Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
IMDb 8.6/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 100%
4 Academy Award Nominations
NYFCC Award for Best Actress
#42 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list
Added to United States Nation Film Registry in 1997
Rear Window is Hitchcock “The Master of Suspense” at his finest. This is the story of a man who is stuck in wheelchair inside his apartment due to a broken leg. He believes he has witnessed a murder through his rear window. While he’s stuck in there, the viewer is also trapped, because we can only observe what he does through his trusty camera lens. All these images in his head are sorted out in such an arrangement that it seems a murder has indeed taken place across from his apartment. His voyeuristic lifestyle of looking into others private lives is exactly what the viewer is doing while the movie is playing. We are just observing through another “window” which is the screen that the movie is being shown on; to give the viewer a look into Jefferies private life. It’s quite fascinating when you begin to break it down.
The man in the apartment is L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart); A professional photographer injured during an action shot of an auto race. The aftermath has left him in a wheel chair with a broken leg. Due to the heat in his city, many people have their windows opened or escape the heat by going outdoors. The apartments is located above a courtyard with many surrounding apartments, with people all trying to beat the heat. Jefferies becomes interested in his neighbors and passes the time observing them with his camera. There are two women who visit Jefferies on the regular. Stella (Thelma Ritter) is an insurance nurse who checks up on Jefferies, who is a great comic relief. The second is Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly); an elegant model and dress designer. She is the girlfriend of Jefferies, and is willing to go the distance in order to become married with him.
As Jefferies begins watching his neighbors on the regular he begins to learn more about them. There is Ms. Torso, a young and beautiful ballet dancer who often has men coming over but she’s not interested. Next we have Ms. Lonleyhearts who is a middle age lady that has imaginary men come over for dinner. There is a Pianist who is struggling to make music that sounds fitting to him. Newly weds who just move in with over-excitement for the life ahead of them. A couple who sleep outside and have a little puppy that ventures and sniffs around the courtyard. Last but not least Mr. Thorwald (Raymond Burr)a peculiar man whose wife spends the day in her room while constantly nagging at him. As the days go by Jeff becomes suspicious. He hasn’t seen or heard from Mrs. Thorwald and begins to notice strange clues that would suspect Mr. Thorwald murdered his wife. “everything this fellow’s done has been suspicious: trips at night in the rain, knifes, saws, trunks with rope, and now this wife that isn’t there anymore.” with the help of Stella, Lisa, and his former war buddy Detective. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey); Jeff tries to solve this murder without actually leaving the room. Jeff has Lisa and Stella doing work that involves leaving the apartment room placing them in grave danger, as a result of Jefferies’ carelessness and inability to realize the true danger until it’s before his own eyes. Leading up to some of the most suspenseful scenes in cinema history.
This is my favorite movie of time, also by my favorite Director (Hitchcock) and Actor (Jimmy Stewart!). I can go on and on about all the things I love in this film. The suspense is quality in this film. This can grab me more than many modern thriller ever could! The film really has the audience wanting to yell out “RUN! HE’S COMING, HIDE!” Which is funny, because that is exactly what Jefferies is feeling, since he’s bond to his wheelchair. I just had the pleasure of watching this in a class of 80 college students and was very surprised at all the gasp I heard coming from them on some scenes, and how drawn into the film the students became; considering the fact the movie is from 1954. There is a lot of things you can grab from this film, you could probably analyze it to the death. My favorite thing about this film which makes it so great is Hitchcock’s ability to know where the camera is going to be placed. The main character of the story doesn’t leave the room, yet you are kept entertained for an 1 hour and 50mins.
Rear Window shows how important and effective visual storytelling is to film. Hitchcock started his career in the 1920s before sound was introduced to film. I’m sure that gave him edge over most directors leading up to his last film in 1976. Hitchcock’s ability to convey his story through visuals was evident during some important scenes in Rear Window. For example, the opening scene is a 2 minute long pan of the apartment complex. It begins with a pan along the apartments leading close up shot of Jeff’s head while he is asleep and he’s sweating bullets then a shot of the thermometer. The camera continues to introduce the viewer to the neighbors, and then a medium shot of Jefferies sitting in the chair asleep. However the camera begins to pan down his body reveling that he has a massive cast on his leg stating “Here lie the broken bones of L.B. Jefferies”. Next it pans across the room to a broken camera, then to a picture of a auto accident, pictures of a war, a girl and many other cameras. That is absolutely extraordinary that Hitchcock told you who the man is, what happened to him, what he does, and where he lives without any dialogue. A little off topic but to form a relation; The way a Tarantino film works with his intense and riveting dialogue is the way a Hitchcock film works visual storytelling. Just check out The Man Who Knew Too Much, in the Opera house for another example of visual storytelling at it’s best.
My favorite scene in this movie is when he wakes up in the middle of the night when the rain is pouring. This scene is just so realistic. The only sound you hear in this 5 minute part. Is rain, cars, thunder, an argument, and a train. All during this Thorwald is suspiciously moving around in the dead of the night with a suitcase.
The whole entire cast of the neighbors for the most part are playing as if this were in a silent film. They do have a few lines where the interact from their balconies but for the most part they just move upon their daily lives and we can only make out some of the conversations. However since Jefferies is spying on them we see some very private things and learn about them. I believe you can take one of these neighbors, like Ms. Lonleyhearts for example, and create a whole new movie based on her life. Another thing that leaves me amazed his how perfect the people are framed inside the windows of their houses. It may have been easy to set that up because it’s filmed on a set Hitchcock made, but to still be able to have the camera in the perfect place is incredible.
Jimmy Stewart gave a great role as Jefferies. He is very like-able even though what he is doing is questionable. Grace Kelly was beautiful in this movie. I loved how different her and Jefferies were, yet still had feelings for each other. Thelma Ritter was pretty funny in this film. She had a lot of witty responses, as well as a few interesting viewpoints.
Without going too in depth I want to quickly point out Hitchcock’s view on the relationship between men and women. The women in this movie are all confident. They aren’t listening to what the men say and are going about their own thoughts. Hitchcock used Jefferies and Lisa as a primary example on how he views relationships. The newly weds is another example. Also look at who Ms. Torso finally ends up with; I’m sure you know a lot of couples like this. Lastly the end of the movie has another panning scene to tell how things are going, and just by looking at Jefferies and Lisa you can tell where they are heading in terms of their relationship.
Frankly there is not too much wrong with this film. On the first viewing I had it did seem a little long in the beginning, but there is a lot of key details said and shown in this period. While the second half was just spectacular. After the film ended I began to appreciate the beginning. This is a film most should find enjoyable.
Well I tried to limit the writing on this review! I’m sure you can tell I admire the technical aspect of the film. The story is a simple mystery story, but given the circumstances it turns into something grand. There is just so much going on in this movie. If you were wondering why you may have seen something similar; Disturbia is partially inspired from this film. I like how Roger Ebert summed this film up “Rear Window” lovingly invests in suspense all through the film, banking it in our memory, so that when the final payoff arrives, the whole film has been the thriller equivalent of foreplay.”
Rating: ★★★★★ / ★★★★★
“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.”
For a great read on Rear Window you can check out: http://thesouloftheplot.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/rear-window/