Monday, October 9, 2017

Vertigo and Fetishism

Hitchcock’s Vertigo is an essay in fetishism and it inadvertently and profoundly deals with some of the roots of the paraphilia. Scottie, the retired cop played by James Stewart is basically looking for a character who doesn’t exist. It's this impulse that has made some scholars compare the movie to Shakespeare plays like Winter’s Tale in which resurrection is the theme. Among the prototypes of impossibilty Oedipal wishes obviously loom high. But the method Hitchcock's character uses to accomplish his Sisyphean and feckless task is adornment. In one of the film’s central scenes Scottie attempts to dress up the unsophisticated Kansas born Judy Barton (Kim Novak) and turn her into the character that had been created as part of a crime, a phantom whose death he mistakenly thinks he's mourning. Scottie literally becomes a “dresser” as he attends to the coiffeur, fashion and cosmetics of his mannequin. He's parenthetically a paradigm of the director as well as a fashionista. Like his creator he's perpetually blocking his scenes.Though she's plainly thrilled by what's happening, Judy also blanches at being loved for something that she’s not. Hitchcock himself also toyed with the notion of dressing up in Psycho, but the desire to Pygmalionize is all more chilling since it's such a common element in many human relationships. People frequently and to varying degrees try to make their significant others hone more closely to the image of the thing they think they have always wanted. Sometimes this even involves body parts and medical procedures like penis and breast enhancement and rhino or vaginoplasty. When it becomes obsessional, with the object of affection becoming merely a clothes horse, as Judy was in the film, the price to be paid for the fantasy is the kind of Soul Murder described by the psychoanalyst Leonard Shengold and symbolized at the end of Vertigo by Judy’s tragic end.

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