Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly
Genre: Mystery & Suspense
Colour, 112 Minutes
How does the concept of a film revolving around one man staring out his window for 105 minutes sound? Quite daunting right? However, remember who is directing: Alfred Hitchcock. Rear Window presents us with Hitchcockian auteur: telling stories perfectly and engaging with the audience through tension and suspense. The first 35 or so minutes are quite slow and tranquil, but as time goes on, the murder mystery becomes something quite special, as well as the side stories used throughout to relieve us. Everything sums up for a magical movie experience. This is yet another example of classic cinema that will remain timeless.
L.B Jeffries (James Stewart), a journalist has to stay in his apartment due to an injury in his leg. To pass the time between visits from his nurse (Thelma Ritter) and his fashion model girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), the binocular-wielding Jeffries stares through the rear window of his apartment at the goings-on in the other apartments around his courtyard. AS we watched his neighbour, he sees rather suspicious things.
The best thing this film does is position you with what is going on, from Stewart’s perspective. Hitchcock’s recipe for audience positioning is always satisfying. We see it through the isolation of Rope, the knowing of facts characters don’t know giving us privilege in Psycho, and here in Rear Window, how we get to join in on the voyeur. We see a normal man’s curiosity and secret desires to watch the lives going on just outside his apartment that actually leads to something serious.
In all aspects, the film is well shaped. James Stewart is a brilliant actor and one of my favourites. With films such as It’s a Wonderful Life under his belt. Here, he is the average man, which makes him relatable for audiences now and then. Then we have Grace Kelly, who is one of the most idealised women of cinema, who has all the positive traits a female could have. Beauty, affection, skilled in a profession of work and an excellent cook, yet Stewart’s character feels she is ‘too perfect’. The side stories in the film reflect their relationship, which is just perfect, as it does not make those side characters ‘filler characters’.
Aside the clever murder mystery, we have side stories that give you comic relief, and reflect on the relationship between Stewart and Kelly. We see various marital relationships including, the addicted-to-sex newly-weds, the rowdy couple and even a nagging wife. Stewart’s character has also given some of them nicknames, such as “Miss Lonely-hearts”, the woman with no husband or boyfriend and even “Miss Torso” a professional dancer. This shows Hitchcock’s amusing sense of humour and it definitely gave you relief from the films main plot.
The camera work was nice and the set design was very believable. Everything you see has all been done in a studio. All those apartments are set indoors, and for a film dating back to the 50’s, this is quite impressive. The only thing that stops the film from being a masterpiece I would say is that the mystery is not very engaging until nearly half way through the film. Things seem quite dead until then. Nevertheless, Hitchcock fans will love this film because the visual storytelling and performances given by Kelly and Stewart sweep you away.
With Hitchcock’s droll sense of humour you will find yourself grinning from time to time with the little characters spread around in the film. It may be no comedy, but the subtle 'Hitchcockian' humour thrown in is relieving and amusing.
Verdict: In my eyes, it is not a masterpiece, but still an important film with a fine ensemble of talents including actors, writers, costume designers, composers and of course, Hitchcock the director. This is among the important films of cinema that will remain a classic possibly forever.