Film Review - Rope

Release Date - 1948
Director - Alfred Hitchcock
Genre - Crime Fiction, Thriller, Drama.

The story is simple, two college graduates, Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan, decide to murder David Kentley, their former classmate. Their plan is to commit the perfect murder all to prove their intellectual superiority. To test themselves they invite a number of friends over to their apartment for a dinner party, including their victim’s father and aunt. Also there is the men’s former prep school housemaster Rupert Cadell, who allegedly inspired the men to commit murder with his discussions about Nietzschean philosophy several years previously.

Shaw and Morgan endure a number of questions from Rupert and the guests about David’s whereabouts. Still seeking an intellectual thrill, Shaw goes so far as to taunt the guests by tying the rope they used to kill David around some books for David’s father to bring home. Despite the graduates’ efforts to cover up the crime, Rupert is suspicious, and in the film’s climax, Rupert must determine if the boys really did kill their classmate.

In this explicit melodrama Hitchcock has tried the trick of shooting a full-length picture in one set and in one continuous scene. That is to say, he has made his camera a random observer in an elegant suite of rooms in which a murder is being committed just as the picture begins. And he has kept his camera steadily turning upon the subsequent drama which occurs as guests arrive for a cocktail party and the murdered body lies concealed in a chest.Richard Scheib talks about how Hitchcock made the camera trick really work "The gimmick works surprisingly well. The script is tight and it is this that drives the suspense." (R. S 2015)

Something must be said about the way the film was shot. Hitchcock decided to film in extremely long takes, ten minutes at a time in some cases. When he was nearing the end of a reel, he would move the camera so that the cut could be masked. For example, Hitchcock would dolly the camera into the back of a character, cut, and then shoot again in the same position, so it wouldn’t look like the shot had ended when the film was screened. Vince Leo spoke about Hitchcock's camera technique also "It's not quite accurate to state that there are no cuts. Due to the limitations of film reels at the time, he could shoot for no longer than ten minutes before he needed to change film. To get around the limitation, he cleverly manages to make most of his cuts seamless by getting in close to the back of someone's suit jacket, cutting, and continuing." (V.L 2008). This creates a dynamic, flowing pace for the film that mirrors the story’s origin as a stage play, the characters appear to move through the apartment in real time, this is something that most people can agree on, like Pamela Hutchinson "We open with a murder, and close with a gunshot that summons the cops. What happens in between is filmed excruciatingly close to real time." (P.H 2012)  

Because Hitchcock decided to shoot the film in this way, he had to devise an innovative method for moving the camera. Rope was Hitchcock’s first film shot in Technicolor, meaning the camera he used was the size of a small car. To follow the actors through the set, pieces of the individual rooms and items like furniture had to be placed on wheels and rolled out of the way of the camera. This meant training the film crew to move as a coordinated unit, learning when to swoop in and silently roll set pieces away to make room for the camera. ( fig.2) behind the scenes. 

The novelty of the picture is not in the drama itself, it being a plainly deliberate and rather thin exercise in suspense, but merely in the method which Hitchcock has used to stretch the intended tension for the length of the little stunt.

The set for rope

Illustration List - 

Figure One - 'Alfred Hitchcock's Rope Poster by escdesigner on DeviantArt' (1948) From: Rope. Directed By: Alred Hitchcock. [Film Poster] United States: Warner Bros. At:escdesigner.deviantart.com

Figure Two - 'Understanding the Hidden Editing in Hitchcock's '' (1948) From: Rope. Directed By: Alred Hitchcock. [Film still] United States: Warner Bros. At: nofilmschool.com

Bibliography - 

Leo, Vince (2008) 'Rope (1948) / Thriller-Mystery' From: Rope 
In: http://www.qwipster.net [Online] At: http://www.qwipster.net/rope.htm (Accessed on 29.01.15)

Scheib, Richard (2015) 'Rope: Rating-' From: Rope In: http://moria.co.nz [Online]
At: http://moria.co.nz/horror/rope-1948.htm (Accessed on 29.01.15)

Hutchinson, Pamela (2012) 'My favourite Hitchcock: Rope' From: Rope
In: http://www.theguardian.com [Online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jul/27/my-favourite-hitchcock-rope

1 comment:

  1. Hi Becky,
    Just a couple of points here - firstly, always remember to italicise the film's name. Also, in your reference after the quote, you should use the author's surname alongside the date, so (Hutchinson, 2012).

    I have also noticed that there are several passages in this review that are pretty much taken straight from someone else's writing, without being attributed to them - for example, your final concluding sentence, which is taken word for word, from the review in the NY Times of 1948 by Bosley Crowther. It is ok to paraphrase other peoples writing ( that is, change it into your own words) but this still has to be referenced in the same way as a quote. Taking a piece word for word is a big no-no, as if you were to submit this through the plagiarism detector, it would come back with an exact match, and that would cause no end of problems!