Dir: Alfred Hitchcock
I’ve already watched a few Hitchcock films this year, including ‘Psycho’ and ‘The Birds’, but this was one that I was particularly interested in seeing.
‘Rope’ sees two men (John Dall and Farley Granger) kill their childhood friend David, then discussing it with each other in the after math, explaining that it was done merely as an intellectual act. They then put his body in a trunk, and proceed to host a dinner party atop the trunk with a guest list of David’s father, aunt, girlfriend, best friend, their housekeeper, and a very clever publisher Rupert (James Stewart) who was the boys housemaster at school.
Apparently the storyline took inspiration from the ‘Leopold and Loeb’ case in the 1920’s where two men murdered a 14 year-old boy in the aim of committing the ‘perfect crime’. The murder is right at the start, no build up to it or any of their planning, no wondering if they will do it, it’s already done. The reasoning as to why they have done this all come after, and as the opening shot shows this seemingly senseless act, their discussion of it shows that while their reasoning is in high levels of intellectual thought and philosophy, actually demonstrates that it’s even more lacking in reason.
The major tension comes from how everyone is there wondering why David isn’t, and the two men are reacting differently to the thing they have done, with a real chance of one of them giving too much away. James Stewart’s character Rupert is very much on the ball, he is the person whose philosophical musics and discussions with the murderers when they were younger inspired them to do this.
On that point, as part of their unusual dinner conversation they discuss the concept of weaker members of society being killed by stronger ones, and interestingly a ‘strangulation day’ which immediately made me think of concept of the 2013 film ‘The Purge’. It’s not something I’ve seen, but I heard about the plot, and it uses a lot of the same lines of reasoning, that there should be freedom for killing as a form of social refinement.
Hitchcock’s experimental lingering shots just hold their position at times and watch everything unfold. To allow for the needed cuts without looking like they have done so, it often closes in on characters backs so that the shot goes to black and other clever techniques like this to put in an unnoticeable cut, partly required because of the way that film reels at the time could only shoot 10 minutes of footage. In total the entire film is made up of just 10 shots. This was seen as a bold experiment for such a major director as Hitchcock to attempt, and he himself said it didn’t really work out, but still I think it does help to draw the audience into the tension and intrigue of the situation, unable to really cut away from the immediacy of the odd situation that the two murderers have constructed for themselves.
The ending is really perfectly done. Things are resolved as required, but then the film ends at the right point, rather than waiting for the implied next things that are going to happen it simply goes to the end credits, it doesn’t stay any longer than needed.
So many other films now could learn a lot from this.
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