes.  It is this image that focuses on her over another character or story idea. It also leads into her and out of her which gives off the idea her mind is at risk in this story.  

 

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

 

It wouldn't work without this score or something similar to it.  The music picks up volume and loses it like the swirling drawings. There are notes that sound like a finger sliding up and down the violin while the bow continues on the same string, though it could be a different musical instrument being played. This helps to add to the unease of the opening 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. 

 

From this sequence, it appears to be about a woman, and the inner workings of her mind.  Turmoil.  Things may not be as they appear to be.  There is a definite sense of unease.  This scene also gives me the feeling that time is fluid here.  

 

 

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

 

The blue one that does not swirl, but gets larger as it comes closer to the viewer.  All the imagery is eye related, but this one stands out to me.  It reminds me of when someone gives you the evil eye.  Slightly squinted.  Cold.  There is a sinister feel to it.

 

 

 

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.  Both the images and the music convey the hallucinogenic feel of the film.  They are in sync.  

I'm sure another score could be written that would also be effective.  But there are few that could achieve what Herrmann's score has.

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Watching and listening to the title sequence of Vertigo, I'm left with a moody, haunting feeling. Something certainly goes awry in this film. There's danger and discomfort. This is perhaps most apparent to me in the visual of the extreme close-up of the eye as the frame tints red, the film's title emerges from the eye, and Herrmann's fright-inducing score hits a climax. There's something uncomfortable about an eye; pair that with the color of danger and you have me prepared to watch a film that I'll be thinking about for a long time--for better or worse.

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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. 

 

Psychological Thriller.  The music with the strings creates a dizzyingly atmosphere, really a prototype for movies that have been more recent.  (ok, looking up the title opening for Scorsese's Cape Fear for reference, I learn it was designed by.....Saul Bass, music by....Bernard Herrmann in the original with Robert Mitchum)  Visually move away from realism to an abstract montage of images.

 

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

 

The close up of the woman.  So extreme that you can't see the whole face.  As the camera pans across the face, you see all the details, but not the face as whole, the expression "can't see the forest for the trees" comes to mind.  You can't get the whole picture as you look too closely at the details, like obsession, Scottie's obsession.

 

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

 

Layering of sight and sound.  I have noticed that some of Hitch's earlier opening music over the credits, like in Shadow of Doubt, have been lighter than one would think, considering the music to Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest.  The spiraling graphics (a visual reference to vertigo) foreshadow the staircase used later in the movie, which compliment the dizzying music.

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Simply from the sounds and images in the opening credits, I feel sure that something terrible is going to happen. The music is eery and with moments that stir a feeling of dread and the doot doot doot doot doot doot of a single instrument maybe a flute, I am not musical myself, actually sounds like a circular motion. The visuals that make you feel you are entering the mind from a woman's iris, leaves me feeling off center and uncomfortable as I have experienced the feeling of vertigo, a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height myself many times. I am not afraid of heights, but I am afraid and feel like I will fall when at places like Starved Rock, Illinois where the cliffs do not have railings to prevent falls. I do not like escalators and the music along with the spiral computer images gives me that same off feeling. It was very effective in communicating with me in the audience and probably resonates with others like me all too well.

 

The single most powerful image in this sequence is when the computer spirals emerge from red filtered eye, out of the iris, it feels like you are entering through that spiral into a person's mind.

 

The images bind together to give that spiral illusion with music and then adding the actual computer generated spirals complete the mission to make the audience feel the title Vertigo.

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Daily Dose #15 Vertigo. 

 

1.  From just the credits, I am expecting a psychological thriller, a mystery, a mind game of a movie. Something that will make my heart pound.

 

2.  For me the single most powerful image in the credits is the initial image of the woman's eye and seeing a spiral emerge from the pupil....It sends the message of "psychological chaos)

 

3.  I think the score works to make the credits seem more suspenseful....more indicative that the audience is in for a mystery ride. I am a firm believer in music creating mood. I teach a class to children in acting based on the Ellis Island experience...one of the exercises I developed with them is having them compose letters home as if they were new immigrants to this country. I then have them read the letters out loud....once with no music, then I add sad music and the kids faces get so sad and they interpret the letter as melancholy, then they read the same letter with happy music and they interpret the letter as cheerful. It's a powerful lesson. If these credits had Rogers and Hammerstein music under them there would be a totally different expectation.

 

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1. From the opening title sequence one would think this movie was about obecession with the close ups of the woman face and madness with the spirals swirling out of control.

 

2. The close up of the woman's face as it focuses in on the eye with the spiral. It shows obsessive attention to detail to the point of madness.

 

3. Saul Basses Images and Bernard Hermann's work seemlessly to create an atmosphere of uncertainty in what's really going on and what we are really going to see.

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1. From just the title credits alone- combined with music and visuals- one would think this film is going to be a thriller- eyes, lips, a beautiful woman's eyes looking nervously- that probably has to do with psychological manifestations- the title "Vertigo" is a condition and the spirals support that. The mood and atmosphere are "spiraling out of control" or "weaving a web of deception"

 

2. Woman's eye and the film title growing out of it. The eyes appear to widen (a look of fear perhaps?) and the title comes right out of them in an all encompassing way.

 

3. The music is so calming- save for the heavy BRAAAHHHHHs that come up. This works well with the spirals and title designs- very good timing on them together. This would not be as effective with different music (try inserting Benny Hill theme.. ha ha!), as the Herrmann score puts you at such unease that you know things are going to be uncomfortable in this movie.

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From these opening credits, with the view of a woman, then close-up of her eye, then going into the surreal look with the wash of red color, the "shocked" look in her eye, and then the spirals coming from it, combined with the haunting, mesmerizing score, I would think this is a movie about a fearful woman who is haunted or psychotic and undergoes hypnosis or has hallucinations.

 

The single most powerful image for me is when the eye (already colored red) opens to look "shocked" and then the spirals start coming from it.  I can't seem to get that image out of my head -- those spirals coming out of the eye (with that hypnotic, spiraling music playing)!!

 

The images and music are perfectly coordinated.  They are both edgy, uneasy, creepy, menacing, haunting, and mesmerizing!  I can't imagine this sequence working without the two working together.

 

Note:  After the spirals, when the next images appear, does anyone else think about the Spirograph they played with as a kid?  Those images actually reduce the effect for me (away from creepy, menacing, and fearful) because I enjoyed drawing and coloring with that Spirograph and it wasn't the least bit scary.  When they move away from the circular Spirograph-looking designs to the more irregularly shaped designs, combined with Herrmann's brilliant score, it turns more creepy and haunting again.

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I just went through and read what other people wrote on this Daily Dose and I have to comment on Popcorn97's post.  There is a clip from "Torn Curtain" both with and without Bernard Herrmann's score.  WHY did Hitchcock choose to go without the score?  The scene is powerful either way, but so much more so with the incredible score!  What do other people think?

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From these opening credits, with the view of a woman, then close-up of her eye, then going into the surreal look with the wash of red color, the "shocked" look in her eye, and then the spirals coming from it, combined with the haunting, mesmerizing score, I would think this is a movie about a fearful woman who is haunted or psychotic and undergoes hypnosis or has hallucinations.

 

The single most powerful image for me is when the eye (already colored red) opens to look "shocked" and then the spirals start coming from it.  I can't seem to get that image out of my head -- those spirals coming out of the eye (with that hypnotic, spiraling music playing)!!

 

The images and music are perfectly coordinated.  They are both edgy, uneasy, creepy, menacing, haunting, and mesmerizing!  I can't imagine this sequence working without the two working together.

 

Note:  After the spirals, when the next images appear, does anyone else think about the Spirograph they played with as a kid?  Those images actually reduce the effect for me (away from creepy, menacing, and fearful) because I enjoyed drawing and coloring with that Spirograph and it wasn't the least bit scary.  When they move away from the circular Spirograph-looking designs to the more irregularly shaped designs, combined with Herrmann's brilliant score, it turns more creepy and haunting again.

 

 

To add on, I actually interpreted it as the woman being manipulative and causing fear in others using hypnosis rather than her being the fearful one. 

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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 someone who has experienced vertigo, the changes in the spirals that seemingly are coming towards me or moving away gives me a very real feeling of falling.  As many times as I've seen this film, it's surprising that I've not focused on that feeling before now.  Maybe I have and I just don't remember it.  The jarring music also seems to increase in volume and then fade slightly, until the bass wind section comes in with a thud.  Mystery and some sort of violence are what I expect to see after this opening.

 

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

 

The most powerful image of that opening was the credit, "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock".  It seems to abruptly come straight out of the woman's eye.  The other credits have been shown, and this stands out as it is all by itself.  The eye is in a blood red wash of light.  Very cool.

 

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

 

OMG, these guys are perfect together!  Pure genius.  The music and video seem to weave in and out, not exactly in cadence, but off just enough to be interesting.  It's similar to when you hear an impromptu jazz improvisation.  It is supposed to work you up, not send you sleep.

 

I honestly cannot imagine any other composer doing these titles.  Maybe Tiomkin could do something close, but he's not as innovative as Hermann.  Plus, with Tiomkin, I'd still have High Noon in my head.

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The opening titles are communicating that this is not going to be a straightforward film. There will be questioning of reality on both our part and the characters' parts. It's meant to put us on edge, and it definitely works. The score helps immensely in this area as well. I thought the most powerful image was the word vertigo coming from the woman's eye. Is the woman experiencing vertigo or the cause of it? We aren't sure yet.

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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 automatically feel that the film will be a darker themed film. That there will be danger, suspense, confusion, and I can't wait to dive right in. 

 

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. I think the woven, green figure eight image is the most powerful because at first I can't tell if it is a yin and yang symbol, or a circle, if it is a solid green image, until it gets closer to the screen. As it gets closer, we see that it is in fact a woven figure eight image that at times can look like sickle curved blades and this just adds to the confusion. We aren't sure what we are seeing, as the image gets closer then the view gets clearer but also scarier. 

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? I can't even imagine this film with Herrmann's score. It is at times very creepy and other times very moving and tear-jerking good. The music and it's sinister quality just add to these confusing and powerful images in the opening sequence. 

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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 opening sequence and the musical score on this and the title of course, the one major thing that I think this could be about is heights or something to do with heights.  That or this could be about someone who's life is spinning out of control.  The music makes it sound like someone or something is "dizzying" because of the constant repeats in the music in the higher register of the instruments with the occasionally grounding of the loud chords in the lower registered instruments. 

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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. 

Something unsettling.

 

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

 

The opening sequence of the eyes. They look side to side as if a bit frightened or confused.

 

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 the graphics work well together. The horns give a sense of danger.

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