I know this is blasphemy, but I’m gonna say it anyway: Vertigo isn’t a masterpiece. It could’ve been a masterpiece — it had the makings of one — but the flashback broke the movie. Whether Madeleine was being possessed by the spirit of Carlotta or not; whether Judy and Madeleine were one and the same or not; whether Scottie’s deduction at the end was accurate or the delusions of a man gone off the deep end — all should’ve been left unanswered and ambiguous.
Also, Madeleine was as pretty as a rainbow, and about as charismatic as a rainbow trout. Why Scottie chose her over Midge, a zesty woman with actual personality, I’ll never understand. Guess he prefers to rob the cradle of love.
Finally, that ending — it’s so abrupt, it’s almost comical.
Let me put my analyst cap on for a sec…
As much as it pains me to hear someone saying all that you’re not alone. The reveal breaks with screen trends and most reviews and audiences hated the things you mentioned. But it is because of the break with traditions that the film is so completely different, experimental and special. For decades the film’s reputation was not good at all and then you couldn’t even see it until the battered version was reissued in 1983.
There are still some who disagree with the reveal halfway through but it sets up the crux of suspense in ways that Hitch had never done before or since. It becomes an act of emotional and character suspense rather than story driven. From that point onwards it becomes a matter of what will Scottie do if he finds out, or will he find out rather than just: will such and such character get out of a jam? And it also compounds the emotional story on Judy’s side and allows the audience into her genuine emotion which only heightens the suspense, sadness and absolute tragedy. The ending is built to over the entire picture and it’s doomed denouement is perhaps the greatest climax and end shot in the medium.
But to each their own. I get where you’re coming from but this is all what helps to make VERTIGO so different. If it had ended with the tag ending in Midge’s apartment saying Elster was caught by police overseas it would have robbed the picture of so much power.
But it is nice to hear someone talking about how great Midge is and how Scottie is so dumb that this wonderful, fun, warm, intelligent, vivacious woman is right there the whole time and totally adorable. This makes her final departure in the hospital so completely devastating because at that point she is never going to ever be in Scottie’s mind as anything near the ghost of his obsessions and is thus also gone forever. In fact the final shot of her in the film in the doorway is almost like a specter itself.