Sunday, 12 February 2012

Rope (1948)

Fig. 1
Alfred Hitchcock's Rope is an American thriller. Based on the 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton, Hitchcock creates an on edge, tension building film that uses subtle editing to add to the atmosphere. Unlike most films that use the unknown element to keep the audience hooked, Hitchcock uses suspense as the audience knows what the surprise is already - it is a ticking bomb waiting to explode. The film follows two men, Brandon and Philip, who murder a fellow colleague as an intellectual exercise - in the sense just because they can. The murder is done by strangulation and the body hidden in the wooden chest. After committing the 'perfect murder' the two have arranged a party consisting of the parents of the man they murdered, as well as his girlfriend and their former house master. With the party in full flow Brandon talks about the concept of murder dropping several hints of what the two men have just done - thinking himself clever. During the film it becomes clear that Philip's conscience is playing havoc with him and with Rupert, previous house master, becoming more suspicious it doesn't take long for their petty crime to be unravelled.

Fig. 2
The reveal is shot cleverly, as through the majority of the film the camera focuses on the character, whilst when Rupert talks about how he believes the two men committed the murder the camera goes around the room to the different places he states. This builds the image clearly in the viewers mind without showing it on screen. Variety discusses, "Hitchcock could have chosen a more entertaining subject with which to use the arresting camera and staging technique displayed in Rope. Theme is of a thrill murder, done for no reason but to satisfy a sadistical urge and intellectual vanity." (Variety 2008) Variety argues that Hitchcock's technique is to be applauded, but the subject is not to be as desired. This is interesting take, yet others would believe that the subject is perfect for Hitchcock's editing as it shows are true life depiction of time and a murder.

The film takes place in one set location and appears to be one continuous edit. Hitchcock wanted to produce a real time piece. The editing brings the plot to life and makes it believable, as well as realistic to the audience. The scene where the maid clears the top of the wooden chest that the body is hidden in is tension clenching. As the camera focuses on the chest and watches the inevitable, the audience can just hear the dialogue of screen. This assists in the suspense. Vincent Canby states, "Hitchcock was interested in seeing whether he could find a cinematic equivalent to the play, which takes place in the actual length of time of the story. To do this, he decided to shoot it in what would appear to be one long, continuous "take," without cutaways or any other breaks in the action, though in fact there would have to be a disguised break every 10 minutes, which was as much film as the camera could contain." (Canby 1984) Canby states the technique used by Hitchcock and praises him for it. The editing is like a play and works well as its beautifully crafted for the structure of the story.

Fig. 3
It's surprising that the entire film is set in one location, yet manages to keep the attention of its audience all the way through. The acting is beautifully theatrical and en captivating- definitely to be applauded. Geoff Andrew observes, "Constructed entirely from uncut ten-minute takes, shot on a beautifully-constructed set, it's certainly a virtuoso piece of technique, but the lack of cutting inevitably slows things down, entailing the camera swooping from one character to another during dialogues. On a thematic level, however, the film is more successful." (Andrew 2006) Andrew also agrees that the films success is on a thematic and intellectual level.

List of illustrations
Figure 1. Hitchcock, Alfred (1948) Rope Movie Poster. At: (Accessed on:6/2/12)

Figure 2. Hitchcock, Alfred (1948) Confrontation: Brandon, Philip and Rupert. At: (Accessed on:6/2/12)
Figure 3. Hitchcock, Alfred (1948) Tension builds as table is cleared. At: (Accessed on:6/2/12)

Vincent Canby (1984) 'Rope': A Stunt To Behold. At: (Accessed on:7/2/12)

Geoff Andrew (2006) Rope (1948). At: (Accessed on:6/2/12)

Variety (2008) Rope. At: (Accessed on:7/2/12)

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