Bernard Herrmann and Vertigo (1958)

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If pressed, I would have to say that Bernard Herrmann’s score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) is my all-time favorite movie score. I’ve mentioned this a few times here on the Garden, but as I was writing next month’s Oscars-themed post, I realized when Vertigo came up (stay tuned!) that I had never actually talked about it. As in, why it is my favorite. First of all, and I’m sure I don’t even have to mention this, Bernard Herrmann was an absolute genius. He is my favorite film composer and what I love about his work is that, while most film scores complement the film, his scores feel like another character. They complement the story by being the pure embodiment of it. Vertigo, in particular, is the perfect example of this. Every motif, conflict, theme and hidden meaning is perfectly reflected in Herrmann’s haunting masterpiece. From the eerie Prelude to the ominous tones of Carlota’s Portrait to the breath-taking, bittersweet climax of Scene D’Amour, Vertigo‘s theme tells Vertigo‘s story. And its many complex layers are all there. At times, it even feels like the theme is haunted by whatever psychological troubles Scotty (James Stewart) endures throughout the film. In fact, one could argue that Vertigo‘s theme is the reflection of what goes on inside Scotty’s head. And if so, then it remains baffling that Herrmann was overlooked for an award – as was the whole film. Few music scores merge with their films so completely and so immersively the way Vertigo‘s does and Bernard Herrmann’s ability to understand and match what is arguably Hitchcock’s most complex film is a thing to behold.

4 thoughts on “Bernard Herrmann and Vertigo (1958)

  1. This score indeeds matches perfectly what goes on in the film. Pure brilliance. Bernard Herrmann definitely had his own signature just like Hitchcock. If you listen to The Man Who Knew Too Much’s score, you can, at some point, hear some notes that are similar to some of Vertigo’s!

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