Archive for the “Don’t Look Down Don’t Look Back” (Week Two) Category

Don’t Look Down, Don’t Look Back

Posted in "Don't Look Down Don't Look Back" (Week Two) on April 20, 2011 by John R. Kitch

"Johnny Ferguson" (James Stewart) discovers his fear of heights in the opening scene from "Vertigo".

Humans are perhaps the most flawed creatures on the face of the Earth. All people, of any age or background, are conquered by fears and memories. They let the smallest of obstacles paralyze them and they refuse to forget every wrong ever done to them. People often do drastic things to face their fears, or try to “go back in time” and recreate a moment to find a redemption from the past.

When I was five years old, I was terrified of the deep end at my local swimming pool. My fear had developed from an incident when I was four, when I had accidentally bobbed across the point at which the 5 FT area sharply drops to the 7 FT zone. When my feet failed to meet the bottom, my heart and mind froze. The water rushed over the top of my head, and the struggle back to the 5 FT zone was the longest ten seconds of my young life. I wasn’t planning on returning to the deep end any time soon after.

Now, I wonder if that’s how Johnny Ferguson felt when he clung to the gutter for dear life while watching a fellow policeman fall to his death. In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, “Vertigo”, it certainly left Johnny (played by the brilliant James Stewart) with a terrible fear of heights. Due to this uncontrollable case of acrophobia, Johnny had to quit the police force, and even had to watch the woman he loved, Madeleine (portrayed by the beautiful Kim Novak) fall to her death because he could not reach the top of the tower she fell from.

Just as Johnny wanted to save Madeleine, the four-year-old me wanted to dive for a stray quarter that had been dropped into the deep end. Alas, our fears killed our desires.

However, in a bizarre twist (I won’t give it away), Johnny gets to relive the moment Madeleine dies. Oddly enough, he getsĀ his second chance to conquer his phobia.

When I turned five, I nervously jumped into the deep end, forcing myself to stay under for as long as I could. For me, reliving the experience worked. The next time, I saved my precious quarter.

“Vertigo” and all images from it are property of Paramount Pictures.

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