'Power and freedom.' Coupled together, these two words are repeated three times in Vertigo. First, at the twelfth minute by Gavin Elster ('freedom' underlined by a move to close-up) who, looking at a picture of Old San Francisco, expressed his nostalgia to Scottie ('San Francisco, has changed. The things that spelled San Francisco to me are disappearing fast'), a nostalgia for a time when men—some men at least—had 'power and freedom.' Second, at the thirty-fifth minute, in the bookstore, where 'Pop' Liebel explains how Carlotta Valdes's rich lover threw her out yet kept her child: 'Men could do that in those days. They had the power and the freedom...' And finally at the hundred and twenty-fifth minute—and fifty-first second to be precise—but in reverse order (which is logical, given we are now in the second part, on the other side of the mirror) by Scottie himself when, realizing the workings of the trap laid by the now free and powerful Elster, he says, a few seconds before Judy's fall—which, for him, will be Madeleine's seconds death—'with all his wife's money and all that freedom and power...'. Just try telling me these are coincidences.
Such precise signs must have a meaning. Could it be psychological, an explanation of the criminal's motives? If so, the effort seems a little wasted on what is, after all, asecondary character. The strategic triad gave me the first inkling of a possible reading of Vertigo. The vertigo the film deals with isn't to do with space or falling; it is a clear, understandable and spectacular metaphor for yet another kind of vertigo, much more difficult to represent—the vertigo of time. Elster's 'perfect' crime almost achieves the impossible: reinventing a time when men and women and San francisco were different to what they are now. And its perfection, as with all perfection in Hitchcock, exists in duality. Scottie will absorb the folly of time with which Elster infuses him through Madeleine/Judy. but where Elster reduces the fantasy to mediocre manifestations (wealth, power, etc.), Scottie transmutes it into its most utopian form: he overcomes the most irreparable damage caused by time and resurrects a love that is dead. The entire second part of the film, on the other side of the mirror, is nothing but a mad, maniacal attempt to deny time, to recreate through trivial yet necessary signs (like the signs of a liturgy: clothes, make-up, hair) the woman whose laoss he has never been able to accept. His own feelings of responsibility and guilt for this loss are mere Christian Band-Aids dressing a metaphysical wound of much greater depth. Were one to quote the Scriptures, Corinthians I (an epistle one of Bergman's characters uses to define love) would apply: "Death, where is your victory?"
—Chris Marker, "A Free Replay: Notes on Vertigo," from The Positif Collection, reprinted in Projections 4 1/2, Faber and Faber, 1995
James Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock, 1957