Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Boileau, Pierre & Narcejac, Thomas: Vertigo (D'entre les morts)

First published in 1954 apparently with Hitchcock in mind, this thriller is the 'book of the film' if you
ignore the differences.   The collaboration between the two had Boileau producing the elaborate plots
and Narcejac the character details.   In this case, the story is set at the outbreak of World War 2 in
Paris and surroundings and continued after the end of the war in Paris and Marseilles whereas the film is set after World War 2 completely with a somewhat shorter gap between the two parts, the film
action taking place in San Francisco and south of that city.   While the story is basically the same, there are differences - in the film, the hero has an ongoing friendship with a woman designer/painter
who is not in the novel, there is no coroner's scene and the ending is different.   Our authors set up the plot concisely with the hero engaged by a former college friend to watch his wife who exhibits some
odd habits.   He follows her discreetly until she falls or jumps into the Seine for him to rescue her and
become her friend and confidant.   So far, location apart, book and film are the same but the film does
have him demonstrating his love while the book has him announce it but no more.  Madeleine, the
wife, seems possessed by the spirit of an ancestor who killed herself and she, too, does this by falling
from a church tower.   Here book and film differ - in both, the hero flees the scene but this is the end of it in the book whilst in the film he is berated by the coroner for his behaviour.   After some time in
the film with no idea of how much, he sees a look-alike in the street whilst the book has him see the
look-alike in a newsreel.   He finds or follows her and becomes her lover (book/film differences are
irrelevant) but is still trying to put the past behind him.   In the book, ill health has led to their moving
south to Marseilles where she confesses to him that she was Madelaine helping his former friend to
murder his wife, the latter's being the body that was discovered at the foot of the tower.   Following this he strangles her and the book ends.   In the film we see the murder before the end with the hero
who has by now transformed her appearance to that of Madelaine, working out what may have happened when seeing her put on the same necklace the original had worn.   He takes her back to the
tower and forces her up to the top where they are suddenly disturbed by a nun whose appearance leads her to fall to her death.   The book is much tauter and satisfying than the film which is spoilt
by the reveal before the end of what did happen.   While the film is considered by many to be Hitchcock's masterpiece, it is decidedly flawed - far too many shots of one car following another
around San Francisco, the give-away of what happened before the end in particular.   The novel does
hold up well despite its age and I am encouraged to find a second reprint, this time of a Henri Clout
film adaptation, to see how this compares.   Full marks to the authors but not to the film-maker.

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