Rope (1948) Review
|Figure 1: Movie Poster|
Rope is a 1948 film which is directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is about two young men who live together, who commit murder and hide the body in a chest for the thrill of it. They host a party and serve food from the chest, and as the film progresses we can see one of the young men break down, convinced they are going to get caught, whereas the leader is overly confident and draws a lot of suspicion by even referring to committing a murder and why. He flaunts the murder, by tying up some books with the rope used to kill the man and giving them away, and being the one to suggest moving the food from the table to the chest.
|Figure 2: Film Still|
In this film Hitchcock has tried to create a film composed from what looks like one long shot, with each end of the tape being not so subtly concealed by panning the camera completely into the back of a person so that the screen goes black and the new film would begin coming out from the other side. This would work well if the camera did that not only on those occasions where the film roll would need to be changed, it would be more seamless if it wasn’t so out of the ordinary for the camera to do that, as the camera does not act like that throughout the rest of the film.
The camera in this film is almost like another character. It has a mind of its own, and often moves around the room in accordance to what another character is saying, sometimes exploring a path a character is describing, or taking a look at the box which is the source of another characters stress. It zooms in and out on characters when they are realising something, and when Hitchcock feels that we need to recognise what that character is thinking, even though that character may not be at the forefront of that scene.
|Figure 3: Film still|
“Apart from the tedium of waiting or someone to open that chest and discover the hidden body which the hosts have tucked away for the sake of a thrill, the unpunctuated flow of image becomes quite monotonous.” (Bosley Crowther, 2000)
This quote from Crowther refers to Hitchcocks build up of tension using what seems like the same technique, only keeping the audience guessing if someone is going to open the chest in which the body is hidden. He also describes because of the film being shown as one long shot, it becomes quite static and boring. There is no variation in shot as it is always like the camera is somebody looking at the characters, an invisible guest. There are no interesting shots which Hitchcock is famous for, only the same monotonous pan and zoom of the camera, occasionally jolted by the camera disappearing into a person’s back.
“When we watch Rope, however, we know exactly what kind of sickness we're staring at and the only question is how long we can bear to look.” (Pamela Hutchinson, 2012)
Hutchinson describes how Hitchcock went against the ordinary formula for a crime film, and he gave us no mystery in murder or who did it. We know exactly what happened and why, and he gave it to us straight away in the opening scene, forcing us to know what happened so that the rest of the film is all about guessing whether or not they will be caught. This was a successful technique which makes this film stand out, it is all about the suspense of knowing what the other characters do not know, and either rooting for them, or not, as to whether they will be caught.
|Figure 4: Film still|
“Hitchcock's camera was loaded with 10-minute reels, and had to duck behind an actor's back, or a piece of furniture, to "invisibly" cut from one piece of film to the next. This clunkiness can be part of the film's claustrophobic strength though: the coffin-chest is rarely out of shot, and the camera follows the actors around every square inch of the confined set. They're trapped, and so is the audience.” (Pamela Hutchinson 2012)
In this quote Hutchinson is also referring to and praising the use of the one shot effect, saying that it contributes to the claustrophobic feel of the film. It makes it feel live, as if the audience is there and anything can happen at that time. It makes us feel the same as the younger murderer, trapped and with no way out of his crime.