Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Unit 4: Rope (1948) Review

Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘Rope’ (1948) is a film which when first released was unappreciated for the unusual yet brilliant idea which Hitchcock had fathomed. The film is set out as a ‘murder mystery’ style story, however we as the audience already know who the murderers are and what has happened. Because of this, the film generates tension from the very start, as a brilliant performance from Farley Granger as ‘Phillip Morgan’ increases this as the film goes on as we slowly begin to see him break down.

The film was shot as if to appear there were no edits what so ever and a large stage crew had to constantly re-arrange the set so that the one camera could move around and follow the story freely. This was a great task which had not been attempted before because the idea of a film was thought to be all about the edits. Edits are used to create the story, create emotional response and compress time so that films can tell great elaborate stories, however Hitchcock wanted to do the complete opposite with this intriguing film. “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) The film accurately portrays the essence of a stage play, where we see the story unfold from a 3rd person perspective. This is done very well through the use of the camera and how it is not ever suggestive of a single characters point of view.

However, even though this style of cinematography works in the sense that the audience are watching a cinematic play, the continuous dialogue and lack of editing do become more obvious towards the end of the film. After so long it feels as if you need to blink, and all the dialogue just merges together to become one long sentence. “Hitchcock has followed the goings and the comings of characters with evident ingenuity. His camera stands back and takes them in, singles them out on occasion and even moves in now and then for close looks. But, withal, the smallness of the area and the lack of cinema comment are soon felt. (Crowther 1948) The film may have been much more of a hit if there was a variation in the editing, this is a very controversial aspect as it not only makes the film what it is but it is also the reason why the film fades towards the end.

The story of ‘Rope’ is indeed a very good one; it has suspense, thrills, excitement, murder and love. Everything that should be in a great film and the way in which the story unfolds is brilliant too, as we are introduced with the murder, the defining act in the film, and from then on we get to see what happens next. The performance given by Granger (Phillip) and Dall (Brandon) are outstanding as Brandon, the eccentric business man who seeks excitement and danger, and Phillip who is the sheep who follows his friend in an attempt to get to Brandon’s level. “When first seen, the duo is strangling their chosen victim, whose body goes limp as life seeps out of him; Brandon and Phillip recompose themselves as if awkwardly cleaning up post-coitus, complete with a was-it-good-for-you cigarette to soothe jangled nerves. Their crime clearly stands for another illicit act, and its braiding of outlaw (homo) sex and brutal violence may give plenty of ammo for people taking the filmmaker to task for the gay-vilification in films from ‘Murder!’ to ‘Strangers on a Train’ (Croce 2006) The subtle emphasis on the homo-erotic nature of the two characters act is played upon only a little, and then it is covered up with the action of hiding the body in the chest. The film steers away from the typical homo-erotic subtext that many films implemented around this time and continues with the story and provides as thrilling drama as we constantly question, will they be caught? A single shot in the film where the maid walks to and throw from the kitchen to the chest, clearing it little by little until she is about to open the chest to replace the books , and out of nowhere in the nick of time Brandon rushes over and stops them from opening it. This is possibly the most thrilling and yet slightly comedic moment in the film and it works very well. The film is a Hitchcock classic as it holds all of his filmic brilliance, although underappreciated at its time.


Croce, F. (2006) http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review/rope/948 (accessed on 06/02/12)

Crowther, B (1948) http://www.nytimes.com/library/film/081748hitch-rope-review.html (accessed on 06/02/12)

Illustration list
Rope Film Poster: http://hitchcock.tv/mov/rope/rope.html (accessed on 07/02/12)

1 comment:

  1. Hey Anthony - great to see this arrive on here - and a really engaging and enjoyable review - the dialogue does get exhausting, doesn't it? That mindless wittering and small-talk. Personally, I think that works very well, because it irritates and infuriates, when all you really want is for that bloody body to be discovered - and yes, the murder scene at the beginning is absolutely a substitute for an implied sexual act - the whole thing vibrates with it; for a long time in the movies, if you had a gay character(s), they had to be cruel, spiteful, unhappy - and doomed!