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Vertiginous Hauntings: The Ghosts of Vertigo

  • Author(s): Ravetto-Biagioli, Kriss
  • Beugnet, Martine
  • et al.
Abstract

While the initial reception of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) was unspectacular, it made its presence felt in a host of other films – from Chris Marker's Sans Soleil (1983), to Brian De Palma's Obsession (1976), and David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. (1999). What seemed to have eluded the critics at the time is that Vertigo is a film about being haunted: by illusive images, turbulent emotions, motion and memory, the sound and feeling of falling into the past, into a nightmare. But it is also a shrewdly reflexive film that haunts filmmakers, critics, and artists alike, raising fundamental questions about the ontology of moving images and the regime of fascination (exemplified by Hollywood) that churns them out. Douglas Gordon's Feature Film (1999), D.N. Rodowick's The Wanderers (2016), and Lynn Hershman's VertiGhost (2017) are contemporary examples of how the appropriation and contemplation of some the film's most iconic motifs (the figures of Madeleine, the spiral, the copy or fake, and the fetish), themes (liebestod, obsession, the uncanny) and strategies (mirroring, duplicity, and disorientation) ask us to rethink the relation of fetishism to fabulation, and supplementarity to dissimulation and social engineering. Feature Film, The Wanderers, and VertiGhost are supplementary works, but like the original film they are about duplicity, doppelgänger, and dissimulation. What interests us is how they challenge the authority over, or even proximity to, that which returns in the form of the supplement. And ultimately, attaching themselves to the chain of forgers and forgeries, these supplementary works take their place in the vertiginous sequence of substitutions the film established: a neat allegory for a reign of the digital ghosting that Hitchcock could never have anticipated.

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