An Elderly Gentleman : IMAGES 88-90 : Faces
A unique sequence of five small images (see footnote two) catalyze the plot of Vertigo’s middle section, "An Elderly Gentleman," in which the board members of The Eagle Corporation advise (exhort, bully, warn) the Gentleman to take harsh measures to keep his business from disaster. Thus, this passage indirectly precipitates much of the book’s violence and suffering.
The rapid-fire sequence of gruesome faces achieves the cinematic effect of quick cutting, which serves, inter alia, to anticipate the mayhem ahead. It is important to realize that we see the faces, disfigured by fury, cunning, greed, etc., through the Gentleman's eyes, and their monstrousness represents his abhorrence of them as much as it configures his despair.
The exaggerated largeness of the Elderly Gentleman's downcast eyes in a medium sized image (not shown) that immediately follows the "Faces" sequence (I91) reinforces the idea that he does not willingly agree with their sentiments but is instead defeated by their combined forces, and therefore, though he is weaker, occupies a slightly elevated moral ground. Earlier, among the images sketching details of the his past and hinting at his character, I68-I70 tell us that the Gentleman is both wealthy enough to collect art and antiques, and that he possesses a refined visual sensitivity and imagination. (He is not, after all, collecting phonograph records or bonds.) Thus, his perception of the board members as gargoyles makes the Gentleman’s ultimate capitulation to them disturbing. By treating the Gentleman sympathetically, Ward raises the question of whether the suffering of Vertigo flows from the malignity of particular capitalists or from unregulated capitalism, and by creating complicating polyvalent sympathies, Ward compels us to read Vertigo as a work of art, rather than a social screed in the style of his expressionist predecessors.