Saturday, 5 February 2011


Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producer(s): Alfred Hitchcock, Sydney Birnstein
Year: 1948
Cast: John Dall, Farley Granger, James Stewart, Joan Chandler, Sir Cedrick Hardwick, Douglas Dick

Rope is an American Crime film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and is mostly well know for its lack of editing. It tells the story of two young men (Brandon and Philip) who strangle their inferior classmate, hide his body in a trunk of their apartment and invite guests to a dinner party in the same apartment as a means to challenge the perfection of their crime. Though it lacks in excitement in terms of its story, there are some tense scenes worth talking about as it still remains a solid suspense effort and is recognised as Hitchcock's most challenging technical achievement. The film was done by continuous long takes with a few cuts that were done in a way the viewer wouldn't even notice and is a living proof that there is no need of complicated editing to accomplish something as big as that. As Ebert, a film critic mentioned: "Alfred Hitchcock called “Rope” an “experiment that didn’t work out,” and he was happy to see it kept out of release for most of three decades. He was correct that it didn’t work out, but “Rope” remains one of the most interesting experiments ever attempted by a major director working with big box-office names" (Ebert.1984)
FIG.2: The camera focusing on the 2 main characters'
intense dialogues.
Of course Rope is famous for the use of the camera throughout the film. Although the shots were long the camera was always focusing on what was vital for each moment of the film. Close ups were used in dialogues like the the ones between the two main characters of the story (FIG.2), or to be more specific the two people who were handling the whole suspense of the film. The fact that the camera was always close to the hidden body and  surrounded by the guests in the apartment makes the viewer feel like part of the crowd, like a participant of the story and the only witness of the crime."In doing this, it makes the viewer feel very much like another guest, and the illusion it creates of passing time is genius - after just one hour you'll feel as if you've spent the whole evening at a stimulating party, with the guests' getting ready to depart seeming entirely natural." (Kermode.2006) This could be named as a "tragic irony" like in Ancient Greek tragedies where the audience was aware of the situations in the story but the characters remain ignorant till the very end. 
FIG.3: The maid clearing the "disguised" coffin.
An example of a very tense scene which captures the audience's attention is where the maid clears up the remains of the party from the trunk the body was hidden in(FIG.3). The whole scene was done very slowly and the camera was in the same position, ignoring the talk which was taking place next to the trunk as the "disguise" of the coffin was gradually taken away. 
Hitchcock was also using close ups to suggest the characters' emotions by showing their hands and body language. Brandon was was the "confident murderer" throughout the film and was trying to act as normal as possible so he wouldn't accidently reveal his crime. He was always outgoing and was trying to play the role of the friendly host whereas Philip was constantly nervous,  most of the time silent, lost in his thoughts. The camera was showing his shaking hands and the wine glass he broke due to his nervousness which resulted in a handful of blood(FIG.4).
FIG.4 Philip's hands covered in blood.
Another element of this film is the way that Hitchcock is able to still maintain the semblance of a passage of great time, even though it all took place in real time. Using the one window to the outside world of the city skyline of Manhattan as a mark the passage of time he tricks the audience by starting the film with bright daylight and progressively darkens it. The whole dinner party lasted for less than an hour but Hitchcock's trick certainly worked and magically made it last for much longer. 
Finally, another important thing about Rope was its homosexual subtext. At the time Hitchcock was unable to raise such thing directly but the  homoerotic element between Brandon and Philip was shown even from the beginning of the movie when they were both stuffing the corpse in the piece of furniture. This could have been one the filmakers' first attempts during that time to show how homosexuality should not be considered as a taboo but as a person's choice which should be respected and accepted by the public.
To sum up, Rope is one of the masterpieces well worth watching not just for the story and the meaning hidden behind it but for its technical achievements too. Its camera movements were used to establish mood, create tense moments and give the feeling of 'space'. Even in modern cinema, filmakers have used his technique to create amazing films.  It is proof that simplicity can achieve much more. "Rope is one of the most psychologically disturbing and thought-provoking films of Hitchcock’s career. The viewer is drawn into the “Will they get caught?” game played by Morgan and Shaw with the dinner guests. Like Morgan exclaims, " "Cat and mouse, cat and mouse. But which is the cat and which is the mouse?" Rope is an exciting ride that is worth a look by any fan of thrillers and mysteries, and especially for anyone who considers themselves a fan of Hitchcock." (Mashuga.2008).

Ebert, Roger (1984) Film Review At: (accessed on 5/2/2011)
Jennie Kermode(2006) Film Review At: (accessed on 5/2/2011)
Jennifer L. Mashuga (2008) Film Review At (accessed on 5/2/2011)

List of Illustrations
FIG.1: Film Poster At: (accessed on 5/2/2011)
FIG.2: Film Still At: (accessed on 5/2/2011)
FIG.3: Film Still At: on 5/2/2011)
FIG.4: Screen Shot captured on youtube At: on 5/2/2011)

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