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March 1998, Week 4


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Kenneth Mogg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Sat, 21 Mar 1998 17:38:36 +1100
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David Miller wrote:
> Would VIRTIGO qualify as a mind-bending film of Hitchcock?
David, the original inquiry was about films 'that use the idea of the
main character ... not know[ing] who he/she is or whether or not events
[in the narrative] ... are actually happening to them or are symptoms of
insanity, brainwashing, etc.'  Consequently, I questioned Renee's
suggestion of 'several Hitchcock films' because though SPELLBOUND -
perhaps the most obvious candidate - is about amnesia, it is hardly
about 'mind-bending'.  Nor is PSYCHO, though of course Norman Bates
decidedly 'isn't quite himself today', as we find at the climax.
As for VERTIGO, that's an interesting one.  In a lengthy article on that
film's 'sources' (in 'MacGuffin' 11), I once described it in terms of
'big lie' films, with several precedents in French cinema (e.g., LE
GRAND JEU - two versions).  To the extent that Gavin Elster exploits
Scottie's sense of weakness, and even instructs accomplices to play on,
or up to, that weakness (as in the McKittrick Hotel and Muir Woods/Big
Basin episodes), there is an attempt made to make Scottie behave in
non-rational ways.  So, yes, VERTIGO may indeed be called a
'mind-bending' film.
A couple of perhaps more obvious examples, by other filmmakers, might be
GASLIGHT (any version) and 36 HOURS (in the latter, James Garner is
kidnapped by the Germans who attempt to convince him that he's been in a
coma for six years, and that the War is over, so that it's okay to tell
them what he knows of the D-Day invasion plans ...).
- Ken Mogg (Ed., 'The MacGuffin').
Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite