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A vertiginous gap in reality and a woman who doesn't exist
Author: Joyce Huntjens
 Published: January 2003
Abstract (E): In this paper, the uncanniness of Vertigo is examined in terms of the relation between man (John) and woman (Madeline), of power, and of the gaze. The construction of Madeline reveals that she is not a woman, but John's object-of-desire, she does not exist as such. When the mystery of Madeline is unveiled at the end of the film, she turns out to be an ordinary woman. John is cured from his vertigo, but at the cost of the woman's life, for a real relation turns out to be impossible. Abstract (F): Dans cet article, l' « unheimlich » est analysé de trois points de vue : les rapports homme (John)/femme (Madeline), les rapprts de pouvoir, la notion lacanienne de « regard ». la construction de Madeline montre qu'elle n'est pas une femme, mais l'objet du désir de John, et qu'elle n'existe donc pas en elle-même. Lorsqu'à la fin du film le mystère de Madeline est dévoilé, elle s'avère n'être qu'une femme ordinaire. John est guéri de ses vertiges, mais le prix à payer est la mort de la femme, car pour lui une relation avec une vraie femme n'est pas possible. Keywords: Hitchcock, Vertigo, woman, object-of-desire, Zizek,

One might characterise Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) as a kind of detective story with a tragic-romantic twist, were it not for some objections that can be raised which may reveal another level of interpretation. Why, for instance, does the viewer never learn Elster's motif for killing his wife? Why does Elster pick out the detective John Ferguson to shadow his wife, using the improbable story of his wife being obsessed by the ghost of her grandmother? Why is the killer not tracked down after the final resolution of the ins and outs of the affair? Furthermore, we may wonder why Hitchcock reveals the truth about of Madeline's death and Judy's double identity already halfway through the film, thus rendering the final half of the film very slow and even irrelevant from the perspective of the detective genre. An analysis of the film in terms of the notion of the uncanny, might provide an answer to some of these questions, simply by pointing out the elements that add to the "uncanniness" of Vertigo. Taking Freud's 1919 article on the uncanny as the central point of reference, one would relate the pattern of repetition in the film three times someone dies due to a fall from a great height - to Freud's remarks on the repetition compulsion. Moreover, there is the suggestion of a woman being haunted by the spirit of her deceased great-grandmother. In the second half of the film, finally, we encounter the theme of the doppelganger. All these elements seem to give Vertigo a special atmosphere that perhaps can best be described as uncanny. On closer consideration however, a comparison of the first remarks on the detective genre with the latter on the uncanny, may give rise to some doubt concerning the traditional motifs of the uncanny. Indeed, as I hope to demonstrate in my analysis, the uncanny in Vertigo resides in another category than the obvious, superficial characteristics mentioned above. We will submit the film to a "close viewing", in order to track down the specificity of the uncanny in this film, i.e., we will stick to the chronology of the film, as this also seems to be the order in which Vertigo reveals its covert meaning.

1. The perspective

her point of view hardly amounts to more than a marginal moment within the overall perspective of the film. when he stretches toward the suspended man. In the shots of John. the temptation to let go and to surrender to the fall becomes almost indistinguishable from the fear of death. while at the same time being tempted by the call of depth. standing on her desk. suggesting some critical distance. 2. a hand clutching to the bar. will be the main character of the story. Apparently we find ourselves in the middle of a pursuit across the rooftops of San Francisco. What happens to a person in this instant? It is a widely acknowledged fact that one is subject to an immense fear of falling. Only after Madeline's death and John's encounter with Judy. (Wood: 375) The shots of Midge are characterised by the presence of a revolutionary new bra. the gaze of the viewer coincides with that of the man in the grey suit. Still. After the opening sequence. whom we will get to know as John Ferguson. we still get an occasional shot from the perspective of John's friend Midge. there are only three shots in which we can see John and Midge together. The famous shot of John's vertigo is the most crucial moment in the opening sequence of the film. an old friend. the viewer will be confined to John's view. This may be what flashes through John's mind when he is suspended from a gutter high above the street. Through subjective shots. . However. Suddenly. he grabs hold of the gutter and finds himself suspended high above the street. In the first half of the film. John's subjective perspective through not only determinates the development of the story. which brings us to the actual experience of vertigo. One could say that each is confined to their own space: one masculine and the other feminine. Next. the police officer slips and falls to his death. When the man in the grey suit slips. Here. In the opening sequence it becomes clear that the subjective experience of John Ferguson will determine the rest of the story. makes us realise that we are in fact looking at a steel bar. he is emphatically shown waving and gesticulating with his stick. Subsequently. but soon. it also holds the clue to the uncanny aspect of Vertigo. For the main part of the film. we see how the police officer turns to him (to us as it were) to offer his hand. Attentive viewers have already pointed out that this part of the movie consists of many shots that are designed to keep Midge and John from appearing but rarely within the same frame. The difficult communication between the sexes We never find out how John is rescued. We see through his eyes the yawning abyss to the street far below him. we see a man running across a roof followed by a police officer and by a man in a grey suit. It effectively illustrates the captivating attraction of the depth below. Ultimately. As it will turn out. whom John as a student was once engaged to for a couple of weeks. The subjective shots from the point of view of the suspended man lead us to presume correctly that this man. we hear John say that he will be freed from his corset the following day and that he has resigned from the police force. there is some room for another perspective. the viewer is entirely wrapped up in John's experience.The film opens with a rather abstract shot of a steel bar against a blurry background. In this rare experience. The confrontation with his own death drive will frighten and fascinate him for the rest of the film. the story instantly shifts to the apartment of Midge.

there is the scene in which Midge explains the revolutionary bra on her desk to John with the words "You know about these things. In this scene. it becomes clear that Midge is seriously interested in John. he accidentally glances out of the window of the apartment building. he falls straight into Midges arms. she treats him as a mother. but she is not endowed with the mysticism that makes Madeline so attractive to John. Comfortingly. like a mother. while at the same time warning him to be careful and to take it easy. In the course of the film. Male identity John's first words in this film are that he will be at liberty tomorrow . This is indicated earlier on in the conversation. her embrace is clearly that of a concerned and caring mother. she overtly takes on a motherly role towards John. Secondly. The second scene in which they appear together in one shot is the one in which John suggests he might try and overcome his vertigo by first learning to climb a small stepladder again. when John tells her "Don't be so motherly". the impossible relation between man and woman. Midge is far too independent for John. The montage of this part of the film in fact already tells us something about the theme of the film. In this last shot in which John and Midge are seen together. 3. or at least between John and a woman. If John is not attracted to Midge because she so overtly takes on the role of his mother.liberated . First of all.
 As Wood explains in Hitchcock's Films Revisited. This is emphasised especially in her last appearance in the film. Overcome with dizziness. Midge encourages him by actually getting the ladder for him. when she visits him at the hospital where he is taken in after his nervous breakdown following Madeline's suicide. this may be due to the fact that this kind of relationship reminds him too much of his dependence. Deeply disappointed Midge walks out of the hospital and out of the story. she tells him "Mother is here". In addition. it becomes clear that Midge does not quite posses the mystery and veiled eroticism to seduce John. trying to give confidence to her child. You're a big boy now". When John is standing on top of the small steps. the scenes in which both characters are present emphasise the misunderstandings in their attempt to communicate. but John does not react. First.

the story shifts to Elster's office. Midge calls him Johnny-o and John-o. consulted by John on his search for Carlotta Valdes. (Wood: 383) People not only call him John. that is.from his corset. a stark contrast between the wealthy and powerful Elster and the unemployed and handicapped John Ferguson is installed. Although John reacts sceptically at first. it prevents him from rescuing the woman of his dreams. each time with reference to the power and freedom of men. There are several indications that John desperately tries to conform to this image of potent masculinity. About halfway through this remark. The bookseller's comment is: "Men had the power and the freedom in those days". After the conversation in Midge's apartment. overlooking an impressive shipyard. more specifically even. references to freedom and power are again emphatically related to male identity. In this sequence. He also refers to himself as "available Ferguson". the restaurant where John will see Madeline for the very first time. But then. who later on dumped her mercilessly and took her child away from her. the camera switches from John in front of the painting to Elster in front of the window of his office. When John asks who this might be. the handicap of his vertigo not just makes him unfit for his job. let us return to the chronology of the film. the words "freedom" and "power" are used in relation to each other and they return several times. he is eventually persuaded to follow Madeline for a while in order to learn more about her daily routine. when John jeers at Judy for her nave involvement with Elster. We see John admiring a painting of San Francisco in "the good old days" while Elster is telling him about the power and freedom of men in those days. the great-grandmother with whom Madeline is obsessed. but also Scottie. He ridicules her by suggesting that Elster probably dumped her after the murder "with all that money and that freedom and that power". In addition. Carlotta was picked up from a cabaret by a wealthy man. Elster turns out to have married his way into "the shipbuilding-industry". as the variety of nicknames he receives throughout the film suggests. The conversation swiftly moves on to Elster's wife Madeline. Thus. John's identity and masculinity are by no means as stable as he would wish them to be. Eventually John consents and the film cuts to Ernie's. 4. Throughout the film. Elster ominously answers "Someone dead". in which we have learned that John has been invited by an old friend from university. Elster is worried that someone might hurt her. (Wood: 380) This ancient male privilege is confirmed by the owner of the bookstore. Holding this thought. the power and freedom of men to dispose of their wives whenever it suits them. This is perhaps most clear at the very end of the movie. Woman as an object of art .

John follows Madeline. she is completely inaccessible as a human being. As a work of art Madeline is on the one
 hand easily accessible. Later on. The equation of Madeline to a work of art also reveals her true nature. our first encounter with Madeline may already lead to the conclusion that one side of the story is missing. But this is something John is too blind to see. because she is passive and an object of the male gaze. Thus presented. unless a very perverse one. (Wood: 384) One cannot have a love affair with a work of art. Gradually. the ominous undertones of their encounter come to the fore. the profile shot will gain significance. on the other hand. when it is explicitly related to Carlotta Valdes' portrait in the museum that Madeline visits during her vagaries.
 What is striking about the scene of John's first encounter with Madeline is the way in which she is presented to the audience and to John: by means of an explicit profile. which makes her appear like a work of art. Madeline is followed into all sorts . The next day. so we presume.

This only adds to John's fascination. John pours her a cup of coffee and asks her if she remembers what happened. Also for John this must have been a very erotic moment. Madeline keeps on leading John to dark places. which cannot be a good sign. This is repeated by a zoom-in on Madeline's hairstyle followed by a zoom-in on Carlotta's hairstyle. and it is striking that she often does this by driving downhill. Of course. she does not. His jump into San Francisco Bay was more than just a jump into the icy water. . the women slowly start to merge into one figure. he cannot resist caressing her hand. The effect of the zoom-in is that the details are overdetermined for John. and an old hotel. after which the sequence cuts to John's apartment. a graveyard.of dark places. This scene is very suggestive and certainly not only for the audience. During the following days. this scene again marks Madeline's appearance as a work of art and it reveals something of her artificiality. thus representing his blindness. A shot of her clothes hanging to dry in the kitchen suggest that John has undressed and dried her before putting her to bed. a dim museum. For the perceptive viewer. In the museum John's fascination for Madeline begins to take shape. This is the closest he will ever get to the object of his desire without breaking the illusion of perfection. a back alley behind a flower shop where she buys roses. who confirms that Carlota Valdes was Madeline's greatgrandmother and that the hotel used to be Carlotta's home. An important change takes place when John follows Madeline to San Francisco Bay where she jumps into the river. it is clear: John is hopelessly lost. John keeps following Madeline and reports to her husband Elster. John jumps after her and rescues her from drowning. While pouring a second cup of coffee. and subsequently on the bouquet that Carlotta Valdes is holding in the painting. The camera zooms in on the bundle of roses she has 
 laid beside her on the bench. By focussing on these details. When Madeline wakes up. We see him spying on her sitting in front of a painting of Carlotta Valdes. Madeline is asleep in bed. For the viewer.

i. the Symbolic Order. In Zizek's words. violins dominate the soundtrack while behind them we can see waves breaking on the cliffs. However. This gap becomes the place for fantasy. This mystery has everything to do with her suicidal tendencies or. who will take the place of the sublimated Thing in this story. John's surrender to the woman of his dreams is complete. the object-of-desire constitutes a gap between the reality of desire and reality as an everyday experience. She is his objectof-desire. this desire is contained as a constitutive moment within a complex system of meanings. Madeline will occupy the place of the Thing in John's perception of the world. why is John so fascinated with Madeline. Lacan and the Thing In his analysis of Vertigo. every desire is a constant longing to return to this primary state of instant gratification of all desires by the mother's breast. What is it that makes her so utterly irresistible to him? First of all. is that she is surrounded with mystery. because it is nothing more than an impossible fantasy. The question is. but at the same time it is nothing. According to Lacan. . At birth. she is a very attractive woman. A difficult but unavoidable task for the growing child is to learn to accept that the world does not function like that. in other words. the object of desire holds a special position within this Symbolic Order. Slavoj Zizek refers to Lacan's theory that sublimation has to do with death. In Vertigo. Considering the abundance of subjective shots in Vertigo. the relation of the subject to the object of desire is by nature unfulfilled. the object starts to function as "the Thing" within the economy of the spectatorsubject. where they confront each other. The Symbolic Order represents the system of meanings that people create to make sense of everyday reality. After their meeting in front of the house. rather than with de-sexualization as is more commonly assumed. Since we are dealing with a desire that cannot be fulfilled. The object of his gaze is Madeline. the subject of the gaze is obviously John Ferguson. she is "materialized Nothingness". a non-existing object (even the ever-present breast of the mother was always already an illusion). The Thing is thus in fact the object-of-desire. as a consequence. This fantasy is in fact the place of the Thing. as Zizek explains in Looking Awry. they drive off together. It is convinced that the mother's breast will always be there at its disposal. more important however. Following Lacan. (Zizek: 83) She will not cease to fascinate until John realises that her essence is one of non-existence. John and Madeline get more and more intimate with each other. or better still.e. The object of desire can never be attained. the infant is unaware of the boundaries between itself and the others. the human drives determine the way in which people generate their everyday relation to the world. (Zizek: 83) When something is sublimated. but this time she leads him to his own house. which eventually leads to a very dramatic kiss that very same afternoon. her death drive. In fact. 5. Desire and the object of desire determine the subject's view of the world..The next day John follows Madeline once more. During the development from infancy to adulthood. As one would expect. with an unattainable.

including . When he is released from hospital it only takes a minute for the viewer to realise that he is not over Madeline. "What may you jump?". This is how he first notices Judy. She consents eventually and when John leaves the room. 7. When John and Madeline go for a walk in the woods the day after she jumped into the bay. We see Judy writing a letter to John explaining everything. Quite obtrusively. which prevents him from following her all the way to the top. In this helpful curiosity lies a link with John's vertigo. when Madeline untangles herself from his embrace and runs to the church in order to jump off the tower. In a flashback we find out that Elster murdered his wife and that Judy really is the woman John fell in love with. the idea that Woman does not exist. it seems as if he is only trying to help Madeline. His identity can also be regarded as doubtful. But let's not run ahead of things. the fact that Madeline wanders is emphasised. because of his vertigo. When John hears about her existence for the first time. Woman is but a symptom of man as subject. He follows her. to the point of hospitalisation. He does this because he believes that there is a rational explanation for everything. the fantasy and the nonexistent object-of-desire. Still. he introduces himself to her and insists that she will have dinner with him. she is pure death drive. he ardently asks her "What was it that made you jump?" Initially. Everywhere he goes. his fear of death is still as great or greater than his death drive. he sees women who look like her and things that remind him of her. (Zizek: 83) This brings us to another piece of Lacanian theory. The becomes clear when John takes his beloved to San Juan Baptista. by trying to rationalise her nightmares and fears. The woman who doesn't exist So far our question has been: why is Madeline so fascinating? Part of the answer lies in John's identification with Madeline. including his own question. This leads to a first identification." As I have pointed out above. He just hangs around. Elster threw his dead wife's body from the tower. nothing more than "materialized Nothingness". John became the perfect witness for Madeline's staged suicide and consequently Elster's perfect alibi. the difference between the two lovers becomes painfully clear. 6. As a result. Elster wonders: "Suddenly I don't know her. According to Zizek. this is also John's main occupation since he left the police force. Moreover. he insists. In Vertigo it becomes painfully clear that Woman does not exist. Judy's inevitable destiny After Madeline's suicide John completely collapses. John himself answers to various names. which becomes total when John is captivated by Madeline's suicide attempt. She is no longer my wife. Woman equals Nothingness. her identity is presented as somehow dubious. The fact that Woman as an ideal object does not exist makes her one with the Thing.This is the point the film will lead to when John discovers that Judy is in fact Madeline. As for John. However. Madeline jumps no matter what. unlike John. Knowing John could never make it to the top of the bell tower. John and Madeline are not completely identical. For instance. but his concern soon turns out to be tainted with interest of a different nature. the viewer for the first time sees the story from a different perspective. What was it in that alluring depth that for a second tempted him to let go? John hopes to find an answer to his own question in Madeline. when Elster talks about his wife in his office. This is the lesson that John will have to learn in order to be cured from his vertigo. this may be explained by the fact that she is.

thus in fact sealing her fate? To what extent does Judy conform to her role of Woman and does she have an alternative to conformation? The answer to this question must be negative. Judy/Madeline breaks down completely. He even makes her change the colour of her hair. the move is an illustration of John's sudden repulsion toward the woman in front of him. A will of her own. how she looks up to see the top of the trees beside the road flash over her head. This confirms the idea that the ideal Woman does not have a will of her own. What follows might as well be the most ominous sequence in the film. one could interpret this zoom-out as John's renewed control over the whole picture. John's obsession with Madeline is daunting. We see Judy sitting next to John in the car. After her complete transformation into Madeline. In the first half of the movie Judy pretends to be Madeline. we may start to wonder how much of Judy already was in Madeline and vice versa. (Wood: 388) Moreover. he rejects the object of his fascination and finds himself cured. expressed by Judy. Does this not mean that Judy was Madeline? Can we blame John for reducing Judy to the non-existing Woman. She is completely subordinated to the male gaze. As soon as she exposed in the bell tower as the Woman who does not exist. this sequence exactly repeats what we saw when John drove Madeline to San Juan Baptista the day she jumped off the bell tower. Apparently Judy is hopelessly in love. At that very moment Judy coincides with Madeline and her destiny is inevitable. unless one of the lovers abandons the relationship. After all. according to Zizek (1991). John suddenly realises that he has been fooled. personal desires and wishes do not quite fit into this ideal state of being. the phrase "I have my face on". As soon as he realises that his fascination was directed at something that was really nothing at all. "It couldn't matter to you". Are we dealing with one or two women? In order to be able to be either Judy or Madeline. Judy consents to an affair with John. becomes highly ambiguous. Now John realises that his sublime Madeline has never existed. there already had to be something of either woman in both these appearances. he says. except his own downfall. who has now turned into Madeline. while in the second half John pretends that Judy is Madeline.that she has unintentionally fallen in love with him. Very often Hitchcock uses the following formula: at first one pretends to be something. but soon John demands her to dress like the late Madeline. The moment Judy puts on a certain necklace. to her mirror image on the first night that she will go out with John for the first time in her new guise. Which one is the mask? Judy or Madeline? This brings us to a phenomenon that. Suddenly she tears up the letter and decides to go out with John anyway. On a literal level. this is supported by reverse movement of the zoom-in on Carlotta Valdes' portrait during an earlier visit to the museum. when John points out she is a fraud. Judy's panic attack in the bell tower is a perfect illustration of what Zizek calls the . This formula will have a similar effect in Vertigo. which were so overdetermined that they obscured his view. At this precise moment John is miraculously cured of his vertigo. he takes Judy to San Juan Baptista. but eventually one will find out that one really is the thing one only pretended to be at first. Cinematically. but eventually will have to confess to really being in love. In fact. Bearing this in mind. rather than being obsessed with details. as the object-of-desire she will take the subject back to the paradisiacal state of immediate gratification of all desires at the mother's breast. returns in many of Hitchcock's films. Most often this concerns a couple that pretends to be in love. probably hoping that he will eventually fall in love with her real self. since she eventually gives in to all of John's bizarre wishes. As an object-of-desire Woman becomes pure object.

her exposure as nonexistence. she panics. more importantly. indicating the cracks in the mask. First for the viewer and later for John Ferguson. towards her destiny. or the marvellous. or in the mind of the reader alone. Todorov states that a story belongs to the genre of the fantastic if the story manages to raise doubt in both the characters and the reader. as we now know. Without dizzy spells. His blindness can be illustrated by many of the things we already said above concerning Madeline's presentation as a work of art and. who through the disclosure completely coincides with Madeline. She tries to convince him once more that she really loves him. On the other hand. does not exist. [1] A story will belong to the genre of the uncanny if a rational explanation is offered for the fantastic events in the story. Distorted sight and the true nature of the uncanny This finale brings us to a theme of the story. This last solution seems also to be the answer to John's problem in Vertigo. the reader has to be challenged to doubt the true nature of the events he is reading about. In film noir there is always a woman who will lure the male hero toward his defeat and who thus represents pure death drive. In any case. Only rarely. a story may lapse into "the marvellous" when fantastic events are accepted as extraordinary and turn out to belong to the category of the supernatural. Either one experienced a mirage. he can now bear witness to the gap in his realty and look down into the depth below. an illusion. which is not merely situated on the level of the story. but also on the level of form and montage. Her exposure is always marked by an instant of hysterical breakdown. This denouement finally makes it clear that Woman. When John confronts her. What happens to a reader and/or character who finds out that he or she was dealing with an event that was (merely) uncanny. But before we get into this we will first take a look at Todorov's theory on the fantastic. The spectator is released from his feeling of doubt earlier. either the uncanny. a fit of madness or an illness. she is already so desperate that she jumps off the tower. because he witnesses Judy's flashback halfway through the film. (Zizek: 65) In a split second. Eventually. it will always opt for one of the two solutions. exposed as pure death drive. Something Midge already realised in the first half of the story. this revelation also entails that relationships with ordinary everyday women are impossible. He was deceived by Elster and Judy and blinded by his love for Madeline. unlikely or even a bit silly. Todorov goes even further when he analyses the doubt evoked by a fantastic story.breakdown of the femme fatale in film noir. but when the dark shadow of the nun appears in the back. In the case of Hitchcock's Vertigo the answer would almost certainly lead to the category of the fantastic-uncanny. a story will be able to suspend the initial doubt in the readers' mind indefinitely. According to Todorov the transition from the fantastic to the uncanny is always accompanied by the realisation that one was suffering from distorted sight. the end of her power to fascinate. Is what is happening real or just an illusion? Depending on the answer to this question a fantastic story will eventually always yield to either the genre of the uncanny or to the genre of the marvellous. various emotions rapidly succeed. or one was simply tricked by others. This will also turn out to be the level on which the uncanny in Vertigo must be situated. by the . 8. However. This is also what happens to Judy. This entails that in this story the parameters of the normal are adjusted to account for the fantastic events. This kind of story will eventually just seem strange. The last shot shows us John standing on the edge of the tower.

From the outside this woman in front of him may look like the real thing. 1991. As a matter of fact. Looking Awry. It was John's gaze that made him believe in an ideal Woman in the first place. Zizek. He is confronted with the shortcoming of his own gaze. Ithaca: Cornell UP. Todorov. Vertigo. Alfred. subjective point of view. as becomes clear when they are driving to San Juan Baptista. Robin. 1989. because to him this is not Madeline's answer but Judy's. Wood. 1987. but because the spectator is now very much aware of the other side of the story. Apparently John's gaze proves to be so tyrannical that he brings out the Madeline in Judy. In reality. in which we only get to see what John sees. This may be called a revelation as well as a release from John's narrow. A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre. An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. the obtrusiveness of his gaze becomes very obvious. After the flashback most of what we get to see is again defined by John's point of view. When at the end of the story Judy completely coincides with Madeline. 1958. He rejects the ordinary. Quite suddenly. but real Judy. Universal. The first half of the film consists of a sheer endless series of subjective shots. Hitchcock's Films Revisited. She can never be the sublime Woman that Madeline was in his eyes. which will lead to her death. he also admits "I really loved you Madeline" to which she answers that she loves him too. This insult is the main reason for his anger in the bell tower at San Juan Baptista. New York: Columbia UP. An identity he associates with freedom and power. Todorov. . the audience's perspective has mostly been limited to John's perspective. she was leading him everywhere and made him follow her. He actually imposes his gaze on her. While he thought he was the agent in this story.The Fantastic.fact that from the very beginning. but now that same gaze confronts him with the hollowness of this illusion. Judy's transformation into Madeline by John not only solved a murder mystery. he gets furious. a human being of flesh and blood. while John thought that he was shadowing Madeline. as we illustrated extensively above. This disillusionment leaves no room for Judy who in the guise of Madeline jumps off the bell tower as unmasked Nothingness. something else is going on as well. Cambridge: The MIT Press. he now comprehends that he was only a passive pawn in someone else's game. Judy can be nothing more than the unmasked "Nothingness" we encountered in Zizek's theories. as he tells her. This is paralleled in the story by John's attempt to transform Judy into Madeline against her will. When John realises that the object-of-hisdesire was looking back at him all along and that she was only a real woman. Judy had been in charge all the time. But. but knowing that he is really looking at the much coarser Judy makes him reject her anyway. S. However. In John's blindness and in the possible tyranny of someone's gaze over another person we encounter the truly uncanny moment of Vertigo. It also explains why John tries to make a fool of Judy by pointing out to her that Elster probably dumped her "with all that power and that money and that freedom" when he didn't need her anymore. This is an insult to his identity as a male. halfway through the film we are confronted with Judy's flashback. Bibliography Hitchcock. but also undermined his illusion of the possibility of an ideal Woman. "there's no bringing it back".

Both terms will be compared here. as it has been used thus far in the article. but they do not coincide. .[1] "Uncanny" is the translation of "étrange" and should not be confused with "unheimlich".