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Vertigo - Title Sequence Analysis (LO1 examples)

Tips and examples as to how to analyse and apply theory for LO1

Scott Hayden

on 17 October 2016

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Transcript of Vertigo - Title Sequence Analysis (LO1 examples)

The purpose of an opening title sequence is to establish the mood and visual character of a film, to introduce the viewer to all or some of the following elements:

Visual style
The opening sequence of Vertigo sets up an atmosphere of anxiety and very importantly of suspense, as one of the central characters is literally left suspended in mid-air.

The chase sequence ends with Scottie being left suspended at a great height with a fear of impending doom and a realisation that he is powerless.
The score was composed by Bernard Herrman

“Hitchcock's film is about obsession, which means that it's about circling back to the same moment, again and again ... And the music is also built around spirals and circles, fulfilment and despair. Herrmann really understood what Hitchcock was going for — he wanted to penetrate to the heart of obsession.”

Martin Scorsese (Sight & Sound, Sept 04)
Scorsese also said that the opening title sequence successfully set the mood of the overall film, as well as the visual style.

It introduces themes of suspense, identity and obsession

It introduces the use of generic conventions such as:

Vulnerable female
Objectification of women
A flawed male lead
Themes of voyeurism
Notions of looking
A mise-en-scene that echoes the characters state of mind
The theme of unstable identity and the internal workings of the mind

These are central to the narrative of Vertigo
A shift in the mood – linked to the score

Introduction of theme of identity
confirms the sub-genre of the film
This scene introduces some more key conventions of the thriller genre: anxiety, paranoia and the notion of looking.

Being watched and being seen watching someone else are also conventions of thrillers
The female character is clearly on edge and not comfortable with the viewers scrutiny
Her lips twitch nervously, introducing anxiety and a close examination of the character’s physical appearance as integral themes.
This opening sequence is in two parts

Part One is a mixture of live action and graphics, which were designed by Saul Bass, it introduces the character of Madeleine, played by Kim Novak

Part Two is live action, it is the beginning of the narrative of the film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It introduces John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson, played by James Stewart.
The series of graphical geometric shapes appear to come from a distance and then fill the screen, when one disappears another takes its place
This can be seen as a visual metaphor for the complex layers of a person’s identity, for Madeleine’s hairstyle, for dizziness and for falling
Introduces the character of James ‘Scottie’ Ferguson and his fatal flaw

Also introduces the location – San Francisco

Scottie’s vertigo dis-empowers him and is used by the antagonist to draw him into the concealment of a terrible crime
Part Two – Live Action
Designed by Saul Bass

He is considered by many to be a pioneer of modern title design

Bass’ style was unique and iconic
Part One - Live action & graphics
The Opening Sequence
(1958, Hitchcock)


In pairs you will now take a camera and record one another discussing the following about one of YOUR film examples.

How is the mood/ visual character established by the Director?
How does the mise-en-scene (location, lighting, set design, costume) tell the story to the audience?

Identify and explain with examples and terminology.

If you would rather write your response as a Google Doc or record it as an Audio Podcast that is fine as well.
To document evidence of your understanding of visual story-telling as practice for your upcoming project

Post an Announcement in the new FILM JOURNALIST Classroom

Include an image or video to a film you would like analyse

Identify and explain the connotations (cultural meanings/ associations) of the title of a film you would like to analyse for U26 LO1?

Apply Levi-Strauss binary opposition theory...

Who are the protagonist/ antagonist in your film example/s?

What other oppositions are there?

Add as another comment to your Announcement
Lecture re-cap

Tweet using #bcotfilm

In your first Film Studies assignment I want you to demonstrate analysis
WHY has the Director made these choices?
WHAT techniques are used and why they are effective
HOW does it effect the audience?
Metaphor - the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another

What are the themes of the film you are looking at?

Add as another comment
•Apply subject terminology in an analysis of the ‘Vertigo’ Title Sequence

•Work to a deadline to create a title sequence for a college-based drama or comedy

•Review and summarise personal progress on Twitter and demonstrated independent target setting on eILP

Create an Opening Title Sequence for a College based drama OR comedy

30 seconds long (minimum)
Introduce at least 3 characters
Include a Title card
Use existing music
Include a character catchphrase (if comedy)
Include a rivalry (if drama)

Upload finished video to YouTube and post in Google Classroom


Please share great Film or TV title sequences in Classroom as a post
We will be analysing the content of a title sequence

What are the conventions (genre norms) of the genre of a film you shared?

Please add as a Comment under your Announcement
Full transcript