Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: Vertigo (1958) - How to Twist in (Late) Act 2

[Quick Summary: A detective-turned-p.i., is hired to follow a wife who is reliving a family curse.]

A few days ago, I watched a recent thriller with a late Act 2 twist.

The twist was a humdinger (fine) and unbelievably crazy (ok by me).

Unfortunately, it was barely based in character, and seemed to be tacked on as a shocker.  THAT was unacceptable.

So how did Hitchcock set up a late Act 2 twist?  Let's check out Vertigo:

Madeline (the wife) dies about 2/3 in the script.

(This is not a surprise.  She's obsessed over Carlotta's death, look, grave, etc.)

The twist has several steps:
- Madeline dies.
- Scottie (the p.i.) is brokenhearted, but one day he sees Judy in Madeline's old room. [This keeps Madeline alive.]
- Scottie confronts Judy, and learns she has been living there for 3 years. [The Madeline mystery deepens, though she's dead.]
- Scottie begins to date Judy. [Is Scottie moving on?]
- Judy isn't who we think she is. [Scottie is in for a stun in Act 3.]

Why this works:
-  Acts 1-2 established Madeline's mysterious behaviors.  Late Act 2-3 clarifies them through Judy.
- The twist reveals Madeline's CHARACTER. This is no time for a plot point just to include a cool CGI effect.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: A good late twist reveals more character.

A bad late twist is often more about the twist than the character.

Vertigo (1958)
by Alec Coppel & Samuel Taylor
Based on the novel "d'Entre les Morts" by Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejac

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