Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and the Hermeneutic Spiral
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This book offers a new approach to film studies by showing how our brains use our interpretations of various other films in order to understand Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Borrowing from behavioral psychology, cognitive science and philosophy, author Robert J. Belton seeks to explain differences of critical opinion as inevitable.
The book begins by introducing the hermeneutic spiral, a cognitive processing model that categorizes responses to Vertigo’s meaning, ranging from wide consensus to wild speculations of critical “outliers.” Belton then provides an overview of the film, arguing that different interpreters literally see and attend to different things. The fourth chapter builds on this conclusion, arguing that because people see different things, one can force the production of new meanings by deliberately drawing attention to unusual comparisons. The latter chapters outline a number of such comparisons—including avant-garde films and the works of Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch—to shed new light on the meanings of Vertigo.