This essay is one of several contributed by filmmakers and actors as part of Variety’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time package.
What I’ve always loved about movies is the way one can take over your brain for two hours in a way that no other medium can. I have never been as possessed by paintings or music or books the way I have been by movies. And no movie has possessed me with such precision and craft and intensity as “Vertigo.”
That the movie is itself about someone being possessed by his own strange obsession makes it all the more impressive. In fact, one of the things that I so admire among filmmakers I’ve worked with, whether it’s Night Shyamalan, or Jordan Peele, or David Gordon Green, is the way they use tools of cinema to show a character’s desire, even (and especially) when that desire is inscrutable to me personally. I will never know what it’s like to, say, desperately need to get away from an abusive boyfriend or desperately need to be a great drummer. But in “The Invisible Man” and “Whiplash,” with Leigh Whannell and Damien Chazelle exploiting every cinematic tool available to them, I somehow understand this desire. Nor have I ever been obsessed with an icy and remote blonde. But it is, perversely, that desire that makes “Vertigo,” and all of the best thrillers, so scary: If an audience doesn’t understand characters’ desires, it won’t be terrified by the scary obstacles blocking the path to the object of that desire. By the end of “Vertigo,” desire piles upon desire and it seems virtually every character is obsessed with each other and none of them will ever have their desires satisfied. And yet every time I watch “Vertigo,” my own desire — to be moved, to be lost in another reality for two hours, to be scared — has been better fulfilled than by any other movie.
Jason Blum is the producer of “Get Out” and “The Purge.”