Friday, 10 February 2012

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope Review (1948)

Fig. 1. Rope Poster
 
Rope presents itself as a guinea pig of films in Alfred Hitchcock’s arsenal. The story revolves around two men who try to commit the perfect murder; the movie opens up with the pair strangling their school classmate as an act to prove their superiority and look down on the inferiors. There are underlying hints of the main pair’s homosexuality which was controversial at the time and their motives revolve around the Nietzsche philosophy, combining this with the almost foolish hiding place of the body and the single camera view of the flat the film offers much suspense and uneasy tension at times.
Hitchcock, who a few years earlier produced Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious and many others, wanted to create a film that was composed of one continuous shot or long take. He described it as a stunt in his is career adventure, “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.” (Canby, 1984)
 
Fig. 2. Murder

Unfortunately at the time cameras could only hold 1000 feet of film resulting in shots limited to 10 minutes each. This is where the editing comes into it and yet at the same time remains secluded; this film almost had no editing and that was the exact intention of Hitchcock, the only editing used is when the shot segment runs out and has to continue in the next 10 minute segment. With a total of 10 shots the editing is kept to a minimum, cleverly Hitchcock transitioned the shots usually by zooming into a prop or an actor and then resuming by zooming out of the same object keeping the sense of continuity going. Even though some of these transitions are quite evident, starting off from where the last shot ended doesn’t interrupt the sequence and the story continues like a play.

 Fig. 3. Chest

The manner in which the camera seems to not pass the line of action within such a confined space in the flat, the cleverly chosen shots (over the shoulder, three shot, etc.), and the fact that we already know where the body is leads to a great experience in suspense in which Hitchcock is very familiar with in many of his films. Instead of not telling us anything any using surprise he gives us all of the information and lets the characters actions build up the action. The camera work plays on these actions and one example is when all the party is talking off screen there’s just a shot of the chest with the body to the side and the maid is gradually taking off all the things covering it. This leads to a build of suspense because we don’t know if the characters are paying attention to her or not and we don’t know if she’ll open the chest or not. Hitchcock’s varied uses of cinematic techniques combine for an interesting experience, “Far from just ‘recording a play,’ the suffocating long takes enforce ethical contemplation by refusing the relief of a cut (which, in the director's voyeuristic world, would have amounted to looking the other away).” (Croce, 2006)
This forces viewers to become part of the action and in a way almost feel the guilt of what’s to come. Rope really is a guinea pig of innovation and it does a good job of it too, even leading to producers of present times to use long takes to make the viewer’s feel more encapsulated.

Bibliography
Canby, V. (1984) The New York Times At: http://www.nytimes.com/library/film/060384hitch-rope-reflection.html (Accessed on: 09/02/12)

Croce, F. (2006) Slant Magazine At: http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review/rope/948 (Accessed on: 09/02/12)

Illustration List
Fig. 1. Alfred Hitchcock (1948) Rope Poster At: http://www.moviegoods.com/movie_poster/rope_1948.htm (Accessed on: 09/02/12)

Fig. 2. Murder (1948) From: Rope Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock [film still] USA: Transatlantic Pictures At: http://www.gonemovies.com/www/Hoofd/A/Detail.php?Keuze=HitchcockStewartRope&Cat=Crime (Accessed on: 09/02/12)
 
Fig. 3. Chest (1948) From: Rope Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock [film still] USA: Transatlantic Pictures At: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-BBVeRYdtNrY/Tlh2rH3hGYI/AAAAAAADXFo/vr5fVM1JHew/s1600/MovieQuiz_1653-040.JPG (Accessed on: 09/02/12)

1 comment:

  1. “Far from just ‘recording a play,’ the suffocating long takes enforce ethical contemplation by refusing the relief of a cut (which, in the director's voyeuristic world, would have amounted to looking the other away).” (Croce, 2006)

    This is a killer quote - and a great example of editing underwriting the narrative as additional thematic content; it's this sort of insight into how everything nuances story and audience experience that can power an entire written assignment on the 'relationship between story and structure' - good stuff, Gabriel - and, if you're sensible, you'll be storing all this knowledge (or research, as it's known!) and using it to make the writing of your unit 4 written assignment a breeze!

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