This Hitchcock’s masterpiece is a careful analysis on a world of obsession and nosiness
By Ilenia Reale / Staff Writer
In 1954, the “Master of Suspense” Alfred Hitchcock comes out with a movie that, together with Vertigo and Psycho, is destined to become one of his masterpieces: Rear Window. It’s not your typical thriller, but it still gets you to stay glued to your seat, watching the story unraveling very carefully.
We are not the only ones stuck in our seats. In fact, the protagonist of the movie L. B. Jeffries (Jeff) is obliged to stay constantly in a wheelchair because of a broken leg. He’s a very well-known photographer, but, of course, he cannot go out or do anything because of his injury. He’s visited every day by his chatty nurse Stella, to whom he talks about his girlfriend Lisa Fremont, who is constantly pressuring him to commit to a serious relationship. The only thing that entertains him throughout the day is to look out of his rear window. From that window, Jeff is able to see all of his neighbors and, eventually, becomes obsessed with their lives and starts following them in their daily actions and struggles, with passion and curiosity. Ultimately though, his nosiness leads him to something greater than him: a possible murderer.
What’s remarkable and certainly not common about this movie is the setting. For instance, Rear Window can be considered a Kammerspiel movie, meaning a film that confines itself in one single space. As a matter of fact, the whole movie takes place in Jeff’s apartment. Despite this, the picture is still quite dynamic, and this is because of a very clever directing choice. By focusing the movie on Jeff’s introspection and by using plenty of POV shots (point of view), the audience is able to look outside the window and explore a little bit of the outside world as well.
Jeff is at all effects a voyeur, someone who spies on other people. What might seem like just an innocent hobby, becomes a true obsession. And what’s fascinating about it is the fact that the audience starts sharing this obsession, too. The actions of the neighbors, which seem secondary at first, become an integral part of the story. We unconsciously start getting interested in their lives and are eager to know, together with Jeff, what is going to happen to them. We cheer for them and feel for them in all their adventures. Is Miss Lonelyhearts ever going to find love? And what about Miss Torso, the beautiful ballerina of the neighborhood? It’s a vicious cycle: we can never get enough of it.
The cast of Rear Window is very effective and somewhat “expected”. The main male character Jeff is played by James Stewart, an actor who had already been in other Hitchcock’s movies. Once Hitchcock found somebody he liked to work with, he stuck with them in many different projects. It is the same case for the female lead Lisa, performed by Grace Kelly. She represents the perfect “Hitchcock blonde.” This term was coined after the many actresses who acted in Hitchcock’s movies, who had, in almost all cases icy blonde hair. The stereotyped woman, of course, wasn’t just based on the hair color. All of Hitchcock’s female heroines are well-known for being the embodiment of elegance, subtle sex-appeal, and mysteriousness, just as Lisa in this picture.
The movie is undoubtedly a thriller, accompanied by a great deal of suspense. Generally, Hitchcock uses a powerful soundtrack to create the right tension in the pick moments of his pictures. However, in Rear Window, he employs music to generate a sense of community and joy within the neighborhood, while he lets the deafening silence be in the spotlight during the clue moments. The movie also boasts some sophisticated elements of irony that will make you have a little inner laugh.
I’m aware that right now you are all busy with your final exams, but, if you need a break from all the stress and want to enjoy yourself for a couple of hours, I’d suggest you watch Rear Window; you won’t regret it. It’s a thrilling way to spend your afternoon between suspense and an occasional laugh. For those of you who have Amazon Prime Video, you can rent or even purchase the movie there. Otherwise, you can easily find it on IMDb or on YouTube. But watch carefully because among all the mystery and the passion the director Hitchcock himself makes his appearance in one of his famous cameos. Will you be able to find him?