Thursday, 16 January 2014

Rope (1948) Film Review

Fig 1: 'Rope' (1948) Poster
The film 'Rope' (1948) by Alfred Hitchcock is a film filled with suspense, intrigue and murder. The film begins with the murder of David Kentley, committed by his friends Brandon and Phillip for being "inferior" and "ordinary" only to then be placed into a chest conspicuously located in the center of the room. This would be bearable if not for the party that takes place afterwards. The guests slowly begin to arrive, as we are introduced to each one, the dead David's lover and even his father are present at this event; if only to be a sickening distance to his warm corpse. The party continues, with the character Rupert Cadell piecing together the macabre clues of this twisted puzzle, and eventually concludes with David's disappearance worrying everyone profusely, although Rupert finally has his suspicions confirmed when his is in fact handed David's hat by mistake upon the guest's departure. The two murderer's, Brandon and Phillip are then confronted by Rupert slightly later in a long and drawn out flurry of words and metaphor, during which Brandon intends to shoot Rupert but is quickly discovered and relinquishes the armament. In the end, shocked by the crime his former students have committed, Rupert battles with a drunken Phillip, who is now holding the gun, only to fire it off into the sky and by doing so calling the police. 'Rope' (1948) is quite unique in its approach, using different ways to simulate a constant recording; as well his daring to indicate a then taboo topic without mentioning it outright.

"'Rope' is explicit without actually committing any offenses the Production Code could object to."
 (Levy 2007)

The two characters, Brandon and Phillip, are the protagonist's of this twisted tale and can be seen to be close to each other. The manner in which both characters interact with each other is both amusing and odd to how we would assume two males act after committing murder. Brandon's elated reaction is incredibly unsettling while Phillip's is that of a normal individual, frightened and paranoid, although he reverts to a submissive role when mentally over-powered by Brandon. The interactions between these two characters can be interpreted as Hitchcock's suggestion of their sexual orientation. This was. as mentioned before, a taboo subject for the time period and was unable to be shown in film, but as Levy point's out, even due to Hitchcock's explicit suggestion of Brandon and Phillip's homosexual relationship, the way in which these character's were presented allows for extreme ambiguity regarding the subject and allows Hitchcock to push this suggestion to it limits, with out showing any homo erotic scenes whatsoever.
Fig 2: Phillip and Brandon
 The way in which 'Rope' (1948) is filmed gives a theater like quality to the production but is also a technique far ahead of its time period.

"Rope is Hitchock's underrated classic that contains some of the most unique filmmaking of it's time. Hitchcock was so far ahead of filmmakers back then and so far ahead of a lot of the filmmakers today." (McCarthy 2008)

Hitchcock's experimentation with camera technique in 'Rope' (1948) was at the time, extremely ahead of its time. His use of a single environment, a seemingly constant reel and having the film in colour allows the scenes to really come alive and seat itself within reality. The limitations of filming equipment in 1948 disallowed the effect Hitchcock was looking for, as a single camera could only record 9 minutes of film, so instead this is achieved through the use of disguised cuts throughout the film as the camera pans across an object or around the back of a character; these cuts however are quite obviously but do serve their purpose to create the illusion. The use of colour for the film, however, does go towards allowing the sets and character's seem slightly more realistic. Throughout the film, Hitchcock's mastery of suspense is seen clearly through his camera techniques and narrative, often build the audience's tension in such a way as to infuriate them. A single scene within 'Rope' (1948) illustrates this perfectly, when the house keeper slowly removes items from atop the chest containing David Kentley's body and nearly opens it up, only to be stopped at the last second by Brandon; this scene's build up is extremely slow and steady with the ambiance of conversation clearly identifying that the host's are indisposed and unable to stop her discreetly, making any audience writhe in their seats at the increasing tension and terrifying suspense. McCarthy points out the significance of Hitchcock's techniques to contemporary film today, with them appreciated by a modern audience and even surpassing some of the newest movie released today.
Fig 3: Housekeeper clean up scene
The plot of 'Rope' (1948) gives great focus to the murder and victims corpse to generate tension and unsettle the audience.

"the emphasis on the macabre in this small story is frightfully intense." (Crowther 1948)

As stated by Crowther, 'Rope' (1948) places an alarming amount of emphasis and focus upon the missing (and murdered) David Kentley who's warm corpse lays sometimes an inch from his father, Mr. Kentley, and fiance, Janet Walker. Hitchcock makes sure we constantly remember this fact as his family and lover begin to worry greatly about him, bringing his name into conversation profusely. This is only added to by Phillip's conscience as his consistent episodes of fear through out the performance not only points out important details but mirrors the audiences supposed reaction to the macabre touches Brandon feels are necessary to complete the ecstatic and somehow pleasurable act of murder they have committed. This constant indulgence in forcing the audience's attention the murder makes it into the significant event portrayed but also leaves the character's of the film in a difficult position. This is because each character's personality and sub plots are utterly overshadowed by the main plot, giving little room for growth or even connection with them.

List of Illustrations

Fig 1: 'Rope' poster (1948) [Poster] At: http://hitchcock.tv/mov/rope/rope.jpg

Fig 2: Brandon and Phillip in 'Rope' (1948) Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Still] America: Transatlantic Pictures, At: http://blogs.presstelegram.com/outinthe562/files/2012/12/grangerrope5.jpg 
(Accessed 14/01/14)

Fig 3: Housekeeper clean up scene in 'Rope' (1948) Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Still] America: Transatlantic Pictures, At: http://lisathatcher.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/rope-tense-chest-scene.jpg
(Accessed 14/01/14)

Bibliography
Crowther, Bosley (1948) At: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=980DE3D81630E03BBC4F51DFBE668383659EDE  [Online Review] (Accessed 14/01/14)

Levy, Emanuel (2007) At: http://emanuellevy.com/review/rope-4/ [Online Review] (Accessed 14/01/14)

McCarthy, Kevin (2008) At: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/rope/ [Online Review] (Accessed 14/01/14)

3 comments:

  1. Hi Kyle,

    I feel this review is a little jumbled; a brief synopsis at the beginning would maybe have helped, rather than diving straight into discussing the characters sexual orientation. You mention in the first paragraph, that the two have committed murder, but it is a passing comment, rather than the main focus; your reader, if they had not seen 'Rope', would have no idea of the motive behind the murder, or that at that point, the body was still in the apartment. Similarly, you talk about the suspense created by the housekeeper removing items from the chest, but have not actually mentioned that the corpse is in the chest.

    You talk of Hitchcock's experimental camerawork - some details on how he went about creating the 'continuous shot' would have been useful. You really need to be considering all aspects of the filmmaking now - use of colour and light, and sound for example. Sound (or lack of it) plays a large role in creating the suspense in this film; think about the ticking metronome on the piano - quite literally, a 'ticking clock', building up the suspense.

    On a technical note, remember to italicise your quotes, and put the bibliography in alphabetical order, by the author's surname.

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    Replies
    1. Cheers Jackie, Updated accordingly :)

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  2. Hey Kyle,

    GREAT to see this on here - and look - the magic of formative feedback revealed: you publish, you get feedback, everything improves, your knowledge grows, your experience enriches and so on - just keep everything moving along like this, and a lot of your worry about the workload will evaporate! Onwards! :)

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