The film. For his 45th film, Alfred Hitchcock adapted the French novel The Living and the Dead by Boileau-Narcejac. Vertigo takes us in the footsteps of Scottie, a police officer forced into retirement after falling from the roof of a building. He suffers from vertigo as a result of the accident. Nevertheless, he agrees to tail Madeleine, the wife of a friend, whose behaviour has turned strange. As the investigation advances, Scottie falls in love with her.
Kim Novak. An unsettling presence in the role of Madeleine, this was the greatest part the actress played in her career. And yet that wasn't how it was meant to be. Vera Miles was to play the role, but was prevented by her pregnancy. Novak was at the beginning of her career. Hitchcock wanted to mould her, to turn her into a Grace Kelly, but the actress resisted. She explained later that this resistance made her onscreen character all the stronger.
The masterstroke. Alfred Hitchcock's challenge was to create the impression of vertigo on the screen. And so he introduced a procedure never before used in the history of the cinema – the dolly zoom, now known as the "Vertigo effect", created by combining travelling forward with zooming backward (or the other way round), creating a spatial distortion effect. The technique has been taken up by filmmakers of all stripes from Steven Spielberg's Jaws to La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz.