Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

A Fantasy of One's Own: Rooms in Hitchcock's Vertigo and Baudelaire's Prose Texts

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

A Fantasy of One's Own: Rooms in Hitchcock's Vertigo and Baudelaire's Prose Texts

Article excerpt

What constitutes the space of a room is under constant flux in Charles Baudelaire's prose texts, The Spleen of Paris. Rooms take many shapes and forms because they are born out of the intoxicated mind of Baudelaire's narrator, whose phantasmagorical voice runs through most of the poems. About a hundred years later, a similar voice is resurrected in the persona of Scottie, the main character of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. (1) Scottie, like the male narrator of the prose poems, (2) stumbles through a variety of fantasies and rooms. The latter can be physical or ethereal, but they all eventually materialize in a series of confining spaces in which Scottie and the narrator face continuous, and for the most part self-inflicted, punishment. The rooms are either real or imagined, temporal or atemporal, indoors and even outdoors, and each of them leads back to a futile, cyclical search for the eternally lost object. The topography of the rooms is designed to entrap Scottie and the Baudelairian male narrator in an endless labyrinth that emphasizes their inability to reclaim their respective lost objects, which pushes them to search for even more self-punishment.

The themes of isolation and solitude are underlined by the existence of two levels of confinement that run through both the film and the prose texts. The first level is physical: the two men find themselves enclosed in various rooms that resemble prisons. The second level of confinement is generated by the men's unconscious and by their unattainable fantasies. These two levels work in unison, unlike the essential conditions that drive Hitchcock's film and Baudelaire's prose texts. Scottie and the narrator-poet suffer from vertigo and spleen, respectively, which are both the result of two opposite movements happening simultaneously. In the case of vertigo, Hitchcock suggests Scottie's dizziness through a technical artifice: the camera backtracks while zooming forward. In the case of Baudelaire's spleen, there are two components working together: the physical aspect (the bile) and the emotional state of melancholy, but these two are opposed by the poet's yearning for the Idole, or the Ideal (l'Ideal). Departing from these common points that link the work of Hitchcock and Baudelaire, this essay explores the psychoanalytical questions of fantasy and the unconscious as they take shape in the various rooms of the film and the prose texts, and the construction of phantasmagorical spaces, which challenge existing notions of spatiality.

Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space demonstrates that space is not just a form of perceiving, as Immanuel Kant defined it (space is both an inside and an outside experience as they relate to one's body), but also a social form. Lefebvre's social space is born through bridging the notion of space with the idea of state: "The State binds itself to space through a complex and changing relation that has passed through certain critical points" (224). These critical points evolve from the physical space of the State to a social space (such as state institutions where laws are communicated through the national language of the state), and finally to a mental space that "includes the representations of the State that people construct" (225). From the divergences and parallelisms between spaces of representation and representation of spaces, Lefebvre goes on to argue for the birth of many types of spaces: analogic, cosmological, symbolic, perspectival, and, finally, capitalistic. While I am not interested in the political aspect of his analysis of space, the last type of space, capitalistic space, is described as being both homogeneous and fragmented (233). It is this absurd split that I find fascinating in relation to my analysis of phantasmagorical rooms in Hitchcock and Baudelaire. In other words, since space proves to be quite malleable in Lefebvre's analysis, I believe that we can argue that part of our collective space is not only ideological, but also phantasmagorical. …

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