Sunday, 18 January 2015

Review: Rope

Figure 1: Theatrical Poster (IMDb)
  • Native Title: Rope
  • Primary Language: English
  • Format: Technicolour
  • Year of release: 1948
  • Director: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Budget: est. $1,500,000
  • Film Length: 90 minutes
  • Production Company: Warner Brothers

    One of Hitchcock's early films, Rope is an experimental murder-mystery film that uses camera tricks to get around the limitations of the day and create the illusion of the entire film taking the place over the span of one recording.

     The film itself is fairly limited in the locations it visits. While other contemporary films such as Black Narcissus take place in a number of rooms spread out across a large building; Rope primarily takes place in the living room of a well-to do Manhattan apartment with the camera occasionally moving to the hallway and the dining room. It does not go much further than that however. It revolves around the sense of pride that Manhattan socialite Brandon has when he and his partner Philip murder their prep-school classmate David, stuff him inside a chest and then host a dinner party in the same room as his corpse.
Figure 2: The crime would have been perfect had Brandon not given in to narcissism and
hosted a dinner party at the murder scene (Dellolio, 2005)
    The action was primarily within the living room and even when the bulk of the film's  partygoers go into the dining room for part of the film most of the the camera shots are within the living room. There may be merits to this confined series of shots, as "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." (Hutchinson, 2012), the chest in which David's body was hidden in is always there, and like the key component in Edgar Allen Poe's The Telltate Heart it assaults the integrity of the audience and Philip - Brandon's partner both in-residence and in-crime to create tension as both Brandon and Philip could be found out and shunned at any moment.

Figure 3: Despite only murdering someone moments before, Brandon
was pretty good at hiding it by the way he talked with his guests.
(Snow, 2011)
    Hitchcock is a visionary director, and the way the story plays out shows that he "is more interested in examining the way violence erupts out of oppression than in using gays as convenient shorthand for boogeymen" (Croce, 2006). By way of making Brandon and Phillip sociable to friends, family and contacts through friendly conversations and polite (if occasionally heated) discussion, an image emerges from the darker recesses that these are perfectly functional and amicable members of society. And while Brandon does talk as if he is a protege of the infamous Friedrich Nietzsche with terms like "superior beings" and "good and evil are inventions of the common man", he is not treated by the other like a total creep or an outcast. At the very least his friends consider him a Machiavellian schemer, which given the background as a star prep school student is not too far from the common perception. But as the night progresses he does not let up in revelling in his accomplishment, dropping sly hints and comments that would pass over the heads of those not in the know, almost like he wants his guests to put the pieces together just so he can admit about what he accomplished.

Figure 4: The maid clears the "table", at any moment the truth
could have come out what was inside (the Liberal Ironist, 2011)
    Brandon's sly hints at David's presence come to a head "while the guests are discussing something of no great moment just off- screen, the camera, catlike, stares at the chest as the maid gets ready to put some books back into it, unaware, of course, that the chest is already fully occupied" (Canby, 1984). The build-up felt was terrifying as a mental image emerged of the Maid opening the chest to a scream to discover David's body inside. The way the scene was drawn out could be compared to being held at gunpoint and knowing the perp would shoot only for him to simply wait, the gun pointed at your chest with the threat of going off any minute. The ensuing relief washes down like a wave when David intervenes as she and Rupert are opening the lid to preserve the body's hidden status.

Image References


  1. Nice and succinct Mark :) Good that you are keeping up-to-date with the reviews too...

    1. This film was a fun one. However it seems I will have to make a minor revision as blogger can't seem to find the theatrical poster.