Friday, November 09, 2007

47. Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" (1954): Opening new windows to reflect on the classic thriller

After viewing the film three times over a span of 20-odd years, the film urges a keen viewer to go beyond the appreciation of the cinematic challenges that Hitchcock sets for himself to overcome. For instance, one need not merely appreciate that this film is one of the rare instances in cinema where all the sounds are "diegetic"— recorded on the soundtrack are sounds from within the visual world captured by the camera. Further, one need no longer be intrigued by the amoral perspective of the voyeur, represented by L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart), the good, average American bachelor with a robust, modest, creative career and a rich doting girl friend, Lisa, trying to rope him into marriage. After three viewings you are no longer wide-eyed about the blending of the viewer's perspective with those of Jefferies' perspective, historically a major feat of Hitchcock.

Newer perspectives of the film crystallize if you have seen over 20 Hitchcock films as I fortunately have.

First, Rear Window is one of the rare films of Hitchcock where women emerge smarter and stronger than men—the last scene has the hero with two legs in a cast and his lady love switching reading material to what she prefers to read over what the hero would prefer her to read, even though for the first time she has switched to trousers to humor her future husband's vision of his kind of wife. Similar ends were obvious in Family Plot, Spellbound, Rebecca and, by inference of the final choice, in Marnie. The final shot in Rear Window is a sexual reversal of the final shot of Mr and Mrs Smith.

Second, Rear Window is yet another film on marriage—a recurring theme in the Hitchcock films. Jefferies and Lisa do not tie the knot but the end inferred this would eventually happen. But the switching of the reading material gives the viewer a clue who among the duo would rule the marriage. In another perspective on marriage, within the film a husband kills his wife. A wedding ring is stolen of all objects. Other perspectives in the film reflect on the sex in marriage and another looks at a woman dreaming of a virtual husband, a dream to which Jefferies involuntarily raises his own glass!

Third, this is a film on photographers, photography and voyeurs. Only the photographer looks out of the window, when all have windows open, except when a dog or housebreak is involved. Four decades after Hitchcock made the film, the Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski in his Dekalog no. 6 /A short film about love explored the same theme with even more astonishing results. Recently, Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke's Cache presented videos of an anonymous voyeur as the pivotal essay on racial interaction. All the three films infer that the crime is in watching other people commit crime. The watcher and the watched emerge as flip sides of an individual or alter egos. The magic of Hitchcock enamors more and more later geniuses of cinema even today...

For a mature viewer, there is more entertainment in the film than the obvious story-line woven around a wheelchair-bound voyeur suspecting a murder has been committed close to his apartment.

P.S. Cache is reviewed earlier in this blog.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

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