Saturday, 18 February 2012

Rear Window (1954)

Fig. 1
Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window is an American suspense thriller. Starring Grace Kelly and James Stewart, the film is considered by critics and film lovers to be Hitchcock's finest. The set works perfectly as each window gives both the character and audience a view not only into their apartment, but their personal life - as if they are the forth wall. Hitchcock uses the neighbours to relate to the state of protagonist's personal relations, situations - this proves effective as it enhances understanding of the plot and at times a comical appeal. The film follows a wheel chaired bound man who, after spying on his neighbours, becomes convinced one of them have committed murder.   

Fig. 2
Both James Stewart and Grace Kelly give impressive performances - which in turn maintains the audience's up most attention through the film. Both can be seen as film icons and Hitchcock's film highlights why this is. Geoff Andrew observes, "There is suspense enough, of course, but the important thing is the way that it is filmed: the camera never strays from inside Stewart's apartment, and every shot is closely aligned with his point of view. And what this relentless monomaniac witnesses is everyone's dirty linen: suicide, broken dreams, and cheap death. Quite aside from the violation of intimacy, which is shocking enough, Hitchcock has nowhere else come so close to pure misanthropy, nor given us so disturbing a definition of what it is to watch the 'silent film' of other people's lives, whether across a courtyard or up on a screen." (Andrew 2006) Andrew touches upon the successful elements of the film and discusses the impact that the cinematography has on the ideaology of the film.

Suspense is built from a number of shots; from the man leaving and returning at the early hours of the morning, the same man cleaning a knife, tying up boxes with rope etc. These together creates the basis for suspicion. Hitchcock clearly selects these different action shots, as even though together they provide a strong case for the belief of murder, individually they could be seen as innocent, everyday occurrences. Roger Ebert states, "In the earliest days of cinema, the Russian director Kuleshov performed a famous experiment in which he juxtaposed identical shots of a man's face with other shots. When the man was matched with food, audiences said the man looked hungry, and so on. The shots were neutral. The montage gave them meaning. "Rear Window" (1954) is like a feature-length demonstration of the same principle, in which the shots assembled in Jeff's mind add up to murder." (Ebert 2000) Ebert observes the concept Hitchcock has grasped to convey his scenes and gives an insight into the various inspirations/influences that has been used to create a successful film. Hitchcock has an knack of building suspense and maintaining an audiences attention. The way in which back story and narrative for the neighbours is produced in just a few short clips is genius, just subtle hints to the characters lives gives the audience so much information to build upon. 

Fig. 3
The idea that the ideology of the film is representational of the cinema is reflected beautifully in the way, just like the character, the audience cannot do anything to stop the attack/situation happening beyond the window. The idea that we watch film without being able to stop or warn the characters of what's happening/about to happen is represented through the protagonist's lack of mobility and the way he can see everything unfold - even know something is going to happen before the character it happens to knows. William Bogdon suggests, "Hitchcock confines all of the action to this single setting and draws the nerves to the snapping point in developing the thriller phases of the plot. He is just as skilled in making use of lighter touches in either dialog or situation to relieve the tension when it nears the unbearable. Interest never wavers during the 112 minutes of footage." (Bogdon 2000) Bogdon applauds the techniques and structure of Hitchcock's Rear Window. He lightly touches on the fact that the film is shot through the point of view and perspective of the protagonist - hence one location. The audience is seeing and being lead by the protagonist's belief.


List of illustrations

Figure 1. Hitchcock, Alfred (1954) Rear Window Movie Poster. At: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d6/Rearwindowposter.jpg (Accessed on:16/2/12)

Figure 2. Hitchcock, Alfred (1954) Grace Kelly and James Stewart. At: http://lauradonovan.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/image004.jpg (Accessed on:16/2/12)

Figure 3. Hitchcock, Alfred (1954) The view. At: http://5plitreel.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/rearwindow2.jpg (Accessed on:16/2/12)


Bibliography

Geoff Andrew (2006) Rear Window (1954). At: http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/76472/rear_window.html (Accessed on:16/2/12)

Roger Ebert (2000) Rear Window (1954). At: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20000220/REVIEWS08/2200301/1023 (Accessed on:16/2/12)

William Bogdon (2000) Rear Window. At: http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117794347?refcatid=31 (Accessed on:16/2/12)

2 comments:

  1. very nice review, Lydia - good meaty quotes, and a very cerebral tone - good stuff! :)

    ReplyDelete