Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Film Review - Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948)

Fig 1. Rope Poster.

As Rope is a relatively experimental film, there are quite clear strengths and weaknesses throughout. It can be easily interpreted as a lesson from Hitchcock to other filmmakers, that there should be much more experimenting in how films are made and that filmmakers should not be afraid to try something different and not succeed. A lot can be learned from experimentation, this is clearly what Hitchcock was doing when he made the film, a simple experimentation to see if a film could be made this way.

Rope is most famous for its 'continuous shot'. The film has the illusion of an undisrupted single camera shot throughout but at the time of its production the film industry was limited to filming a maximum of 10 minutes on a single reel. Hitchcock avoided noticeable cuts in the film by beginning and ending each 10 minute reel either behind an object or zoomed into the back of an actor.

Pamela Hutchinson states in her review ''Technically, the best thing here is the studio skyline-backdrop, with fibreglass clouds, a travelling sun and neon lights that blink a garish red and green as the film reaches its climax.'' (Hutchinson, 2012). As the film was built on the illusion of a single continuous shot, the illusion of real-time seeps in with it, if not slightly faster. The film achieved a simple sense of the passage of time, by using ever-changing backdrops and light conditions to trick the audience into believing the films faster transition from afternoon to evening (See Fig 2 & 3). The light changes are so subtle over the course of the film however, that it is hard to notice how fast it is happening. In that sense at least, the film succeeded.

Fig 2. Afternoon Scene.

Fig 3. Evening Green light.

In Roger Ebert's review he states ''The play depended, for its effect, on the fact that it was one continuous series of actions. Once the characters have entered the room, there can’t be any jumps in time, or the suspense will be lost. The audience must know that the body is always right there in the trunk.'' (Ebert, 1984). Like the original play, the film did not have noticeable cuts. As such the viewer would not think about anything other than what they were seeing and what would happen next. There is never any doubt that the body is still in the trunk. If there was a distinct cut, the viewer would begin to question the things that could have happened in between. Could the body have been moved? Is there anything else happening here? The continuous and steady passage of time hangs onto suspense tightly, while a cut in a scene would let out suspense as fast as air in an untied balloon. The audience never feels manipulated or deceived as long as the scene feels natural.

The New York Times film states ''The novelty of the picture is not in the drama itself, it being a plainly deliberate and rather thin exercise in suspense, but merely in the method which Mr. Hitchcock has used to stretch the intended tension for the length of the little stunt.'' (Crowther, 1948). The overall plot is very simple and can be summed up in a single sentence. This may be because it is an adaption of a play which Hitchcock wanted to stay true to, or it could be because the focus was on the camera-work and acting instead of the story. Despite its simplicity, the story and environment work perfectly in tune with single-shot filming. It is still an effective and suspenseful film, the camera-work boosts this with its interesting use of perspective and the environment of the apartment. Overall this film may not be one of Hitchcock's great cinema masterpieces, but it is a successful experiment that merely had to work within its predefined limits.

Illustration List

Hitchcock, A (1948) Figure 1. Rope Poster. http://images.moviepostershop.com/rope-movie-poster-1948-1020198503.jpg (Accessed on 13/01/15)

Hitchcock, A (1948) Figure 2. Afternoon Scene. http://cinemanostalgia.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Rope-homosexuality.jpg (Accessed on 20/01/15)

Hitchcock, A (1948) Figure 3. Evening Green Light. http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2011/8/26/1314358380443/Rope-013.jpg (Accessed on 20/01/15)


Hutchinson, P (2012) http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jul/27/my-favourite-hitchcock-rope (Accessed on 19/01/15)

Ebert, R (1984) http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/rope-1948 (Accessed on 19/01/15)

Crowther, B (1948) http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=980DE3D81630E03BBC4F51DFBE668383659EDE (Accessed on 19/01/15)

1 comment:

  1. 'The continuous and steady passage of time hangs onto suspense tightly, while a cut in a scene would let out suspense as fast as air in an untied balloon' - Nice one Jack!
    Remember to italicise the film name as well as the quotes!