2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the BFI Film Classics book series. To celebrate, BFI Publishing (at Palgrave Macmillan) produced 12 limited edition reissues of original titles (including The Wizard of Oz by Salman Rushdie, Citizen Kane by Laura Mulvey, and Singin’ in the Rain by Peter Wollen) alongside some new additions (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Eric Smoodin, The Conformist by Christopher Wagstaff, and La Règle du jeu by V.F. Perkins).
New covers were commissioned for each, with the publishing team seeking out talented contemporary artists to give these iconic films a new visual interpretation. Each designer was presented with a copy of the book and a DVD of the relevant film, and asked to produce a cover that conveyed the essence of the movie’s themes and motifs.
Nick Morley was selected to design the cover for Vertigo, by Charles Barr. He wanted to actually give the reader a sense of vertigo when they look at the book, while avoiding anything too close to Saul Bass’s famous poster design. He took his inspiration instead from the work of the famous British linocut artists of the 20th century, Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews. In his design, Nick wanted the text and image to work closely together, almost as though the text were part of the image. The colours red and green are strongly symbolic in the film, and are complementary colours (and the colours of old-fashioned 3D specs) - so they vibrate next to each other, adding to the feeling of vertigo. The scene pictured in the image comes near the end of the film and is a composite of various screenshots with a bit of exaggerated perspective; the intention in selecting it was to evoke of a sense of drama without giving away too much of the plot.
Nick used linocut to make the image in its entirety. It is printed from two blocks, in red and green, with the second block ‘reduced’ by carving away some of the image and reprinting in a third colour to darken the title and parts of the foreground.