Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Rope review

Two young men Brandon and Phillip strangle their inferior classmate David and hide him in a chest. As they feel they have created a perfect murder they hold a small party with David's father, his fiancée Janet and their old schoolteacher Rupert from whom they mistakenly got the idea from. Brandon becomes more and more daring while Phillip becomes more and more nervous forcing suspicion from Rupert.

Hitchcock took many influences from plays and the theatre as he was artistic in his delivery of his films. Rope is a film which explores Hitchcock's interest from the theatre shown through the camera techniques and film set used. The film plays with a technique of using long continuous shots to create a theatre illusion that the audience could immerse themselves within. Hitchcock felt that this immersion was integral to the film as it became a link between the two main characters and the audience in which they share an observation. '....the dinner party that takes place in Hamilton's play is an excellent example of performance - that favoured Hitchockian metaphor - in the nontheatrical form that obsessed the filmmaker most: In giving the party, Brandon and Phillip are staging a theatre piece, of which they are the stars and the invited guests are the audience. Adding to the richness of this conceit is the fact that Brandon and Phillip are themselves an audience observing the behaviour of their guests, who thus become unwitting performers of the piece.' (Sterritt 1993) It can be seen that this camera technique is extremely modern to which filmmakers have adapted in recent films to create a sense of immersion. Much like Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project, Rope has camera judders as it interacts with the action promoting a sense of involvement with the events, as if the audience is right there within the party. Martin comments on the camera work 'Hitchcock creates the illusion that the story is playing out in real time, in a single unbroken take witnessed by a camera that floats like a phantom from room to room. In effect, the camera becomes character in the production, an embodiment of the audience. This creates a sometimes uncomfortable intimacy, watching Rope is a little like watching a play from the stage itself.' (Martin 2002)

Hitchcock battled with much technical impairment to create Rope and it is regarded by many and Hitchcock himself as a 'stunt'. At the time of the film camera magazines could hold just over 10 minutes worth of film time which could have become a huge problem for Hitchcock in shooting the film. The film was shot in 10 takes to because of this in which transition to another shot was masked by a cut created by a camera close-up of a jacket. Well done at times but it is severely noticeable as well, Canby writes 'These breaks he usually accomplishes by having the camera appear to pan across someone's back, during which dark close-ups the film reel is changed. Not all of these disguises are equally effective, as Hitchcock himself later realized. However, his obsession with telling a story without resorting to the usual methods of montage, and without cutting from one shot to another, results in a film of unusual, fascinating technical facility, whose chilliness almost perfectly suits the subject.' (Canby 1984)

The other technical issue that confronted Hitchcock was the view of the outside window providing the lighting in some cases. The skyline was made up of a semi-circular pattern three times the size of the apartment so that the camera could pan and compensate the panoramic background. The main issue of production was in fact that because the film was supposed to be in real-time it had to take note of the time of day. Nam writes in his review ' and because the film was supposed to be in real time, starting with the murder in broad daylight and ending by nightfall, they had to alter the flow of light to create the gradual sunset and darkening of the background. This actually posed one of the main problems for the production. As it was the first time Hitchcock and his cameraman were dealing with colour, the sunset towards the last five reels were considered too orange, causing them to re-shoot the last five reels all over again.' (Nam 2003)

It is undeniable that Rope is a stunt in technical mastery, having to overcome many issues to provide its tense story. The camera techniques employed by Hitchcock gives Rope an immersive feel making it seem so much more ahead of its time comparing with recent films using a similar handheld camera technique. The audience feel connected with the party as if they are trapped within the room forcing our eyes to take note of specific things the greatest being the shot of the chest and Mrs. Wilson as she tides up. This shot builds up such unbearable tension as the audience feels a countdown of inevitability as she draws closer and closer to putting the books away within the chest and uncovering the horror.


Vincent Canby, 'Rope': A Stunt to Behold, 3 June 1984, accessed on 2/2/2011

Phillip Martin, Rope Review, 29 August 2002, accessed on 1/2/2011

Nam, Rope Review, 24 December 2003, accessed on 2/2/2011

David Sterrittuk/books?id=eYG39FscKHEC&lpg=PA22&dq=alfred%20hitchcock%20rope&pg=PA23#v=onepage&q=alfred%20hitchcock%20rope&f=false accessed on 1/2/2011

Film Poster - accessed on 2/2/2011

The 'stars' and the 'audience' - accessed on 2/2/2011

Brandon and Phillip - accessed on 2/2/2011

The New York Skyline with Hitchcock neon sign - accessed on 2/2/2011

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