Tips for Thought

Analyzing the Underlying Lessons in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 psychological thriller, “Vertigo,” is hailed as one of the most profound creations in the world of cinema. The movie’s intricate plot, combined with its thematic depth and striking visuals, makes it a rich ground for analysis and discussion. This article aims to delve into the core of “Vertigo,” extracting the underlying lessons and philosophies embedded within its narrative, and providing a balanced discourse on how these elements can be perceived from different viewpoints.


Before we embark on dissecting the lessons encapsulated in “Vertigo,” let us revisit the storyline. The movie revolves around a retired San Francisco police detective suffering from acrophobia, Scottie Ferguson, portrayed by James Stewart. Scottie is hired to follow the wife of an acquaintance to uncover the mystery of her peculiar behavior. As Scottie spirals deeper into this enigmatic task, he finds himself entangled in a complex web of deceit, obsession, and identity crisis.

Lesson 1: The Perils of Obsession

“Vertigo” vividly illustrates the dangers of obsession, a theme that is deeply woven into Scottie’s interactions with Madeleine Elster, played by Kim Novak. His obsession with her not only clouds his judgment but also drives him to lose his identity. The endless cycle of Scottie attempting to mold Judy into the image of Madeleine is a clear representation of how obsession can engulf a person to the point of losing their touch with reality.

On one hand, the movie paints obsession as a destructive force, driving individuals to the brink of madness and despair. Conversely, one could argue that Scottie’s obsession is a portrayal of deep-seated love and an intense form of attachment that is both alluring and haunting.

Lesson 2: The Complexity of Human Identity

“Vertigo” also explores the multifaceted nature of human identity. The character of Judy Barton represents the duality of human existence. Throughout the film, Judy grapples with her identity, torn between being Madeleine and being herself. This complex representation of identity hints at the fluidity and the often convoluted layers that constitute a person’s identity.

From one perspective, the movie may be seen as a critique of the societal pressures that often force individuals to conform to certain standards, ultimately leading them to lose their true selves in the process. Alternatively, it demonstrates the inherent complexities in understanding human nature, depicting how identities can be shaped, reshaped, and even fabricated.

Lesson 3: The Inescapability of the Past

“Vertigo” seems to suggest that the past is an ever-present force, continually influencing the actions and behaviors of individuals. The movie portrays characters trapped in a cycle of past events, unable to break free from the grip of their history.

While the movie showcases the detrimental effects of being bound by the past, with characters like Scottie being haunted by traumatic experiences, it also subtly hints at the possibility of redemption and transformation. It opens up a discourse on the human capacity to heal and grow, albeit through harsh and painful revelations.

Lesson 4: The Subjectivity of Reality

Lastly, “Vertigo” touches upon the subjectivity of reality, an overarching theme that encompasses the entire narrative. The film engages viewers in a cerebral discourse, questioning the veracity of perceived reality. The layers of deceit and manipulation evident in the plot underline the frailty of human perception.

On one hand, “Vertigo” showcases the vulnerability of humans in discerning truth from illusion, emphasizing the intricate webs of deception that can distort reality. On the other hand, it serves as a commentary on the flexibility of human consciousness, hinting at the potential for individuals to shape their reality, albeit at a significant moral and ethical cost.


“Vertigo,” with its rich thematic tapestry, offers viewers a deep insight into the intricacies of human nature and the complexities of the world we inhabit. The lessons derived from the movie serve as a mirror reflecting the multi-faceted aspects of human existence. From understanding the destructive nature of obsession to grappling with the fluidity of identity, from the lingering influence of the past to the ever-changing perception of reality, “Vertigo” stands as a timeless classic that continues to provoke thought and discussion.

As viewers, we are urged to delve deeper, to question, and to perceive the narrative from various angles, allowing us to form a holistic understanding that transcends the boundaries of conventional cinema. The movie, thus, not only serves as an entertaining watch but also as a profound philosophical exploration, inviting us to reflect upon the deeper aspects of life and human nature.

Watch the movie on Amazon Prime Video.