Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rear Window (1954)

Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) is a masterpiece. It tells the story of Jeffries, a photographer who has recently met with an accident and is confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg. To overcome boredom, he keeps looking out of the rear window of his New York apartment from where he can observe the lives of the occupants of various houses. While keeping himself thus occupied, Jeffries gets convinced that the salesman living in the building across his apartment has murdered his nagging and bed-ridden wife. How Jeffries overcomes his own guilt of spying on unknown people and later how he convinces first his nurse, then his girlfriend and finally his detective buddy about the murder forms the rest of the story.

Most of the tension in the film is derived from the manner in which the film is shot. Hitchcock again makes the viewers feel claustrophobic by offering them more or less the same view that Jeffries has, i.e. of the apartment which he occupies and the view from the rear window of the apartment. Although the action does sometimes shift outside, the shots are still from inside the apartment, making the viewer see and feel almost exactly what Jeffries feels. (In my humble opinion, Hitchcock had used the same claustrophobic effect with more brilliance in his 1946 film Rope.) Towards the film's climax, one can almost feel the helplessness that Jeffries feels by being tied down to his wheelchair. Two scenes bring this out brilliantly. One, where Lisa, Jeffries' girlfriend is being attacked by the salesman and two, when the salesman comes to murder Jeffries himself.

James Stewart puts in a decent performance as Jeffries. Maybe it is just me, but somehow Jimmy Stewart has always had a very sophisticated air around him, something which just doesn't go with a rough-and-tumble character like Jeffries.

Thelma Ritter as Stella, Jeffries' nurse, has perhaps the best line in the film. "Intelligence?" she asks. "Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence." Ha ha. How true is that?

And then, there's Grace Kelly. ~sighs~ That, ladies and gentlemen, is classical beauty for you (Apart from Elizabeth Taylor in 1963's "Cleopatra" of course). When she walks out in front of James Stewart in this satin nightwear, she is the picture of grace, glamour, beauty and sensuality all rolled into one. She brings to life the character of a New York socialite who is excited about the prospect of running dangerous errands.

I loved the moral dilemma that Jeffries offers regarding voyeurism. Instantly addictive, voyeurism presents a dilemma for each one of us, especially when you're in a condition like the one Jeffries' finds himself in where you think you can actually help / do what is right by spying upon people.

All in all, one cool film.

My rating: 4 out of 5

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