music monday: vertigo.

bernard herrmann: noted for his work in composing music for motion pictures, especially with orson welles, and alfred hitchcock. and most importantly, noted for his work with being creepy.

or rather… creating suspense.

a few weeks ago, i was flipping through channels late at night, when i came upon a favorite movie of mine: vertigo. and we all know that the best time to watch a hitchcock film is alone in the middle of the night right?

i know that, from the trailer, the horror of the film seems a little kitschy what with that dictionary opening, narrated by that booming voice,  jimmy stewart awaking with crazy eyes after a disturbing dream, and the phrase ‘the tangled web of terror,’ but the film is actually wonderful.

what is interesting about this film, and really most hitchcock films, is that the majority of the reactions evoked in the audience are not from actually witnessing violence or the gore that we see in contemporary horror films. instead, the terror that you feel is from what you don’t see, its about the holes in the story that your mind has to fill in. you, the viewer, then become a key player in the film and are living the horrific events along with the characters. and when you step back, you realize that your imagination is a quintessential part of the screenplay and that you are responsible for a great deal of the emotion and the horror that you feel. i would liken it to the sinking feeling you get after a particularly disturbing dream, you can wake up and see that everything is fine and it was only your imagination, but your brain created that. and what is scarier than your own mind terrorizing you?

now, hitchcock draws the audience in by focusing on the words, and the reactions of the actors, but there is really something to be said about the musical contributions. i, wholeheartedly, believe that these movies wouldn’t be nearly as moving or iconic without bernard herrmann’s compositions. although herrmann wrote many pieces that helped define the genre, including the scores for citizen kane, psycho, and the twilight zone, i really had no idea of the range that a score could have before i really listened to the vertigo soundtrack.

but horror isn’t the only characteristic in this film or in the score. beyond fear, there are so many layers to this story that required musical explanation; self-doubt, betrayal, conspiracy, love, and obsession are all present, and flawlessly conveyed through instruments. in this way, the viewer is completely absorbed into the story and feels the characters’ emotions all the more.

clearly, i recommend watching any and all movies mentioned in this post, and all the hitchcock movies ever.

also, maybe invest in a nightlight?

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