Please Don't Ask Me, Please Don't Ask Me
Is there a more comically hoary melodramatic (or dully hoary comic) plot device than the motiveless delay of a speech which would close the story down? Is any other story to be found in Vertigo?
Vertigo's relationships are based entirely on what's not said -- or rather on the tense assumption that something very important is not being said. The characters are correct to fear expression, since their unspoken thoughts would wither and vanish if exposed to air:
The lovers of the void insist that it unveil itself ("Try for me," Ferguson begs Madeline Elster, and, in turn, Wood begs Ferguson), but are never willing to reveal their own truths.
Ferguson's (and Hitchcock's apologists' -- that is, our) most laughably transparent lie is "You see? There's an answer for everything."
- Marjory Wood's "saving herself" for Ferguson, and her attendant jealousy, are clearly products of fantasy.
- Madeline Elster's fears remain explicitly unexplored, perhaps to avoid pushing her playacting (or her script) past their limits.
- Judy Barton's secret actually finds an expression -- but one which is immediately destroyed after trailing off into a consideration of its own consequences.
- Once John Ferguson discovers that Gavin Elster isn't the failure he pictured, he reneges on his promise of a relaxed drink, and, for the rest of the film, alternates between lies and silence. Both his investigation and his passion are not only ineptly hidden, but (as hinted by both Ferguson and Wood) are absurd in themselves.
Copyright 1998 Ray Davis