At the very beginning of the movie, we see Scottie vaulting across rooftops, struggling to keep up with the policeman ahead of him as he realizes that he is afraid of heights. He is, of course, suffering from castration anxiety. The ability to chase down criminals is important to his work, which is tied directly to his role as a male, providing for himself. If he is unable to perform adequately, it will signify that he is impotent. When he fails to save the life of the policeman who is trying to save him, he is effectively castrated.1
“The gentleman seems to know what he wants,” deadpans a saleswoman in the final act of Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock’s rich and strange masterwork, as she observes James Stewart’s round-the-bend retired detective monomaniacally outfitting his shopgirl squeeze (Kim Novak) in high-end threads identical to those of a lost woman—the young lady’s spitting image—whose love and life slipped away from him. 1
Visit the Vertigo screenplay analysis page for an extensive write-up on both the film and script.
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